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School for Ministry Frequently Asked Questions

This blog post first appeared on All Our Voices.

Two of the Cathedral’s seminarians, Chris Harris and Richard Lee, are attending the new Diocesan School for Ministry. This is a new way of doing seminary, different from the full time residential graduate programs. At the School, students meet on Saturdays, all day, for a 14 week semesters, while continuing in their regular jobs during the week. They also participate in Theological Field Education out and about in the Diocese. The course for ordination as a priest takes three years.

Before Richard and Chris tell us more about their individual experiences, we thought we’d address some of the frequently asked questions about the School. Thanks to Hannah Wilder, Simon Mainwaring, and Bishop Mathes for answering these questions!

Who can attend?
Anyone can apply to attend the School for Ministry. Applications are reviewed and students are notified within six weeks. Auditors are also welcome to apply.

Is the curriculum comparable to what is taught in a traditional seminary?
Yes. Whilst, due to the smaller scale of our operation, the number of subject areas covered by the SFM is smaller than the residential seminaries in TEC, we do offer the same breadth with the exception of Hebrew and Greek, which we do not offer. We offer classes that cover all of the seven canonical areas required for ordination to the priesthood and more besides. Most importantly, the quality of instruction is as high as a traditional seminary. All of our faculty have Masters level education and a good proportion have doctorates too.

Where we step ahead of most traditional seminaries is in offering a skills-based curriculum that seeks to integrate the practice of ministry with rigorous academic learning. The pedagogy of many traditional seminaries still utilizes the ‘banking model’ of education that seeks to prioritize the acquisition of knowledge. Educational institutions across America of all varieties are moving toward a more adaptable and contextually rigorous model for learning, which the SFM pursues.

How can one full day a week be equivalent to a residential seminary?
Postulants have four, two-hour classes a week plus at least 16 hours of prep time during the week. Traditional seminaries do not conduct 8 hours of classes per day, 5 days a week, but integrate classroom learning with other aspects of seminary life such as chapel, fellowship and in some cases part-time work. The rate of learning at the SFM, therefore, is similar to a traditional seminary.

The distinctive aspect of institutions such as the SFM is that the outside-the-classroom reflection that our students undertake is out in their working/retired lives in the world. In essence, the model – in contrast to the residential seminary – is not learning in a time away from the world, it is learning within the world.

Do students get an M. Div. (Masters of Divinity)?
No. The School for Ministry is not currently accredited. An M. Div. is not required for ordination.

What IS required for ordination?
The bishop of the diocese (the ordinary), with the consent of the Standing Committee, has the discretion to ordain those whom s/he believes have met the canonical requirements of ordination.

Are deacons and priests ordained from the School qualified to serve throughout TEC, or are they limited to the Diocese of San Diego?
Once ordained by a bishop of the Episcopal Church, our deacons and priests are able to serve in any diocese as much as any other deacon or priest would be.


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