Students Practice The Way of Wisdom

In response to the evolving needs of the Church, The General Theological Seminary is building a program of education and formation that integrates the classical theological disciplines with real-world experience and practical ministry skills. As part of The Way of Wisdom, seminarians spend their final year in a Wisdom Year residency while connecting their experience to their class work through particpation in the Integrative Seminars.

During The Wisdom Year, students synthesize their entire seminary education through practical experience that goes beyond field placement, by placing them in real-world, paid, part-time positions in a ministry setting. The students are given support, mentoring, and tools to connect this experience to their academic pursuits on campus.

Following are a few of our currents students and the experiences they are having out in the world of parish ministry.

Christopher McNabb
Anglican Studies, Class of 2017

McNabb leads adult education at St. Paul’s Chatham, discussing how we can pray for our world, amidst great suffering.

After receiving his M.Div. from Princeton Seminary, Christopher McNabb, a postulant from the Diocese of New Jersey, is completing his education and formation at General with a year of Anglican Studies. He is fulfilling his Wisdom Year Residency at St. Paul’s Church, Chatham, New Jersey. McNabb’s life and call are rooted in his commitment to embrace the love, compassion, and forgiveness Jesus modeled for us. He sees his residency at St. Paul’s as an opportunity to practice and celebrate with a vibrant community “awake to the suffering of the world.” They are active members of Newark Shared Ministry, which just launched a high school equivalency tutoring program. They also visit immigration detention centers and partner with the Diocese of Newark’s prison ministry program.

Above and beyond the financial benefits, McNabb is grateful for the Wisdom Year, because he’s growing in his love for parish ministry. He credits St. Paul’s with a beautiful liturgy, a quality music program, outstanding pastoral care, and fun fellowship, all while taking the Presiding Bishop’s pledge seriously: “to transform the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream God intends for us all.’’ “St. Paul’s is awake and dreaming,” says McNabb. “It’s a great blessing to serve this parish under the leadership of the Rev. Mary Davis: she has shown me how to create a strong and healthy spiritual community—which so many people hunger for.”

Shirley has his first opportunity to preach in Spanish.

John Shirley
M.Div., Class of 2017

John Shirley, from the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, feels called in one the many aspects of his vocation to practice ministry with the Hispanic and Latino community. This calling began to build with a summer internship in the Diocese of Puerto Rico, where he was able to explore Puerto Rican culture and become more conversant in the Spanish language. With his Wisdom Year Pastoral Residency at St. Mark’s Church, Jackson Heights, he has found new direction and supportive experience for his call. St. Mark’s proclaims the gospel with bi-lingual, eucharistic worship in the Anglican Episcopal tradition.

Shirley also has the opportunity to minister to the needs of a diverse congregation of English and Spanish speakers with participation in pastoral visits, vestry meetings, assisting at weekday services, committee meetings, and diocesan events.

With outreach through Christian education and social support, St. Mark’s strives to enhance spiritual growth and development while promoting a unified and inclusive multi-cultural and bilingual community. For Shirley “the opportunity to experience and learn how to be church in a diverse cultural environment—one which is celebratory and accepting—has been profound and transformative to my understanding and practice of ministry.”

Deborah Lee and Alexander Barton
M.Div., Class of 2017

Lee and Barton (right) take a leadership role as liaisons between parish ministry and the sports and recreation program.

Deborah Lee from the Diocese of New York and Alexander Barton from the Diocese of Ohio are doing their Wisdom Year Pastoral Residencies at the Church of the Intercession in New York City. The Church of the Intercession is a welcoming and multi-cultural parish engaged in numerous opportunities for community outreach in an urban setting. Lee and Barton practice all aspects of congregational life—pastoral, liturgical, programmatic, and administrative—in the context of paid ministerial positions, that also include the opportunity to preach.

This Wisdom Year placement has enabled them to experience a critical challenge for underfunded urban parishes: nurturing the gifts of the spirit within the youth and community at large. Alex is grateful for this opportunity to further support his call to “be part of a process of re-envisioning worship and programs in urban parishes and see what church looks like in non-traditional forms of worship.”

Lee is thankful she has been able to use her Wisdom Year “as a discernment tool for future ministry. The experience is continuously breaking open what I thought ministry should or shouldn’t be. It has given me the advantage of viewing ministry not only in terms of something that I do, but also as an expression of who I am as Christ’s disciple serving the people in the Church, as well as beyond the walls of the Church.”