In our third conversation on the future of theological education, The Ministry Collaborative’s Jennifer Maxell and Ryan Bonfiglio welcome Dr. Leah Gunning Francis (Christian Theological Seminary) and Dr. Ted Smith (Candler School of Theology) to talk about identity formation, the changing partnerships of theological education, and the vocational shifts toward making a difference in the world.
I was the Facilitator for the first New York City cohort, and at the time, I was working in theological education on Christian leadership formation, so it seemed like a natural fit. What I discovered, though, was something quite different from my “day job.” While the content and topics of the curriculum was a crucial part of our gatherings, it was the community of mutual care and support that made the content relevant, not the other way around. And second, having three years of strong bonding created an extraordinarily resilient community that, in turn, was able to build up resilience in our leaders. I think every member of my cohort went through significant seasons of both joy and heartache, professionally and vocationally, during our time. And the cohort, in turn, lived out the exhortation of Romans 12:15, “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep,” with a depth and integrity that I have rarely experienced, and often doing both in the same gathering. It was a privilege and a blessing to me and my own faith and ministry to be their facilitator, and I am eternally grateful to the Ministry Collaborative for calling me to that work!”