STH Summer Writing Workshop

The goal of this project was to provide professional development to STH graduate students to improve their ability to speak in a more dialogic way about doctrinal issues. –Emily Chastain, School of Theology Ph.D. Candidate

In the 21st century, the continuous transformation of both the church and the world relies on the presence of insightful and pragmatic religious leaders. The School of Theology’s Master of Divinity program academically prepares current students to tailor their coursework according to their distinctive vocational calling.

However, while STH students have had access to the academic tools necessary to become a theologian or pastor, there is still a resource and guidance gap for students completing the credentialing paperwork necessary to pursue ordination in their path. 

Ph.D. candidate, Rev. Emily Nelms Chastain, had an idea. “I knew students struggled with the practicality of applying what they’ve learned,” Chastain said, so she created a digital summer workshop for students pursuing ordination in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition to have the necessary resources and guidance in penning their answers to the theological sections of their credentialing paperwork. 

Through this workshop, Chastain sought to connect the pieces of what graduate students learned in the classroom with life after seminary by providing professional development that helped students improve their ability to speak in a more dialogic way about doctrinal issues. The workshop utilized students’ previous doctrinal knowledge, learned in many of their required courses, and integrated new sources and experiential learning into their paperwork. 

According to one student who participated in the workshop,

I enjoyed every moment that I was able to attend. It solidified for me what I retained from coursework and church but also what I needed more clarification on. I was able to get a lot of questions answered and also was able to find new ways to express my faith through my own words within the context of John Wesley's words.”

Chastain brought remote students together from across the country by creating a multi-space digital environment that leveraged digital technologies like Zoom and Google Suite.

So far, one student who completed the workshop has submitted their credentialing paperwork while several others have started the process. According to Chastain, “Students are now better prepared to clearly articulate their arguments.”

While this workshop was initially offered as non-credit professional development, Chastain has conveyed the importance of this offering to the associate dean for students and community life, Christian De La Rosa, who hopes to make it available as a one-credit course this year, Writing Papers for UMC Credentialing.

"This type of workshop prepares students for the next big steps in the ordination process, allowing them to get even closer to the practice of ministry in their communities,” Chastain said. “It truly allows students to fully connect their theological education to their vocational aspirations through practical application.”

Project Lead

Emily Chastain

Ph.D. Candidate

Rev. Emily Nelms Chastain is a Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow at Boston University, where she focuses on 19th and 20th Century American Christian History and the intersectionality of faith and gender. She earned her B.A. in History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

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