Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/23 2019

INSIDE THE PTS CURRICULUM: Introduction to Contextual Analysis

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professor’s bio.

This week’s course is “Introduction to Contextual Analysis.”

contextual analysis

About Introduction to Contextual Analysis

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about ministry contexts with Dr. Scott Hagley in the class “Introduction to Contextual Analysis.” This course is required for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree, and Graduate Certificate in Missional Leadership and open to students in the Master of Theology (MTS) degree program or the other certificate programs.

This course offers an orientation to the ways anthropological and sociological approaches to the interpretation of culture contribute to theological reflection with and within particular socio-cultural contexts. Focusing on a particular neighborhood and/or institutional environment, students will become familiar with the techniques and develop the skills to critically consider the missiological, theological, and ethical dimensions of a Christian community in relation to the wider society.

During the course, students will gain an introduction to the socio-cultural dimensions of theological work while gathering, interpreting, and working with qualitative data. They’ll explore the different hermeneutic considerations one brings to research, including awareness of one’s own social location. Students will be introduced to the role fieldwork can play in theological reasoning and construction as well as the histories, concerns, problems, and possibilities within the neighborhoods adjacent to Pittsburgh Seminary.

Assignments include a book review on theology and cultures, fieldwork presentations, and a final integrative essay. Students are also required to read Studying Congregations: A New Handbook by Nancy Ammerman; Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, by Mary Clark Moschella; and God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Right, by Charles Marsh.

 

About the Instructor

Dr. Scott Hagley received a B.A. in youth ministry and communication from Bethel University, an M.Div. from Regent College, and a Ph.D. (with distinction) in congregational mission and leadership from Luther Seminary. He formerly served as director of education at Forge Canada in Surrey, British Columbia, where he worked to develop curriculum for the formation of missional leaders in hubs across Canada. Dr. Hagley also served as teaching pastor at Southside Community Church, a multi-site church in the Vancouver metro area organized around neighborhood-based missional communities. He was a consultant and researcher with Church Innovations Institute and has lectured at denominational meetings and retreats on topics such as missional communities, faith, and spiritual formation. His most recent publication is Eat What Is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context.

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10/17 2019

What does church planting have to do with the refugee crisis?

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church planting refugee crisis responseEven hundreds of miles from the coasts, here in Pittsburgh, we are hearing a lot about borders and walls, citizenship and belonging, laws and trespasses. There is anxiety in the air—who are we as a country, and what is our relationship to those who come across our borders? Who are “we” and who are “they” and how will we meet each other?

 

Respectable Sheep and Unruly Goats

Anxiety is something that faith communities know a lot about—particularly this question of who is in and who is out and what it means for our communities. In fact, unfortunately the church is famous for it. Misuse of Matthew 25:31-34 results in the (now vintage) Cake song’s poetic simplification, “Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.” Somehow that simple statement comes with a clear imagination of who are the respectable sheep and who are the unruly goats. This misses, of course, that the distinction the text makes between sheep and goats is how they live, not where they were born or to whom they were born (see verse 35-41).

 

Church Planting and the Refugee Crisis

Church planting—that is gathering communities in newly imagined ways of Christian living—offers an interesting response to this tension. What if, instead of gathering as those who are “already” sheep, we gather around the “sheep-like” practices: giving food to the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned? Can we become sheep in those practices? What will this mean for the space where we meet each other? Well, it may be that we become the hungry in our sharing. We may gather together as strangers and share life with the underclad. We may get sick with germs from the sick, and we may even become imprisoned or count the incarcerated as our members.

In short, mixing it up with the world by starting outside of an established group of Christians, there are ways in which we might start to look like the world outside our boundaries. We might begin to resemble those we might feed or cloth or welcome or visit in prison. Which can feel pretty scary. But if you look back—that needy and scary world outside from Matthew 25—that world we might loathe to become is finally concluded to house the presence of the Christ we claim to serve. The same Christ we say we are trying to imitate.

 

The Rev. Karen Rohrer, M.Div. is the director of the Church Planting Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, founding co-pastor of Beacon Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and, as it turns out, a real Cake fan ever since they were cool 20 years ago.

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10/16 2019

Inside the PTS Curriculum: Spiritual Formation

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.

This week’s course is “Spiritual Formation.”

Roger Owens teaching spiritual formationAbout Spiritual Formation

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about spiritual formation with the Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens in the class “Spiritual Formation.” This two-part course is required for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree and Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree programs and open to students in the Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.

In this course students will be introduced to and practice a variety of spiritual disciplines, grounded in historic Christian spiritual traditions. Students will reflect on their own life of prayer, practice of vocational discernment, and begin developing the skills to lead communal spiritual practices.

Students who participate interestedly and actively, read all the materials, and complete assignments, by the end of the course will have a basic understanding of key themes in Christian spirituality and be able to relate those themes to their own lives of faith; have a practical familiarity with a number of spiritual disciplines and be able to incorporate some of those disciplines into their lives through the development of a rule of life; have experience with spiritual formation in small groups and be able to practice healthy small group process; and have an introductory knowledge of how to lead and teach spiritual practices.

Assignments include keeping a spiritual formation journal; completing a pastor/spiritual director interview; developing and keeping a rule of life; writing one paper and one book review; leading a spiritual practice; and in-class spiritual practices. Required reading includes Soul Feast, Newly Revised Edition: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, by Marjorie Thompson; Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, by Barbara Holmes; We Drink from Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People, by Gustavo Gutierrez; Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer; Abba, Give Me a Word: The Path of Spiritual Direction, by L. Roger Owens; and A Praying Congregation: The Art of Teaching Spiritual Practice, by Jane E. Vennard.

About the Instructor

The Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens received his Ph.D. in theology from Duke University where he was awarded a Lilly Fellowship for the Formation of a Learned Clergy. Before that he completed his M.Div. at Duke Divinity School. As an undergraduate he studied philosophy and Bible/religion at Anderson University in Indiana. Owens is an ordained Elder in the North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. In North Carolina he served both urban and rural churches for eight years as co-pastor with his wife before coming to PTS. His newest book is Threshold of Discovery: A Field Guide to Spirituality in Midlife (Church Publishing, 2019.) Owens serves on the faculty for the Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation, where he lectures on postmodern spirituality and traditions of Christian spirituality.

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