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Studying Worship on Seminary Campuses: Lections

An annotated bibliography summarizing published research in areas related to worship on seminary campuses.

Background Reading

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York: HarperCollins, 1993 (1954)). 
In this classic, Bonhoeffer writes about the practice of living in Christian community.  His wisdom stems from time as part of an underground seminary in Nazi Germany.  The second chapter in particular (“the Day with Others”) addresses issues of communal prayer, singing, Scripture reading (including the Psalms), shared meals, work, and prayer at the close of day. 

Robert Duke, “Seminary Worship” in Theological Education 2.1 (Autumn, 1965), pp. 42-46. 
This early piece highlights many of the difficult tensions that beset Christian communities at worship in seminary contexts.  Yet Duke does not so much explore the ambiguities as declare resolution to some of the various tensions.  Thus, without much argument, he declares that seminaries are not churches and should not appear to be.  Likewise, corporate worship should not in any way be a ‘laboratory’ for learning about worship.  Still, the piece concludes with a wonderful few pages on the purpose of worship in a seminary and an ahead-of-its-time plea for ecumenical oneness.

E. Byron Anderson, “Worship & Theological Education” in Theological Education 39.1 (Issue 1, 2003).
This short article is the gold standard for research on the topic of worship in seminary contexts.  Anderson contends that such worship is problematic for two primary reasons: the content of worship, and the place of worship within the rest of the theological curriculum.  Anderson maps the territory by exploring three tensions that must be balanced for worship to maintain a healthy place in seminary life.  Those tensions are between worship as expressive and as formative, between diversity and unity, and between the gathered people as congregation and as seminary.

Unity & Diversity

John Erickson, Eileen Lindner, “Worship and Prayer in Ecumenical Formation,” in Theological Education 34.1a (Suppl. Autumn 1997).
Erickson, from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and Lindner, from the National Council of Churches, argue, based on their own experience at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, that “the experience of communal worship serves as the mortar that holds together the bricks of ecumenical formation.”  They comment briefly on the importance of intentionality in worship planning, on worship as an integrative meaning-making experience, and on appreciation of unfamiliar traditions of prayer.  Finally, they suggest some implications for theological education in North America, where preparing students to minister in a pluralistic context is of paramount importance.

Frank Dent, “Enhancing Ecumenical Community through the Art of Worship” in ARTS, 1.2 (Winter, 1988-89), p. 3, 20.
Frank Dent, an Arts & Education Consultant, writes about the renovation of James Chapel at Union Theological Seminary in New York.  Discusses Union’s chapel program in some detail, and embraces the ideal of ecumenical theological training in which a variety of liturgies are employed to “educate adherents through each other.”

Expression & Formation
James F. White, “The Teaching of Worship in Seminaries in Canada and the United States” in Worship 55.4 (July 1981), pp. 304-332.  Responses by Nathan Mitchell, Frank Senn.
James White, the dean of Protestant worship pedagogues, offers a preliminary report on his research into the teaching of worship in North American seminaries. Surveying nearly every ATS seminary, he asks and answers three broad questions:  Just what is being taught? (what sorts of courses, taken by how many students, related to the worship life of the seminary in what way, integrated into the rest of the school’s curriculum how, etc.); What training do those doing the teaching have? (what are their academic and ecclesial credentials); and finally, What are the minimal expectations for what should be taught in seminary?  Responses by Mitchell and Senn reflect the interests of their own traditions (e.g., Mitchell’s suggestion that seminary communities – “male, celibate, childless” – offer only a “thin slice of Christian humanity” may be true in Roman Catholic seminaries in 1980; they are much less true of most Protestant seminaries today).  Though these responses also include significant comment directed at the liturgical academy, there is substantial insight here, too, as when Senn explores the normative and descriptive modes of teaching worship. 

Mark Searle, “The Pedagogical Function of the Liturgy,” in Worship 55.4 (July 1981), pp. 332-359.
A paper presented to the North American Academy of Liturgy by Searle, a theology professor at Notre Dame.  Utilizing the pedagogical model of Brazillian Paulo Freire, Searle explores liturgy as an exercise of power by those who select its content versus the notion of liturgy as socialization into the values of the kingdom of God.  Very technical, and somewhat tuned to a Roman Catholic sensibility – requires some work to apply to seminary settings.

