Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

12/6 2019

What Doctor of Ministry Focus is Right For Me?

doctor of ministry grads

Members of the DMin Class of 2019

 

What Doctor of Ministry Focus area at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary makes the most sense for you?

One of the distinctive features of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Seminary is the variety of different focus areas.

Passion, purpose, and plan are three important elements in determining the best DMin focus area for you.

First and most important, passion: What is your passion? What makes you come alive? What would you love to study and learn? Which focus area draws you most deeply?

Purpose matters too: Why are you returning for more study? Who and what do you hope this study will serve? Which focus area will best serve that purpose?

Finally, plan: How does Doctor of Ministry study fit into the trajectory of your call to ministry? What do you plan to do with what you study? How will it further the ministry to which God calls you? Which focus area best fits the plans you see unfolding before you?

Choices are wonderful, but choices can also be vexing. We hope this shorthand guide to our current DMin focus areas will help in your choosing.

 

Parish Focus

The Parish Focus is the most steady workhorse of the DMin Program, providing an opportunity for parish pastors to join colleagues in diving deeply into the challenges, questions, and opportunities of parish ministry. In years past, the Parish Focus was largely a re-immersion in the traditional areas taught in a the MDiv curriculum: worship, pastoral care, preaching, education, contextual analysis.

We’ve changed this focus up a bit lately, and are now orienting the Parish Focus around specific themes that are important in pastoral ministry today. Risking Faithfully is the theme for the current focus. In the Risking Faithfully cohort we are asking the question of what it means to lead congregations to take faithful risks on behalf of the gospel. We are exploring risk with an eye to changing culture and to the wonderful diversity of Christian community. Possible future themes include pastoral care and trauma, leading communities in the midst of political polarization, and nurturing scriptural interpretation as an act of the community.

 

Missional Leadership

In the Missional Leadership Focus we explore ministry as an invitation to engage the work God is already doing in the world—work that often takes place beyond the congregation. It is a wonderful focus for pastors who are seeking to discover how their faith communities can engage the local neighborhood and larger community in its present form, rather than in the form that community may have taken in earlier days. By cultivating skills in group discernment, appreciative inquiry, contextual analysis, and biblical interpretation in community, students discover pathways for new imagination in and with their congregations and ministries.

 

Christian Spirituality

The Christian Spirituality Focus encourages participants to explore the depth and breadth of Christian Spirituality across time periods, cultures, and contexts, and equips students with key skills to help them nurture their communities to be increasingly open to the Spirit of God moving in their midst and to engage the work God is doing in the world God so loves. Cohort participants are encouraged to deepen their own lives of prayer and practice as a necessary first step in leading the communities they serve. Christian Spirituality students also have the opportunity to receive a certificate in either Spiritual Direction in Ministry or Leading Spiritual Formation.

 

Reformed Theology

In collaboration with New College at University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary offers a focus in Reformed theology. This is an opportunity to take a deep dive into classic and contemporary Reformed theological texts with an eye to how Reformed theology speaks to life in the world today. Three of the two-week course sessions will take place in Edinburgh and two in Pittsburgh, with students from both schools participating throughout. Topics include hospitality in ecumenical and interfaith encounters, the challenge of faithful presence in volatile political climates, and how historical, social, and cultural dynamics shape and are shaped by theological reflection.

 

Eastern Christian

In The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos Ware explains, “We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.” Through a collaboration with the Antiochean House of Studies, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary offers a Doctor of Ministry focus on Eastern Christian studies, inviting participants into learning, reflection, and deepening of pastoral practices within the traditions of Eastern Christianity. Most of the students are Eastern Orthodox priests, but this focus also offers ministers in other traditions the opportunity to be formed in the liturgy and learning of the Eastern tradition, with its awe for the mystery, beauty, and wonder of God at its center.

 

Science and Theology

The Science and Theology Focus provides space for a conversation between the narratives of science and the narratives of faith. Engaging questions of nature, biology, cosmology, technology, and neuroscience, this focus is intended to create opportunities for conversations between scientists and theologians by creating a community of students and scholars who have interests, and often training, in both areas. These conversations provide rich material for ministry in and among people who encounter the demands and promises of science and technology in our world.

Visit the Seminary’s website to learn more about these focus areas, start dates, and financial aid.

 

The Rev. Dr. Denise Thorpe serves as Pittsburgh Seminary’s interim director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. New cohorts typically begin in January and June each year and focus on a number of topics including Christian spirituality, parish ministry, and science and theology. Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. Learn more about the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Seminary.

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11/12 2019

Why Get a DMin?

Doctor of Ministry DMin degree church changeMany pastors sense that the church they were trained to serve and the church they encounter each day are two different universes. Things change. Change is part of life. Yet change in the church over the last two decades has been phenomenal. Even disorienting.

Some of us adapt to change easily. For others, it’s really difficult. For all of us, leaning into change is easier when we do it intentionally: in the midst of community and conversation.

