While I had just come back to faith and was starting to grow in my home church, First Baptist Church Murfreesboro, I had never envisioned going to seminary. In need of spiritual growth and understanding, everything pointed me in that direction; however, our family is a single income family with four children. My job was crucial and I could not see how I could possibly attend seminary.
Just when I thought that there was no hope, I was surprised by a flyer about a seminary that would be housed in my church. I found out that classes would be done in intensives on Friday night and Saturday and that the tuition was subsidized through the generosity of grants. I finally got it all together and started my seminary journey at Central Baptist Theological Seminary - Tennessee.
This format allowed me to complete my degree without missing any work or taking too much time away from my family. At the same time, I was able to develop an understanding of how to apply the skills from seminary to my sense of calling as a marketplace minister and allowed me to find ways to execute this ministry. After completion of seminary, my home church ordained me and blessed me in this calling.
I am extremely grateful for Central for the work it has done in my life by providing a thought provoking broad theological education.
Every other January since she came to teach at Central, President Molly T. Marshall has taken a group of Central students to Conception Abbey, the Benedictine Monastery in northwest Missouri, for a weeklong immersion experience in the liturgical rhythms of Benedictine Spirituality. Having gained an appreciation for the practices of a Benedictine community during sabbatical and other personal retreat times herself, she sees the value of introducing the Benedictine way of practicing silence, lectio divina (prayerful reading of scripture), daily prayer, and community building to Central students. Participants pray with and learn from the monks, meet the Abbot, learn the history of St. Benedict and his Rule, practice the disciplines of Benedictine spirituality, and have personal instruction with Central’s President. The goal of this week of study and prayer will be for these Baptist students (and others) to gain an understanding of how similar practices might deepen their own spiritual journey and ministries. It also cultivates an appreciation for another branch of the body of Christ
Each year the group begins by checking in at the Guest Center, a lovely new facility that includes the Abbey’s book and gift shop. The monk on duty distributes keys and gives directions to Marian Hall where the students settle into their rooms. Then they trek across the campus to the Basilica for the Vespers service. Brother Cyprian, Abbey Guestmaster, greets them at the door and guides them to the shelves of service books for the prayer time, walks them through the service – how to find the right page to begin, instructions about singing (not too loud so it doesn’t throw off the monks with the echo), when to stand, how to return the books to the shelves at the end.
The course occurs during the season of Epiphany, and the scriptures read during the prayer times throughout the week tell of the early life and baptism of Jesus. As the monks like to say: “We are just getting a good start on Christmas!” The Basilica is adorned with the season’s greenery, lights, and ribbons, as well as a lovely large crèche near the entrance.
After chanting the Psalms with the community, it is time for the evening meal, and Brother Cyprian accompanies the group to the dining hall – the other brothers will eat together in their own refectory – and again guides the guests through the line and to the tables for a hearty meal and lively conversation. One can expect to gain about 5 pounds with all the great food served.
Gracious hospitality, an integral component of Benedictine Spirituality, permeates the experience of the week of study and prayer. Students, who gather from several of Central’s campuses to take the class the first week of January this year, will develop their own Rule to sustain their spiritual formation upon their return home. Having been immersed in Benedictine hospitality, they will likely continue the practice with a greater sense of intentionality. As they reflect on their experience at the Abbey and as they encounter others along their life’s journey, they are likely to hear the echo of the words of Saint Benedict, “All are to be welcomed as Christ.”
ADDITIONAL DETAILS (Click here for a flier)
Starts Sunday, January 6, 2012 – afternoon
Ends Friday, January 11, 2012 – morning
(more detailed schedule will be available later)
$360 ($1080 total) per credit hour for credit seeking participants
$300 for lifelong learners/continuing education
$300 for lodging and meals (required of all participants)
Registration due by December 14, 2012
Limited to 25 persons – first come, first serve – credit students receive priority
Registration opens Monday, November 5th
Contact email@example.com to register