Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/20 2020

Chapel: the Seminary’s Playground

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The child would not sleep. She was scared to be alone, scared of the dark, scared to miss out. Yet, every time I would babysit her, she wanted to play “bedtime.” I would tuck her in; she would tuck me in; we would fake snore and “wake up” giggling. When it became a pattern, I mentioned this to her mother who replied, “yes, she is working something out.”

This story and the power of play come to mind as I reflect on the Worship Program at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. As a third-year Master of Divinity student at the Seminary, I have had a chance to participate in numerous chapel services and have grown to see this space as the school’s playground—even virtual chapel in this season of pandemic.


Coming Together in Christ

The chapel is a place where students and staff gather together and experiment with new worship styles, revisit favorite liturgies, and address relevant topics. We play. We get our hands dirty. We work out the heavy theological readings and lectures that form our course load. Sometimes, we step on each other’s toes in the process. But we learn from that how to work humbly and ecumenically with Christ remaining at the center.

Because, here is the thing about any playground, there’s no room for hierarchy. Whether the people in attendance are students from the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, Master of Theological Studies, certificate, or Doctor Ministry programs, whether they are tenured or visiting professors or staff members, in this space, in this time, we are all equals. We are all children of God—in need of the Lord’s grace and salvation. We collectively are reminded that we are reconciled in Christ to God, and we get to practice this reconciliation with one another as well.


Sharing Love with the World

It is this regular practice and reminder that creates a space in the middle of a day full of classes, work, internships, and meetings. Just as recess is scheduled in elementary school as a way for students to play in order to focus better, chapel offers a chance for students to set aside their pending deadlines and daily stresses to remember why we are here and what we are all working towards: God’s call in our lives to share the Lord’s love in the world.

Here, I’m afraid, is where my analogy of the chapel as playground has run its course. Because, in reality, it is more than that. It is an opportunity to hear great preachers and learn how different denominations run their services. It is a space where you can see your professors, many of whom have real ministry experience, step into the pulpit and preside over the table. It is an opportunity see your classmates lead and look them in the eyes as they offer “Christ’s body broken for you and Christ’s blood shed for you.” It offers a space of comfort for students to gather in the wake of tragedy. It is challenging, and I do not claim that we do it perfectly here in Pittsburgh. However, I think the spirit of the student and staff leaders of the service encapsulate a sense of joy and experimentation. And that makes the journey edifying for all involved.


Rose Schrott is a Master of Divinity student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with an interest in chaplaincy and spiritual writing. A Pittsburgh native, she is glad to be back in the city after graduating from Denison University in 2014 and working for several years in digital marketing.


10/6 2020

What is a Master of Theological Studies (MTS)?

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what is an mts degree


The Master of Theological Studies program allows students to focus on understanding various or specific theological disciplines and practices. As one of our most popular ,aster’s programs at Pittsburgh Seminary, the MTS degree is especially beneficial for those who desire to pursue further graduate study and doctoral research.


Benefits of the MTS Program

Many students are drawn to the MTS degree due to the practical length of the program and the opportunity to tailor their study of theological disciplines. Full-time students can complete the MTS program in two years. Throughout the program, there is flexibility for students to define a customized course of study as the basis for further research or for general enrichment. Students will be admitted to the MTS program in one of two tracks: General or Focused. Within the Focused Track, areas of specialty include Scripture and Its Interpretation and Christian Theology and Traditions.

With Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s low student-to-faculty ratio, MTS students are able to identify one or two faculty who may be able to supervise research in their area of interest. Faculty at PTS are passionately committed to investing in each of their students. Students enrolled in the MTS program also have the opportunity to complete the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry. Both the certificate and MTS degree can be completed simultaneously. In addition, with Pittsburgh Seminary’s partnership in the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (PCHE), students can cross-register at local colleges and universities in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Another benefit to enrolling in the MTS program and being a student at PTS is having constant access to the largest theological library in the tri-state area. Students are offered unmatched resources to study, research, and explore through Pittsburgh Seminary’s Barbour Library. With a master of theological Studies degree, students can pursue doctoral work, research and writing, non-profit leadership, and/or religious education.


Interested in a Master of Theological Studies degree?

If you would like to further and enhance your theological education by enrolling in the master of theological studies program at PTS, you can apply by submitting the online application. If you have any questions, I encourage you to contact PTS Admissions so you can learn about even more resources available to incoming students.

I look forward to helping in any way I can as you discern what next step is right for you!


Ashley Johnson works as an admissions counselor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. She earned her bachelor’s from Slippery Rock University and her master’s from California University of Pennsylvania. Prior to PTS, her higher education background includes working as a graduate assistant in the Financial Aid Office at California University of Pennsylvania and serving as a student service specialist in Enrollment Services in The HUB at Carnegie Mellon University. In her current role, Ashley serves prospective students by answering their questions, providing assistance throughout the admissions process, and scheduling and coordinating campus visits.


9/8 2020

Seminary or Divinity School: What’s the Difference?

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difference between seminary and divinity school

Perhaps the only thing I’ve found more difficult than earning a Master of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has been explaining to friends exactly what seminary is! While one friend jokingly called it “cemetery school,” another thought it was more like a monastery. People somewhat familiar with the world of theological education often assume, however, that seminary is the same thing as divinity school. I was always at a loss to explain what the difference was and just chalked it up to the sphere of “I’m not really sure.”

So, how does a Pittsburgh Theological Seminary MDiv alum and current admissions counselor now explain the difference between a seminary and a divinity school?


Seminary or Divinity School?

First, the most fundamental difference between a seminary and a divinity school is that a divinity school is typically tied to a larger university via its label as a professional school within the umbrella of the university. Seminaries, on the other hand, are often their own educational institutions with no ties to a larger university’s jurisdiction. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but it’s a great starting point for understanding the difference.

Seminaries are also often affiliated with a specific denomination, offering specific courses to help student prepare for ministry within that tradition. That does not mean that you must be a part of that denomination to attend but that the seminary likely caters to a specific crowd in a specific way on top of offering general theological education. Divinity schools, on the other hand, are more likely to be loosely or not at all affiliated with a denomination and are often viewed as more “academic” since they skew toward helping prepare students for further study.

These differences, however, are not binding to all seminaries and divinity schools. For instance, one could attend a seminary and still pursue a PhD afterwards (students do that here, including many in the MTS program), while divinity school can prepare one for ordained ministry as well. Finding the right graduate program is ultimately up to personal preference, and any deliberation between these labels should not be a key factor in one’s decision.


Finding the Right Fit

So what makes Pittsburgh Theological Seminary unique to the world of seminaries? PTS is its own institution holding partnerships with other schools in the city, though it is not under the jurisdiction of those schools. PTS is also a seminary of the Presbyterian Church USA, uniquely rooted in the Reformed tradition. However, PTS welcomes students from all backgrounds of faith to explore the call that God has placed on their life here in this community. We have more than 20 denominations represented in our faculty and student bodies. Whether you are seeking ordination in the PCUSA, interested in starting a church plant, wanting to explore the world of urban ministry, or seeking to experience the Spirit’s movement in the global church, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary could be the right fit for you.



Chris Taylor, MDiv ’19 and admissions counselor, first came to the Seminary as a teen in the Miller Summer Youth Institute. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2015, Chris spent a summer in Acadia National Park and served as a youth director in Raleigh before moving back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to attend PTS. Chris has also been serving at Parkwood Presbyterian Church in Allison Park since 2017. You can often catch Chris watching Pittsburgh sports, Carolina basketball, reading a good book, or exploring the outdoors.