Fall 2020 Themes
The cusp of autumn brings with it the start of a new academic year. These initial days of the fall semester are marked by arrivals, not the least of which are the arrivals of new and returning students. Our arrivals this academic year are taking on a peculiar texture as we continue to wrestle with Covid-19 and the social distancing that has arrived with it.
What does it mean for us to immerse ourselves in new ways of being in community? How do we overcome barriers and challenges to arrive at a new stage of learning and growth in our lives? We tend to think of “arriving” as the end of a journey. How are beginnings also arrivings?
Wonder resides at the heart of much of Scripture. Wonder also emerges as we come together in the fall to renew and reconfigure our learning community. As we move through these days of learning and ministering, how are we encountering God in our study, work, and play? How are we encountering God’s spirit in the everyday spaces and places and happenings of our lives? How do we cultivate wonder as we wander in uncharted territory? What is the link between wonder and justice?
“Could the world be about to turn?” This line appears in a musical rendition of Luke’s “Magnificat” (Rory Rooney, 1990). As we move toward the end of the semester, we approach the seasons of Advent and Christmas. The Song of Mary in Luke invites us to consider the radical promises of Advent and Jesus’ arrival on the earth. “Could the world be about to turn?” The question emerges for academic communities too. What about this semester’s learning is causing a “turning” in us as individuals or a community? How are God’s radical promises and our “yes” to God’s callings stirring revolution songs in our hearts and voices?
Through these themes, we aspire to center voices and stories from the margins of our texts and traditions, Esther being one example. We also aim to encourage worshipers and learners from varied backgrounds and worship communities to share stories, texts, and practices. Our hope for the semester overall is that together through our liturgical expressions we discern a liberating Word of hope, encounter God in, through, and with each other, learn the joys and risks of looking closely at difficult texts, and discover ways to embody what we are learning in other contexts.
The School of Divinity recognizes the importance of providing opportunities to nurture the faith development and spiritual life of students. These opportunities – including community worship, group spiritual practices, spirituality retreats, and other formational events – help students pay attention to the movement of the Spirit as an integral part of their theological education and formation.
As students deepen their knowledge about the Bible, ethics, church history, and theology, they are also invited to deepen their spiritual lives and experiences by encountering God in familiar and new practices of faith. This academic year, we are aiming in our chapel services to be attentive to the celebrations and concerns specific to our academic community even as we respond to the joys and laments present in our broader contexts.
Weekly Chapel Services: This academic year, we will gather for community worship once each week, on Tuesdays at 11am. A student chapel team will design and implement these services. Most of the services will include third year students as proclaimers. Proclaimers will link biblical texts to the theme for the month in which they preach. The Team will provide proclaimers with suggested texts from the Revised Common Lectionary along with texts derived specifically from the monthly theme. Services will include communion and will last no longer than about 40 minutes. Each service will be held synchronously on Zoom, as well as recorded for those who are unable to attend the synchronous offering. Playbacks can be found here.
Weekly Prayer: A brief time of prayer and meditation (no more than 15-20 minutes) will be held each Thursday at 11am throughout the academic year. We will invite one person (minister or third year student) to lead the prayer. One aim is to give our community an opportunity to experience a range of prayer forms and styles.
Theological Reflection on Practices: At least three times throughout the semester, we will schedule an online reflection time for prayer leaders to share about the prayer practices they offered to the community. This will be held in a panel discussion format and moderated by a student worship team member.
Year D Lections
Year D is a supplement to the three-year Revised Common Lectionary. Researched and designed by Timothy Matthew Slemmons, a homiletics professor and teaching elder in the PCUSA, Year D is intended to broaden the selection of texts for preaching and worship to include passages not present in the Revised Common Lectionary.
We find ourselves in ways large and small in a kind of “year D” in our world. A global pandemic, continuing struggles for racial justice, political dissension and unrest, and so much more. As part of our chapel focus this academic year, we want to explore the spiritually and theologically formative power of our worship in these uncertain times. Year D lections support our efforts to traverse uncharted geographies and theologies.
We study. We teach. We learn together. We also worship together. Weekly chapel services at the School of Divinity give students, faculty, staff, and community friends an opportunity to encounter God as we pray and sing together. School of Divinity worship services also give worshippers unique opportunities to embody what they are learning in classrooms, even to infuse that learning with spiritual and theological insights peculiarly present when a community prays together.
Whether we hear the voices of nationally known preachers or experience the preaching gifts of local pastors, or celebrate the homiletical skills of third year students, or listen as faculty members craft that all important move from texts to sermons, the community has a chance in School of Divinity worship services to reflect together on God’s presence and grace in our community and for the world.
The work of the people in worship services is sacred work, but it is also educational work as it unfolds in a theological school. What do we learn as we pray together? Responses emerge in the form of questions stirred by our worship: What does it mean to pray together, coming as we do from such different theological places and spaces? How does what we learn in the classroom shape what we practice in worship? How do our weekly practices of prayer and praise move out through institutional doors and into the worlds where we live and work?
A diverse series of programs and opportunities is available to all members of the School of Divinity community to explore and enhance their faith and spirituality.
Prayer and Meditation Room
Located in Wingate 213, the prayer and meditation room is available for students, faculty, and staff during the semester 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
An important aspect of nurturing the spiritual life is taking time away from the routines of life, school, and work to ground ourselves in God and listen attentively to the Spirit. Going on retreat – seeking spiritual direction, taking Sabbath, or even building community with others – is a powerful way to nurture and grow our spiritual lives. There are a number of centers and spaces in North Carolina that offer retreats for individuals and groups to reconnect with the Divine and remember who we are created to be.
Worship Opportunities in Winston-Salem
Finding a faith community to join during your journey at the School of Divinity is important, not only for support, but for spiritual growth and community involvement. To help you find a church, we’ve put together a Worship Opportunities Resource Guide with local churches suggested by current students. Please note that this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of worship opportunities in Winston-Salem, but an accurate representation of the diversity of worshipping communities.