Coronavirus and change

Coronavirus and change

Colleges, seminaries and university departments of theology are re-opening for a new academic year in many parts of the world. They, and others which are already open for business, face a new situation – significant change in the way things are done because of the coronavirus pandemic. Theological educators need to cope with that change, doing the same is not an option in most situations, and we need to cope not just with the new arrangements but with ourselves. Here are two central attitudes which will help us through successfully.

I will be flexible. There really is no option so we should make the best of it. Theological education institutions are not islands, immovable while the sea of society rages around them, they are little boats tossed on that sea, blown by the prevailing wind and sometimes need to run with the tide to get where they want to go. “Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same” but just a cursory glance at history will tell you that theological education is no stranger to change. In fact, history shows that teachers become in-effective and colleges die if they do not change.

I will work from the core of my calling. Delivery systems change, what we are delivering needs to be preserved.

  1. I am a Christian with my faith and commitment belonging to Christ. I will serve Him as best I can in any circumstances including the present changing patterns.
  2. I am a teacher of the church, given to the church to uphold the faith, to help guide it through change, to challenge it to think hard and deep and to comfort and pastor His people, especially in the difficulties of the present times.
  3. I am part of this latest generation of theological educators, who stand in a tradition of two thousand years or more, expressing what is essential and wonderful about theological education.
  4. I understand that effective theological education is seeking the formation of students (and ourselves) academically, spiritually and personally, and for Christian service; and that this is best achieved in relationship and within a learning community.

My attitude will be to seek to be as flexible as necessary in the new situation while working hard and thinking hard as to how to continue to express my calling as fully as possible in these new and difficult circumstances.

Success in this task is is the big matter for prayer today in theological, education.

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4 Comments on “Coronavirus and change”

  1. Drew Gibson Says:

    Graham, responding to your fourth point: ‘I understand that effective theological education is seeking the formation of students (and ourselves) academically, spiritually and personally, and for Christian service; and that this is best achieved in relationship and within a learning community.’

    I wonder how easily the three types of formation sit with each other. I am increasingly concerned that academic formation as it is carried out in UK universities does not cohere well with spiritual formation. To be sure, the two can be done separately but should there not be some interaction between them? If I have to mark all assignments anonymously, I cannot carry this out in a richly spiritually formative way. Perhaps the separation of the ‘two kingdoms’ is as much as we can hope for if we are locked into the system as it is.

  2. Paul Clark Says:

    Thank you for your refreshing reflection. You affirm the need to hold to those principles and callings that are truly ours as Christian Theological educators, and yet, the need to be flexible as we seek a model that will work toward those aims, yet fit in our crazy and uncertain times.
    I stand with you in both the affirmations of calling, and the desire to be flexible on the means and methods.
    Thank you, brother.

    Grace and Peace,
    Paul Clark

    Paul Allan Clark
    Education Consultant

  3. Patrick Mitchel Says:

    Thank you Graham, as ever. After long (necessary) zoom meetings about practicalities of return to work plans, screens, masks, isolation rooms, deep-cleaning, one-way systems, no singing, etc etc it is refreshing to be reminded why we are doing what we are doing.
    Drew – perhaps you’ve seen it but you might be interested in Ephriam Radner’s thought-provoking article in First Things which says this
    “Traditional theological schools and their work will continue, if much reduced in extent. But to survive the economic and substantive dissolution of the era, they will need to decouple themselves, as much as possible, from the administrative pulls of standard academic frameworks: departments, divisions, university and certifying bureaucracies … These frameworks have long been bound to cultural norms and now normative demands that are proving bankrupt.”


    So encouraging and inspiring!

    Thank you very much sir!

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