Stan Hall, “Teaching Worship in Presbyterian Seminaries” or “A Report from the Republic,” an unpublished paper presented as a keynote address at the Association for Reformed and Liturgical Worship, July 7, 2005.
In this paper, Stan Hall, professor at Austin Theological Seminary, addresses a Reformed audience who are fully on board with liturgical reform movement of protestant churches.  He considers the teaching of worship at his own seminary over the past century, focusing on three basic issues:1) the primacy of congregations for the formation of worshipers, including his seminary students, 2) the change in attention and focus of worship courses over the past century from courses on homiletics and music to a vast range of courses on sacraments, evangelism, liturgical history, ecumenical worship, and so forth; and 3) reflections concerning the character of the seminary community as a worshipping community, a gathering of the baptized.

Dianne Reistroffer, “Response to Hall” (unpublished), July 8, 2005.
In this response, Reistroffer affirms Hall’s contention that worship is more caught than taught, but affirms the responsibility of pastors as caretakers and interpreters of their own particular tradition.  She argues, then, for more deliberate pedagogy at Presbyterian schools derived from the Book of Common Worship, the Presbyterian Hymnal, the lectionary, and other denominational distinctives. She concludes with a hope that mainline schools will find ways to renew and enliven their campus worship programs.

Charles R. Foster, Lisa E. Dahill, Lawrence A. Golemon and Barbara Want Tolentino, Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006.  Especially Chapter 9, “Cultivating Spiritual Practices for Clergy Leadership.”
This study by the Carnegie Foundation includes a chapter which speaks directly to the issue of worship in seminary communities.  That chapter addresses three primary ways in which seminaries cultivate attentiveness to the spiritual dimension of life: community worship, small groups, and individual spiritual formation.  The study breaks schools down into three primary sorts: homogenous schools with a shared liturgical tradition, where worship on campus is a “carefully constructed liturgical apprenticeship”; those schools where students of diverse liturgical traditions are educated and formed in quite different ways; and seminaries where students have great freedom to “create, change, critique, discard, or improvise” the elements of worship, and where community worship is not understood to be deeply formative.  An excellent, if tantalizingly minimal exploration.

Church & School
J. Robert Nelson, “The Seminary – Academy and Chapel,” in Theological Education 1.1 (Autumn 1964), pp. 53-62.
A well-written, though somewhat dated piece directed to the Association of Theological Seminaries, the accrediting institution for theological education and ministerial training.  He acknowledges many of the tensions and questions that surround worship in seminary communities, but just the same argues gently but persuasively that “the foremost element of seminary education today is the discovery of the full dimensions of Christian worship.”  He stops short of recommending some standards of excellence in worship being required for accreditation, but not too much short. 

Salle McFague TeSelle, “Between Athens and Jerusalem:  The Seminary in Tension,” in Christian Century 93.4 (Feb. 4-11), 1976. 
Excerpted from her installation address as Dean of Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, this piece by the noted theologian embraces the strange institution that is the seminary, lying as it does between University and Church.  Beginning with the notion of ministerial formation, she contends that the seminary’s goal is to be a community both comfortable within and critical of a particular religious tradition.  To pursue such a goal, they must resist the reflection/action dichotomy in order to form whole persons.  Finally, they must remember – in theory and in practice – that the “ultimate context of theological education is worship.”

Surveys, Reflections, etc.
Edna Jacobs Banes, Qualifying Exams 1-3 (unpublished, 2003).
These short papers, by the now Chaplain at Union/PSCE, provide both interesting historical information about worship at Union and at PSCE (now merged into one school).  Also provides raw data from student interviews and a very helpful look at worship at eight neighboring schools from other traditions.  Concludes with a few pages of recommendations for changes.  While a bit thin theologically, it is still an illuminating case study which looks at present practice, examines the historical influences and contemporary context, and then returns to praxis. 

Clayton Schmit, “A Chapel and Community Worship Discussion Paper” (unpublished, 2004).
As Fuller Seminary pondered the building of a dedicated building for seminary worship, Clay Schmit, one of the worship faculty, wrote this paper to initiate conversation on campus about the shape of worship life at Fuller. The piece offers helpful definitions of common terminology, and then proceeds to outline specific proposals.  Particularly, Schmit suggests that the “All Seminary” chapel on Wednesdays not devolve to a “lowest common denominator” worship, but rather reflect the distinctives of the various traditions that make up Fuller’s diverse community.


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