December 3rd, 2009 §
During the Abbey Intensive on Whidbey Island, Dean Doug Strong assigned the graduate students (along with one faculty member each) in to small groups. Modeled after Wesleyan-style class meetings, these small groups meet every week to discuss the things that are happening in each other’s lives.
My group in particular meets on Mondays in the library. During the hour session, we have been able to connect in a way that has enabled a strong bond between students. At the beginning of the quarter, the discussion between students was basic and minimal. However, we have seen strong relational growth as the quarter has gone on. For us, the meeting begins with a general question about the week. Each individual elaborates on where they have seen Jesus working in their lives throughout the week and asks for prayer in any specific area where there may be struggles. At the end of the meeting, the group prays for each other and encourages each other on in the name of Christ.
For me personally, class meetings have been an excellent source of fellowship with my fellow students. I have built stronger friendships and been more open with them than I sometimes am at church in my own community. The required class meetings have been awesome.
December 2nd, 2009 §
A few days after the completion of the abbey intensive course, we newly acquainted graduate students began the second intensive course on mission. Exemplifying the apostolate tenet of the theology program, students spent the week touring local nonprofits that focus on mission to the poor of the greater Seattle area. The texts we read for the course centered on the idea of a missional community.
The first place we visited was New Horizons Ministries in Belltown. New Horizons reaches out to youth who are involved in street activity. The goal for the organization is to cultivate relationships with teens in the area in order to show them a renewing relationship with Jesus Christ and to ultimately encourage and train youth to leave street life.
Recently, New Horizons has invested in a coffee shop that they call, Street Bean. This shop will be an avenue by which reforming street teens will get work experience and references that can propel them into better jobs in the open market.
For our second stop, we toured Quest Church, a local missional church located in Queen Anne. Quest Church emphasizes global mission work as well as multicultural ministry. A couple of the pastors were available for a question-and-answer session, and we were able to learn of their plan for global and local mission.
In a global context, Quest Church is actively partnered with organizations who seek to implement Micah 6, “to love justice, seek mercy, kindness…” (look this up later)
Quest Church seeks to impact the local community by running a nonprofit coffee shop for the community to meet, drink quality coffee at a low price, and pursue the arts. In addition, Quest Church is interested in the needs of the homeless in the Ballard and Queen Anne community. (find more info on this)
The last destination for the apostolate intensive was Urban Impact. Located in the heart of Rainier Valley, Urban Impact seeks to improve the quality of life of residents in the community. Urban Impact arranged space and equipment to create a gym for the community with the idea that physical fitness is a key aspect to improving the quality of life.
Urban Impact is associated with Emerald City Bible Fellowship, a cross-cultural bible church located next door. Embassy stresses the importance of different ethnicities within a missional community.
On the whole, my fellow graduate students and I received a lasting experience learning the importance of being missionally sent to help those in need by the power of God the Father, the incarnate Son, and the Holy Spirit.
December 2nd, 2009 §
The deer are grazing in an open field with fawns comforted in being at their mother’s side. As I arrived at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island for a one-week intensive course, I couldn’t help but marvel at the proximity of natural beauty. The Olympic mountain range descended in tiers over the narrowest part of the Puget Sound. There was a slight breeze floating from the sound through the valley. Neatly aligned at the far end of an open field were the officer’s quarters that would be the week-long home of the Christian Formation in Discipleship intensive course at Camp Casey Conference Center on Whidbey Island. It was a perfect setting. Dean Doug Strong sat on a bench socializing with the students who had arrived early. After introducing myself to Dr. Strong and my fellow students, I placed my possessions upstairs in the room I had been assigned and prepared for an unbelievable week of discipleship, community, and education.
We dove into Wesley’s “means of grace,” practicing prayer, worship, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the reading and hearing of Scripture, fasting, and mutual accountability and support in small groups. A typical day during this week involved awakening for breakfast around 8 a.m., the morning rite around 9, lectures from 9:30 to 11, quiet study time from 11 to 12, lunch from 12-12:30 p.m., another lecture from 1-2:30, free time from 2:30 to 5, spiritual practices from 5-6, dinner from 6-6:30, free time until 8, testimonies from 8-9, and compline from 9 to 9:30 p.m.
In a week’s time, a group of relative strangers became a tight knit community. Tear-jerking testimonies fostered encouraging communal prayer, compline services morphed into extended worship times, and Settlers of Catan became the new favorite board game. Day one communion, touring Fort Casey, and the Wesleyan love feast were the highlights of the intensive.
Looking back, the abbey intensive course at the beautiful Camp Casey intentionally cultivated a tight-knit community. The week-long retreat greatly assisted in the development of relationships that a currently enhancing my educational experience. What an amazing feeling to have this kind of connection with fellow students!
December 1st, 2009 §
My name is Donovan Richards and I am a student in the graduate program. Being a part of the inaugural class, I desire to illustrate student life in our program.
While some might say that the path leading me to the SOT graduate program is unique, I would argue that it was providential. Seeing that I have always been interested in ideas and antiquity, my main focus in undergraduate education was philosophy and ancient Greek. I found my passion for learning in these higher levels of education and, by the end of my undergraduate career, it became clear that I would wish to pursue education at a graduate level. Thus, at the end of my senior year, I met with some of my professors and procured some recommendation letters for graduate applications.
After graduating however, I got married and took a job in the professional world. Graduate school was a goal and a dream that I planned to fulfill at a later date. Yet my entry-level job was nowhere near the level of fulfillment that I had found in my educational pursuits. My wife and I had constant discussions concerning my desire to continue my studies and my growing desire to continue my studies in a Christian setting with a Christian topic. The result of these discussions came in the form of researching the schools in the Northwest. From the start, Seattle Pacific University was the front-runner because of my interest in ethics, social justice, and business and theology. I applied and was accepted!
Soon after, I got a call from Dr. Richard Steele and Dean Doug Strong to welcome me to the program and to ask if I had any questions. I was floored to receive a personal call from a faculty member. Most of my undergraduate interactions were with graduate students so I felt a great deal of honor and worth in receiving such a call. To this day, the precedent for high relational expectations between student and faculty has continued, and it is a part of the program that I truly appreciate. From the small class sizes and prompt email responses to engaging in accountability and discipleship with the faculty members, relationship has been an integral part of my graduate career at SPU.
While I am sure many of the students have taken a variety of paths to end up at Seattle Pacific University, one thing is for sure: Relationships between students and faculty members are integral to the success of the SOT graduate program.