Reflections from Seminary Students

The Life of a Graduate Assistant

October 13th, 2010 § 0 Comments

As everyone knows, students are broke. Taking full-time classes costs money and devours most of the time that one would use working another job. Luckily, the School of Theology offers graduate assistantships which help ease some of the financial burden. While blogging is one of my responsibilities as a graduate assistant, it would be rather boring to read a blog entry about writing a blog, so let me tell you about another aspect of my job. Though research is one responsibility among many duties I have in the Dean’s office, I particularly enjoyed hunting down a citation for Earl Marlatt’s hymn, “Are Ye Able?”  Dean Strong wanted to use the hymn in a paper since it represented Boston Personalist Theology, the foundational belief system of Boston University professor, Borden Parker Bowne.

With this in mind, I walked to the library and talked to Steve Perisho, our diligent Theology Librarian, asking where we could find the earliest copy of this hymn. A quick search on the WorldCat System gave us contradictory results.

One the one hand, we found two hymnal companions, one of which references a broadsheet in the Bridwell Library special collections titled “Challenge” with the same lyrics as “Are Ye Able?” dated to 1926. On the other hand, a 1928 Methodist hymnal edited by Earl Marlatt specifies 1924 as the date of composition for “Challenge,” the first occurrence of the hymn in any source.

Using my detective’s intuition, I contacted Bridwell about the inconsistency. After some digging, Bridwell found the broadsheet in question signed by Earl Marlatt in 1926. They scanned the notated music, attached it to an email, and it landed in my inbox. Conclusive proof! Earl Marlatt originally wrote “Are Ye Able?” in 1926 and the mistaken date of 1924 in his later hymnal references the composition of the melodic tune written by Harry S. Mason. Dr. Strong’s paper on Boston Personalist Theology now contained proper references! Despite the fact that this story is a fun anecdote and not indicative of everyday work, it was an enjoyable part of my first-year graduate assistantship.

- Donovan Richards

Abbey Intensive

December 2nd, 2009 § 0 Comments

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!

-Donovan Richards

Hello and Welcome to the School of Theology Blog.

December 1st, 2009 § 0 Comments

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.

-Donovan Richards

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