Saturday, July 03, 2004
Face-time and ministerial formation ::

Two interesting responses to my post about virtual formation appeared very quickly. I’m responding to them in order.
Finker (whose own blog regularly has good thoughts - and now a post on "the F word that I really want to explore more") in his comment to the post below suggests a radical approach, asking if “residential training” is indeed “the best form of training either academically or formatively”. He also wonders if “it is sustainable”.

Both are good questions, the second has been often raised in discussions in the college staff room here. More and more students find it difficult to displace their families for three years or more; their spouses have careers and their children schools… Yet it seems to me less interesting. Time will tell. Perhaps in ten years our Internship program will be full and the onsite Pastoral Leadership program struggling, either way the facts will out and we just need to wait.

But the first challenge is seldom faced. Teachers usually assume that onsite face-to-face must be best. The only sound theological or indeed androgogical argument for this rests on the incarnate/real nature of such a process. Is this dichotomy - onsite=real/incarnate vs. distance=virtual/disembodied - true? Clearly some distance programs are disembodied, just a package of “notes”, and assignments, but equally even our basic BAppTheol by distance includes contact through online discussion, e-mail, telephone and a staff member on the road visiting students, so already the distinction begins to break down. (A few students exist who manage to sit in onsite classes, and jump all the assignment hoops, without ever seeming to really engage with me or even the ideas in the course!)

However, the more interesting comparison is with the Internship option combined with distance teaching that our Christian Ministry Training (CMT) programme aims to offer. (This also seems true of the initiative I mentioned in the **previous post**.) Here the face-to-face component of formation is squarely the responsibility of the local congregation and its leaders.

Rubén Gómez was stressing the importance of this for both onsite and distance programmes. (If I read him right.)
First of all, no matter what route you take, it seems to me that real formation can only take place within the context of a local church.
As a fellow Baptist I have to agree. Real church is a local community of Jesus’ people, anchored in real lives, so that is where real formation takes place. Seminaries are a sort of “virtual church” most of whose members are temporarily members of the community, whose real lives were/are/will be elsewhere. Such virtual churches can not be all (or even the main part) of formation!

Residential training (the model Finker’s college sems to follow), or even onsite training (our Carey model, with students living offsite, but studying onsite) of course provides some real church alongside the virtual. Students do “placements”. See how artificial it sounds!

With Internship, whether the classroom is a real one (onsite) or virtual (distance or online), the formation is conducted primarily in a real local church community of which the candidate is a real (not a virtual) member.

I mentioned that Rubén is a fellow-Baptist, no wonder he stresses the local. But how strange that even Baptist Seminaries - who lost touch with the notion that theological formation is local during the period when communications technologies required central repositories of theological teaching – still think centralized in the age of electronic media!

Rubén closes saying:
One final caveat: my comments will probably make sense only to "Westerners". Unfortunately, most of the world's population cannot take advantage of these trends in education. But they do have churches, you see...
Actually similar issues can arise, in Congo in the 80s there was a scheme they called something like the “Travelling Seminary”. Teachers travelled to students and would meet them in groups where they were, it was just a low-tech way of doing “distance” training… (After all such brief encounters would mean that the bulk of the personal formation would occur in the local church!)

SEARCH Tim's sites
Posts listed by topic
My academic CV

Write to Tim

January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 /

biblical studies blogs:

other theology/church blogs:


Powered by Blogger

Technorati Profile

Yellow Pages for Auckland, New Zealand