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Studying Worship on Seminary Campuses: Encouragement

Words of encouragement from others dealing with the same issues.

It’s very encouraging, a relief even, to hear how others are dealing with the same issues.
Andrea Tischer, Regent College

One way we helped deal with change was to gather a group of students weekly to debrief from chapel the day before.  We react emotionally and associatively to worship, so we made a ground rule: no one was allowed to say “I like/didn’t like….” Rather, we said “What did you value and what concerned you?”  Second, we removed the comfort words from our vocabulary – no one, for example, was allowed to use the words “traditional” and “contemporary.”
Andrea Tischer

While our stylistic choices for seminary chapel are quite broad, many of our students come from churches where the prevailing "heart language" is Southern Gospel. The task before us is to challenge them – pastors, missionaries, and church musicians alike – to experience more of the depth and breadth of Christian worship so that they can  grow in Christian deference, gladly singing someone else's song for the sake of unity in Christ and love of His church.
Chip Stam, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


I’m struck by the multiplicity of chapels that everyone does – and how many schools do Eucharist services.  For us, that is not a regular event – perhaps it should be?
Ed Willmington, Fuller Theological Seminary





Your typical seminary student comes to seminary with a certain way of interpreting Scripture. You would hope that they would have learned things in seminary to change the way they study the Bible.  So why is it that we expect students to come to seminary and leave ‘unlaundered’ in terms of worship practice?
Todd Johnson, Fuller Theological Seminary

Churches want someone who has had training in both classical and contemporary styles. So there is some tension between what skills students are being trained with and what students can actually be placed. Unfortunately, chapel is the only place you can develop these skills in the seminary curriculum.
Margaret Brady, North Park Theological Seminary 

Seminary students are relatively unformed by the life of the church, unformed by the church’s liturgical practices and they don’t know the church’s repertoire.  I have found the primary locus for spiritual formation for many of our students is parachurch organizations on undergraduate campuses, or if second career people, then with liturgical patterns from the 1950s that reflect the emphasis on preaching rather than the ecumenical patterns that seek to balance Word and Sacrament – patterns that are reflected in virtually all mainline denominational worship books since 1980.
E. Byron (Ron) Anderson, Garrett Evangelical Seminary


Regarding churches’ expectations for what we do at seminary for our students – I wonder this: are we trying to train students for churches that don’t exist? We are a denominational school.  Are our churches the result of how we at our seminaries have taught worship badly – or not at all – in the past?  If those churches are the result of 50 years of us not doing our work very well, to what extent should we at the seminary now be shaped by those churches?  My long term agenda, then, is to form not only students, but congregations across the denomination.
Carol Bechtel, Western Theological Seminary


One student complained: “You’re not preparing me for the church that I know.”  My response was this: “No, I’m preparing you for the church you will know in 15 years’ time.”
Siobhan Garrigan, Yale Divinity School

I find it crucial that we are developing and articulating to our students – and faculty – a theology of participation: telling people why participation matters.  Early on I made the mistake of assuming people knew that.
Siobhan Garrigan, Yale Divinity School


Students often come to seminary fresh out of undergrad, and we throw them into chapel – they often don’t understand why they need to be there.  Other students are rooted in a tradition, either denominationally or geographically, and to be at chapel here is to press their idea of diversity and what that means.
Vanessa Anderson, Denver Theological Seminary