 

That’s the main reason to get a doctor of ministry (DMin) degree: to gather and go deep with an ongoing community of learning as you lean into the change God has unleashed in the church. It’s an exciting time to be in ministry. It’s also daunting.

 

Why get a doctor of ministry degree?

In many ways, entering a DMin program is like returning to the well that first cooled your thirst. It’s an opportunity to drink from the living water that fed your venture into ministry. In this return to the water though, you know much more about the terrain you seek to cover: the wilderness, the parched earth, the verdant valleys. The possibilities, the hope, the drudgery, and the despair that are part and parcel of every pastor’s life.

Our professors love to teach in the DMin program precisely because the students come back to the well with this new knowledge and new awareness. They bring living questions and stark realities from daily service in complex congregations and creative ministries around the country. Professors in the DMin program learn from their students as much as the students learn from them. The banquet they serve to pastors in training at the master’s level is lent new flavors and remade by what they learn about ministry from students in the DMin. It is an exciting exchange!

 

DMin Education

Knowledge is wonderful in many different forms. In many ways, DMin education moves in the opposite direction of master’s-level education. Abstract ideas can be tantalizing and fun. Broad visions and passionate hope born of deep study has the capacity to energize us for new horizons. What is wonderful about the DMin though, is that you start with the concrete. Your context. Your questions. You bring the dailiness of ministry back to the well you first drank from, seeking with new urgency living water for the place, moment, people, and challenges in which you dwell.

You also form relationships. Deep, collegial relationships born of studying, learning, and exploring together. In our DMin program we place a huge emphasis on this ongoing learning in community. Every DMin cohort is led by a faculty mentor who serves as a guide and advisor. In addition, a cohort facilitator serves as a pastor to the pastors: leading group formation; planning times for worship and sharing; connecting the group between course weeks so that the learning and bonding continues even when the group has dispersed back to the work of daily ministry.

Why get a DMin? Because your journey of growth and learning is not over when you leave seminary and venture into the world of ministry. In fact, it is just beginning. A DMin is a return to the banquet that first fed you. A return that helps you continue to feed others in the call God has set before you.

 

The Rev. Dr. Denise Thorpe serves as Pittsburgh Seminary’s interim director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. New cohorts typically begin in January and June each year and focus on a number of topics including Christian spirituality, parish ministry, and science and theology. Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. Learn more about the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Seminary.

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5/31 2018

Dark and Lovely: Is God In It?

In early May 2018, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary hosted Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes who spoke on “Race, Gender and Imago Dei.” Following the event, the Rev.  Oghene’tega Swann, a Doctor of Ministry Urban Change focus student at Pittsburgh Seminary, shared her reflection. The following post has been edited for length; the original blog “Dark and Lovely: Is God In It? A Reflection on the 2018 Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Schaff Lectures on Race, Gender and the Imago Dei” can be accessed on the CBE-Voices of Color Chapter website.

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has been a theological haven since I first discovered it four years ago while searching for the ‘right’ place and focus for my Doctor of Ministry program. Something very warm stirred in me as I encountered their commitment to creating and holding dedicated space for social justice issues and their commitment to diversity and inclusion. I almost yelled “hallelujah!” when on my first day on campus, I ran into three people of color faculty members, who were not just men of color, but also women of color. A Black woman was head of the Metro-Urban Institute, a Black man was one of the Deans, two Black men headed two departments, a Black woman (ooh, I was so excited to sit it on her class – c’mon now!) and an Asian man were theology and church history professors respectively….

Long before my program would start, I’d sign up for credit course work in Environmental Justice and sit on a Black Women in Theology class. I would attend these classes that were like water in a thirsty land, and leave in an all time high as professors, White and Black, demonstrated their awareness and commitment to social justice issues as a Christian issue! I’d finally found a place that reconciled my faith with my commitment to social justice issues. I was home!

It was as though, like a good lover, the seminary wanted to keep the fires of our love burning hot by not slacking on that which I fell in love with. The seminary successfully ensconced its place in my heart with several periodic seminars every year, dedicated to social justice issues of gender and racial equality and which were often led by people of color. People who were concerned (and there are a lot) came from all over Pittsburgh and beyond for these events. I remember attending my first social justice event. I had just started reading the most fascinating and theologically sound book on racial equality and the Imago Dei by Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, when I found out he would be the guest speaker at one of these seminars/conferences. It was on! Come hail or high water, I would be there and I was!

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has done a marvelous job of demonstrating what matters to God’s heart to its surrounding community, as it has faithfully served as the center for healing and reconciliation by providing resources and space for learning about and becoming equipped to tackle social justice issues for the entire community. These programs, which are open to the public, draw a wide audience from all spheres of life–secular and religious–and unites them in one purpose: to learn to love and practice justice and show mercy.

 

Race, Gender and Imago Dei

Getting my time with Dr. Walker-Barnes
Getting my time with Dr. Walker-Barnes

 

This year’s Schaff Lectures was no different. People came from far and wide to hear Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes speak on “Race, Gender and Imago Dei.” This was a must-attend for me, as I’d been enthralled since day one of reading Dr. Walker-Barnes’ book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength about five years ago.

