Thanks so much for the quick responses. I had two questions that came in. Let me take a few moments and respond to each of them.
The first comes from Stevie, who wrote: “Many of us are behind you as you start this new chapter. What exactly is your field of study?”
Great question. Let me see if I can unpack it for you.
Many undergraduate programs and some Masters programs (including many the Master of Divinity programs) are set up in such a way that a good chunk of your program is defined for you. There will be a certain amount of required – or core classes that an individual has to take. Most Doctor of Ministry programs are not like that, however. An individual’s course study is driven almost entirely by the student’s specific area of interest.
The Doctor of Ministry degree is a professional doctoral degree. This means that the program requires students to have at least 3 years of professional experience in their field before they are admitted so they can bring their practical real world experience into the classroom. This is so individuals will be able to merge the world of their ministry setting (i.e. chaplains, pastors, non-profit leaders, etc) with the world of academia.
Individuals in my program at Pacific School of Religion are asked to identify a research project that they will work on. When the research project comes to fruition, they then use that research project to drive their thesis which talks in depth about the student’s learnings from the research project.
So what is my research project?
Well, I am early in the process of articulating my research project. I arrived on campus Monday, thinking my project would be to develop a resource that would help pastors assist individuals coming into our non-creedal United Church of Christ churches from creedal church backgrounds. This transition can be a difficult one for both the individual making the transition, as well as the pastor – who tries to guide the individual through that process.
During my first week of class, I’ve been challenged several times on whether or not UCC churches are, in fact, non-creedal. While a church may profess to be non-creedal, a few individuals have pointed out, the reality is that there is often an understand “creed” or system of beliefs that drive the church.
The epiphany that happened to me just this morning is that perhaps it is more honest to talk about our UCC churches being multi-creedal churches (meaning each individual has his or her own set of beliefs, or creeds, that they hold on to) rather than non-creedal. This shift in language will cause a shift in the way I conceptualize my research project.
As the professor of my seminar course for first year students has remarked on numerous occasions this week, my research project will undergo lots of changes over the next two years. My challenge is to balance a sense of openness to those changes while continuing to keep my focus on my larger area of concern: how to assist individuals as they move from a more rigidly defined theological way of being into a more open and accepting theological way of being.