Central’s faculty spent concentrated time at Conception Abbey this past weekend. Our annual faculty retreat is the time when we take stock of all the ways we are pursuing the academic mission of the seminary. Our Provost and Associate Dean plan well and find ways to maximize the time as we gather for business and for prayer with the Benedictine monks at the Abbey. Leaders from other sites of Central attend, and it is a constructive way to integrate our system more fully.
Central’s mission is to prepare leaders for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity. It is an ambitious mission, and one faculty member remarked that it seemed more like a movement than a narrow academic pursuit. Our mission statement deliberately articulates that seeking God undergirds ministry–in all its forms. Spiritual formation is at the heart of theological education, and the faithful witness of faculty members models what seeking God looks like over a life time of Christian vocation. Every challenge is ultimately a question about God’s presence and agency.
“Shaping church” reminds us that the Body of Christ is a dynamic reality, and old forms must give way to the transformation the Spirit evokes. Baptist theologian McClendon taught us that doctrine is “what the church needs to teach NOW in order to be the church.” Thus, shaping church is about more than conserving “the faith once delivered”; it is discerning the way the Gospel may take shape in the discrete contexts of congregations, at this time. Our graduates enter ministry at a time when many question the relevance of churches; their understanding of the how congregations can be instruments of grace within God is larger mission is essential.
“Serving humanity” takes many forms, and ministry extends far beyond the walls of the church. In older days, the only persons who came to seminary were preparing to be pastors, chaplains, or missionaries. Many of our graduates will continue to serve in professions such as pharmacy, law, occupational therapy, business, engineering, and education. They believe that their calling is to be Christian in the workplace, and they shine their faith throughout their professional lives. In addition, they provide the leadership for churches who cannot afford to call a full-time pastor. These leaders serve their communities in varied ways.
One of the strategic priorities for Central is to hire and retain qualified and diverse personnel. As I looked around the room at the varied ethnicities of our faculty, my heart rejoiced. We are beginning to look like the global Body of Christ, as well we should. God has set before us remarkable opportunities to fulfill our mission. Since 1901, God has continued to lead us to prepare persons for Christian ministry in an ever-changing world. We pray for wisdom and courage “for the facing of this hour.”
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.