Adopting a three-pronged approach in order to enhance the ability to prepare candidates for ministerial leadership, Boston University School of Theology initiated a six-year program of research, curricular initiatives, congregational development partnerships, and reflection and dialogue. The initiative featured three tracks: Church and Theology in the Contemporary World; The Teaching of Liturgy as Practical Theology; and, The Center for Congregational Research and Development.
Programs under the rubric of Church and Theology in the Contemporary World led graduate students to engage in interdisciplinary, practical theological research aimed at pastoral formation and scholarship; introduced methods of teaching in practical theology that built bridges between the seminary and the church public the seminary serves; and analyzed the situation of the church in several world contexts with a focus on the church’s public mission, the understanding and practice of theology that ground this mission, and the implications for pastoral and spiritual formation. Based on research and reflection resulting from the aforementioned activities, the program developed case-study oriented approaches to the teaching of practical theology. The School of Theology offered a one-semester seminar on the theme of the “Church and Theology in the Contemporary World” that brought together Masters and doctoral students conducting several research projects built around the themes of this particular track.
The Teaching of Liturgy as Practical Theology involved graduate and post-graduate seminars which introduced international students to the methodology and bibliography of liturgical studies. These seminars were geared towards training liturgical research and teaching in an ecumenical environment set in different cultural contexts. The program emphasized the need for listening to different social, ethnic, and gendered liturgical practices.
The Center for Congregational Research and Development aimed at developing new congregations while revitalizing ones that exist; and to enable the School of Theology to better contextualize theological education within congregational life. As a result eight new congregations were started in partnership with the New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Center was eventually integrated with the new Center for Practical Theology. Information about the Center is available at www.bu.edu/ccrd.
The initiative as a whole led to the incorporation of the seminars offered under the Church and Theology in the Contemporary World into the Th. D. program as credit courses. Several different M. Div. courses were also revised, in particular those in the area of practical theology.