The first day at PTS, Dr. Walker-Barnes spoke about “Until All of Us Are Free: How Racial Reconciliation Fails Black Women” and “Tell the Storm I’m New: What Real Reconciliation Looks Like.”

Using Alice Walker’s The Color Purple as the lens through which she wanted the audience to envision the struggle of Black women, Dr. Walker-Barnes helped us identify how talks of racial reconciliation still leaves out justice for Black women. In a message that I have paraphrased, she showed us how in a world that treasures male and  White skin, Black women still can’t win. She went on to delineate how what we typically wrap up as reconciliation talks really further marginalizes Black women. And the crowning point of her message (for me): was the message that a Black woman’s equality comes from her own wrestling and confronting the injustices she experiences; her equality is not something that’s handed to her from the outside, rather it’s something she takes on her own. She realizes she is inherently worthy and she claims her space and place in society – on her own terms. Too often, the costly Band-aid approach to racial reconciliation eliminates Black women’s space and place because it does not allow the Black woman to present her self-realized self to the world. Instead, it’s the world still trying to define her place for her. Finally, she let us know that reconciliation is a journey. It’s not something you accomplish just by sitting at the table. Dominant people groups have to take ownership for how their privilege comes at great cost to others. Just like Celie in The Color Purple, marginalized people groups and women of color have to be allowed to work through (not rushed) the effects of misogyny from all men and White women and after all this, the world needs to be ready to take women of color on her own terms!

 

Truth-telling

These lectures were attended by Caucasian men and women, as well as men and women of color. Hard questions were asked by all, and even harder answers were given, but there was a true spirit of humility, repentance, and a willingness to hear and affirm the message. White and Black men genuinely wanted to know how they could do better. In addition to recommending educational material, Dr. Chanequa told them, “Stop demanding our silence and stand beside us in our demand for justice.”

The morning before Dr. Walker-Barnes ended the Schaff Lectures, the Seminary put together a special breakfast just for Dr. Walker-Barnes and the women in ministry in the area. It was an amazing time of healing, sharing, learning, and encouraging one another facilitated by Dr. Walker-Barnes. But, nothing could have prepared me for Dr. Walker-Barnes’ closing words at the Schaff Lectures.

The Lectures ended with her sermon in chapel “When Their Sin Makes Us Hate Our Skin.” The texts were excerpts of the Shunamite’s soliloquoy from Song of Solomon 1:5-6

Dark am I, yet lovely,
daughters of Jerusalem,
dark like the tents of Kedar,
like the tent curtains of Solomon.
Do not stare at me because I am dark,
because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
and made me take care of the vineyards;
my own vineyard I had to neglect.

Reiterating the age-old struggle of the theologians and the church to identify the place of Songs of Solomon in theology, yet used these two verses to show how society continues to shame women of color, particularly Black women. She showed how society still only affirms women of color the closer they approximate White beauty standards, but how the Shunamite’s affirmation of her dark skin, was in itself an act of resistance: “Dark am I,…lovely.”

I leave out the word in between “I” and “lovely” because of the focus Dr. Walker-Barnes drew to it. For example, the fact that many translations qualify the Shunamite’s loveliness as despite her ‘blackness,’ thereby, furthering the notion that Black is not an acceptable beauty standard. Yet, she says, that the Shunamite’s speech and affirmation of her dark skin, was her piéce de resistance: Dark am I and lovely.

Dr. Walker-Barnes treatise of the Shunamite’s standing up for herself and asserting her worthiness (before men of her own heritage and men and women of lighter-skinned heritage) as one equally created in God’s image, summarized and affirmed the growing movement of women of color to stand up for themselves and affirm their worthiness just as they are: dark skin, kinky hair, thick lips, etc.

The Shunamite woman stands in the canon and reminds us of both the age-old struggle to suppress Black women and other women of color and the righteous resistance such women must put forth: dark am I, and lovely.

Our blackness is not an apology. It is a declaration that we are made in God’s image.

Perhaps, with Dr. Walker-Barnes’ treatise, Bible scholars and theologians may have found the purpose of Song of Solomon after all. The declaration of the Imago Dei in the bodies of Black women. Thus, she concluded: Maybe God is in it (the Song of Solomon, as well as the bodies of Black women) after all. I agree.

I will always be grateful to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for using its resources to amplify the voices of the marginalized, as I cannot recount the countless times this seminary has pulled together the secular and religious community to hear ‘hard truths.’ No flinching, tell it as it is,  and then let’s find a way forward truth. Through this service, PTS maintains a prophetic presence and witness in the city of Pittsburgh, as it has become a place that affirms and confronts the brokenness in our humanity and communities, and then models the posture of humility and repentance for the community. I love Pittsburgh Theological Seminary! Did I already say that??? Oh, well!

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