The process of education in a professional school of theology is not simply a matter of getting students to know and understand things. It is also a matter of getting them to think in certain ways, to pursue spirituality—developing habits of mind, heart, and hands that keep us in balanced relationship to ourselves, our fellow creatures, and to the ultimate ground of being.
Spirituality and the framework of institutionalized religion, while in tension, need one another to be all that both can be. To help meet this challenge, a new position in “spirituality and ministerial leadership” was added to the YDS faculty in 2009-10. It is expected that this commitment will bring to the campus new insights into spiritual formation and also strengthen YDS’s traditional emphasis on the spiritual dimensions of theological education.
Historically, since YDS students come from a variety of communities of religious belief and practice, there are many ways and many degrees of intensity and attention in which students have pursued their spiritual development.
A mainstay of spiritual growth for YDS students has been the Annand Program in Spiritual Formation, developed by YDS’s Episcopal Church affiliate, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, which provides an emphasis on daily worship, individual and small group spiritual direction, retreats and quiet days, and class pilgrimages.
Episcopalians at YDS have also crafted a “Rule of Life” for students that describes fundamental commitments that leaders in the Episcopal Church will pursue, including daily prayer, and worship, as well as involvement in the life of the community and the social ministry of the Church.
Other denominations represented at YDS have also attended to ways in which formation for religious leadership occurs, not only within but also around the formal curriculum of the Divinity School. Students from the United Church of Christ, for example, develop the minds, hearts, and hands of their leadership through a process of “in care” supervision with local congregations. Through our Reformed Studies Program, these students, along with Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and members of other Reformed traditions, have been developing their own distinctive approaches to the ethos of ministerial leadership. Lutherans, who are in partnership with Episcopal colleagues on many projects, also require of most of their students a process of formation in a specifically Lutheran context.
YDS seeks to cultivate in students a kind of spirituality that produces leaders of deep conviction who have thought long and hard about what those convictions entail, who have developed the traits of character and heart that will sustain the effort it takes to work those convictions out in practice—men and women who will find sustenance in the beliefs and practices of their traditions but who will not be confined to them, who will push the social, political, and religious envelopes to work for a world of justice and of peace.