Each fall new cohorts of create students gather at Conception Abbey for orientation to the program, times of prayer, shared meals, learning activities, and reflection. Benedictine hospitality welcomes us, and we get to know one another in that rather remote and peaceful setting. This context is unfamiliar for the majority of these entering seminarians, and the feelings of dislocation open up the possibility for new learning.
The name of the course is Spirituality and Creativity, and we focus on how the Spirit of God will awaken the unique giftedness each has been given for the creative challenges of ministry. A key objective of the course is for participants to get to know themselves better, an essential task for authentic Christian vocation. We also begin to sense the significance of community to sustain lives of faith and service.
We witness the graceful community of monks, where each is to be “received as Christ,” and we strive to recognize the presence of Christ in one another, through the power of the Spirit. Simply hearing one another’s stories of God’s providence in their lives evokes deepening faith, hope, and love.
New this year is the Women’s Leadership Initiative. Twelve women constitute this cohort, and the life experiences and ministry goals are impressive. Some are writers; some are pastoral leaders; some will devise new ways to minister to women; some will pursue chaplaincy; and, some will pursue the academic life. These women are passionate about being agents of transformation, and I believe they will be a force for change! [It doth not yet appear what these women will accomplish!]
Based in Nashville, this cohort will convene at Scarritt-Bennett Center, a hub for educational programming. Formerly a college in the Methodist tradition, the Center is forging partnerships that focus on the empowerment of women, racial equity, and spiritual renewal. Thus, there is a natural synergy between Central and Scarritt-Bennett, and we are excited about a shared vision of leadership development for women. The CEO, Dr. Jocelyn Briddell, and the Director of Programming, Dr. Jackie Halstead, spent the four days at the Abbey, strengthening our partnership.
Central has a capable leadership team on the ground in Nashville. Dr. Sally Holt is the site director, joined by Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed who will coordinate coaching and mentoring, and Dr. Ircel Harrison who will oversee key dimensions of the program such as the capstone project. How grateful I am that the cohort will learn from these wise leaders!
And so another semester begins. By my reckoning, this is my 78th semester in seminary, combining the years as a student and faculty member. I do love theological education, and I give thanks for what transpires in the lives of fellow learners as we seek God together.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.