Certificate in Theological Studies Testimonials

Inmate-Students

“The theology certificate program gives me the chance to study God on my own terms. This program offers me the chance to self-reflect and learn more about myself and strengthen my relationship with God. I am learning how to write and voice my theological views. I am getting an education on a college level and working outside of my comfort zone. This class gives me a freedom that I would otherwise not have in the prison environment.” (JC, 2012)

“The theology program has shown me that hope is still alive and that I still possess the ability to prove that I am human. Labels on anyone can be notoriously misleading and unforgiving things. But no matter the label attached to me, I have the capacity and the unstoppable desire to accomplish something positive and to have a lasting impact.“ (KG, 2010)

“In my five years of incarceration, I have never felt important. I have found an area of study through theology that interests me and springs forth a hope that would otherwise be dormant. Through theology, I am heard, I am a woman, a mother—a theologian, And I am proud! What a better way to use my time than strengthen my spirit and my faith.” (JC, 2012)

“I never thought I had a theological voice. Nor did I think anyone would be interested in my perspective of what the Bible says. This course has helped me to develop my voice and realize that I had one.” (CCB, 2012)

“Although this program is directed at education, it also helps women gain personal recovery. Many of the course topics target women’s rights and explore the areas that often caused our very incarcerations.” (MR, 2012)

“Through this program, and the strength it has given me to ask, to look, and to try, I have found that in this darkness, the light of God within me is a light that will not go out. My light burns together with each light here, illuminating our reality as it is today. We can see the accomplishment and the sorrow, the beauty and the struggle, reflecting God’s presence with us now and always. The theological certificate program forms a community that I am blessed to be a part of. It brings us together as one body, in one world: us, our families, you, and our futures. There is no way that I could express my gratitude to everyone who makes this program possible, and to everyone who has supported and believed in me. This makes a tremendous difference in our lives and, I hope, contributes to a brighter world, where our light outshines the darkness and the silenced still speak.” (CS, 2011)

“The major realization I’ve come to over the past few months is that it is normal to question. Only in studying the theological questions and writings of others have I grown, not only to understand the Bible more, but to appreciate it in a much greater depth.” (Student, CTS class of 2009)

“The most important thing that I am going to carry away from this class [Biblical Foundations] is open-mindedness. In life we tend to think of things as either black or white. This class has taught me that in the middle of black and white is grey. We don’t always have to agree with others, but at least we can give them the opportunity to explain why they believe the way that they believe. God made each and every one of us different. Therefore, we all have different belief systems. We can always learn from other people. Never deny yourself the right to learn something by trying to live in a black or white world.” (HP, 2012)

“[In the Theology program], my ‘learning switch’ was turned on. I gained a sense of how I understand. I started using the untapped potential within myself. I had chapters after chapters to read, papers to write, and stories to rewrite in my own image. The more I used my brain, challenged and exercised it, the more I learned.” (MW, 2012)

“The greatest journey I have ever taken was not a physical journey. It was a spiritual and mental journey through the theology program that has affected all aspects of my life. This journey will never end, and I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve found out who I am, where I’m hoping to go, and what directions to take. In the theology program, I found people, my fellow students and instructors, who are on that same journey.” (KG, 2010)

“How could a one-year certificate program change a woman who spent more of her life incarcerated than free?  This program encouraged and nurtured my dreams to one day complete a four-year college program, obtain a degree, and become a chaplain. Yet the question continuously arose: how does a Muslim minister to a Jew, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Buddhist or Christian, and maintain a respectful tone while speaking the universal language—GOD? This program enlightened me on how to respect ALL faith systems and allow God to use my life to bring others closer to Him. We are all worthy of redemption. Even more so, the program enabled me to challenge myself intellectually and spiritually. I received all my answers in a nutshell: to allow God to use me no matter where I am is certainly a tall order.” (KH—Muslim student, 2010

“I tried to get rid of my anger (over racism, death of brother, abuse). But that is simply impossible. Then, I discovered that it is normal to experience anger. Just as was mentioned in the ‘Healing Power of Anger.’ It’s the healthy expression of anger that must be practiced…. [example of Jesus turning over tables]. Today, when I am wronged, my heart and mind go through a process. For I know that I cannot control the actions of another. But I can control my actions in response. Now, I fight with my mind and elevate myself primarily with the love of my heart.” (VB, 2011)

“I’ve learned that theology is not just an impractical, otherworldly subject for a few dreamy scholars. It is the discipline that wrestles with the foundational issues and decisions we all face every day—whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you are. I learned I was already a practicing theologian, even before I began the formal study of theology. The purpose of our classes was to seek and articulate some answers to questions I had consciously or unconsciously been struggling with all of my life.” (Student, CTS class of 2010)

Student-Teachers

"The road from San Jose, California, to Arrendale State Prison, Georgia, is a long and strange tale, one that cannot be explained by a series of coincidences. How I came to teach here at the prison is a deep, unprecedented mystery, one whose source lies not within my own self, but only something as wonderful and grace-filled as God’s guiding presence. The road has indeed been strange, but a classroom of new friends awaited me at the destination. For that I am eternally grateful." (David Ranzolin, Elective Instructor; MTS 2013)

"The opportunity to teach literature and theology at Arrendale has been incredible. It has granted me the chance to share pieces of literature that are dear to me, and more importantly, it has afforded me the opportunity to learn from the various interpretations of students. I can honestly say that my own theological positions have been challenged and changed by my experience here, and I have my students to thank for that." (James Thomas, Elective Instructor; MTS 2013)

“The robust intellectual abilities and unflinching courage the students bring to theology made me immediately aware of the intellectual limitations I carry with me as a physically free person. Make no mistake, given the opportunity and recognition, these are the women who will craft the new theologies for the church and the world!” (Michelle Ledder, Elective Instructor; MDiv 2010; Emory Doctoral Student)