The Committee on Theological Education gathered at Princeton Theological Seminary for last week. It had been a year since we last met as an entire committee and we welcomed eight new members elected by the 218th General Assembly. Institutional Representatives/ PC(USA) Seminary Presidents, Corresponding members, staff, and guests were also assembled for the meeting. A mountain of business items confronted us but we did not allow it to prevent us from thinking and acting in more generative and creative ways.
Most importantly, we listened to each other. Fran Lane-Lawrence, the new Chair of the COTE and Executive Director of Laughlin Memorial Chapel, a Presbyterian Community Center in Wheeling, West Virginia, along with the Executive Committee set the tone with the planning of the opening plenary session. Laura Mendenhall, who recently announced she will step down next summer as president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, introduced to us a methodology employed by the Theological Schools and Church Project of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).
It seemed simple enough, put a part of the group in the center of the room and have the others listen in on the conversation; a fishbowl, so to speak. The elected members and the institutional members/ seminary presidents switched places in the fishbowl and discussed Dan Aleshire’s recent presentation to the ATS, “Making Haste Slowly: Celebrating the Future of Theological Schools.” We learned what the ATS project experienced as well; we need to listen to each other more.
When I was in campus ministry one of the most successful projects we did was set up a listening post. The idea was to provide a welcoming space at a regular time weekly in a public spot with a sign, "The Listening Post: A Place to Talk." It was a place to be heard without judgment. Advice and counsel of “listeners” was discouraged. It was truly a place for people to talk and be heard. Unfortunately, this is a rarity in our busy world.
We learned the value of it once again at COTE. Ideas began to emerge from our conversations in a short debriefing period after each group had a conversation. This was not one group responding to the other, it was each group responding to a common text and listening deeply to the other. I encourage you to do the same.
Lee back in Louisville from Princeton