A new master’s degree in theopoetics and writing—the only master’s degree of its kind anywhere—is now available at Bethany Theological Seminary.Eric Spangler The advanced degree in theopoetics and writing was initiated this year because student interest was so high in its previous theopoetics and theological imagination certificate program, says Scott Holland, the co-director of the master’s degree program in theopoetics and writing.
“Many students said, ‘Why can’t we make this a full master’s degree?’” says Holland. So, he and Ben Brazil at the Earlham School of Religion—Bethany’s partner graduate school in Richmond, Indiana—jointly created the new program.
Theopoetics, he says, emphasizes the poetics of theology—the study of God and religion. “Theopoetics would suggest that theology is a kind of writing, a kind of creative and constructive writing that intersects with human experience, with a multitude of conversations, stories, possibilities for the way we name God, the way we name ourselves, the way we name others, the way we name our world,” says Holland.
To earn the master’s degree in theopoetics and writing students must earn two years worth of credits, he says. But those classes and credits can be earned in several convenient ways.
Classes can be taken the traditional way, in the Richmond, Indiana, classroom at Bethany Theological Seminary, but those same classes can be attended remotely from anywhere in the world via the Zoom video communication app. The semester-long course can also be taken during three weekend on-campus intensives or during two-week intensives in January, May and August. The classes can be taken online as well, Holland says.
“We have a very flexible, nimble educational model for delivery at our school,” he says. The master’s degree in theopoetics and writing is not only flexible in its method of attendance it’s also flexible in terms of what classes students can take to earn the advanced degree.
“The program is flexible enough to be student centered and we really want it to be that way so students are not locked into a program where there’s not the ability to choose a number of electives that would address their needs, perhaps their vocational interest and future plans,” Holland says.
Some of the students in the Master of Arts theopoetics and writing degree program are in or are anticipating a ministry-related vocation, including but not limited to pastoral ministry, he says.
Many of the students, from recent college-graduates to older or nontraditional students, are exploring a variety of vocations, including nonpastoral ministry. Some students are already in professional vocations, ranging from nonprofits and social action organizations to high school and university teaching, theater direction and business.
“I think there’s hospitable space for persons from many different theological, spiritual perspectives and journeys to enter in together and to study and have lively conversation,” he says.
Besides, both Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion have always emphasized that ministry isn’t just pastoral ministry, says Holland. “Any vocation that is pitched in the direction of serving humanity is a form of ministry,” he says.