Feb 25 2011

For the MTS student- Cultivating spiritualities

Allow me to begin this post with a necessary disclaimer. I am in the Master of Theological Studies program, but I certainly do not represent every student in it. My peers hail from quite a diverse number of religious traditions and denominational backgrounds, possessing an equally diverse number of theological sentiments. So it would be a disservice to them and a gross generalization if I wrote about the spiritual life without dissolving the implication that we share these notions in common. This is, however, one of the treasured attributes of the MTS program at Candler. It allows students to shape their own academic/research paths with an impressive degree of flexibility and individual tailoring.   Thus, we contribute an extensively plural and multivalent number of personalities, intellectual perspectives, and spiritual/religious orientations to the Candler community (and to the larger university as well). Because of the program’s embrace of individually crafted academic paths and lack of a more rigid structure (the kind one might encounter in a program like the MDiv), the personal responsibility to maintain and cultivate the spiritual life becomes a challenging and pertinent task.

I came to Candler after completing my BA at a small Pentecostal university in central Florida. The unflinching chapel attendance requirements, my involvement in spiritual formation and mentoring, and residing in a primarily on-campus residential school made spiritual cultivation a largely inevitable event. This strict, yet enriching experience ended in the Spring of 2010 and a much more open-ended but equally promising journey began at Candler in the Fall. I discovered that the Cannon chapel services offered the kind of diverse, ecumenical liturgical opportunities for which I had hoped. But apart from these worship settings, where tangible religious gestures are conveniently facilitated, the MTS student will inevitably discover opportunities for spiritual activity and reflection within the less explicitly worshipful classrooms of the CST (Candler School of Theology) building.

In my Luke course with Dr. Holladay last semester, I found new ways of thinking and meditating on episodes of Christological profundity in sacred texts. Thanks to my 1 and 2 Thessalonians Greek Exegesis course that I have with Dr. Kraftchick this semester, I am working with texts and developing exegetical skills that foster many Christian virtues . . . especially patience. I must say though that nothing has quite met the degree to which I am being spiritually challenged in Womanist Theology and Narrative Identity, which is taught by Dr. Andrea White. Every Monday, we (a couple dozen students of distinct racial, ethnic, gender, and religious identities) meet to engage in reflection on Womanist scholarship and the questions pertinent to the hermeneutic of Black women’s lived experiences. As a white male in the course, I have found the quest for accurate theological thinking, justice, and insight into a social and intellectual location with which I had not previously engaged to be a daunting, humbling, but infinitely rewarding spiritual endeavor.

Precisely how you will integrate spirituality into your life at Candler is not yet a realized dynamic. As I wrote above, the students in the MTS program all construct distinct and unique approaches to their religious lives, both within and outside of the school of theology. The process is open-ended and depends a great deal on the spiritual identity that you bring with you to the program. But I can assure you that Candler and the MTS program are optimal spatial and intellectual locations for that process, both effulgent with multitudinous opportunities for spiritual maturation and growth.

- Justin Rose

Justin is a 1st year MTS student from Navarre, FL and a Student Ambassador