The Divinity School’s International Ministry Study Grant program offers MDiv students the opportunity to study religious leadership in another cultural context.
Through this program, we hope to enlarge our students’ awareness of lived faith in its global variety and vitality, to challenge their theological and practical knowledge by exposing them to other theological methods and models of ministry, and to tune their ability to read any context—deeply, faithfully, and creatively. Past projects have included the study of reconciliation in Bosnia, and biblical interpretation in South Africa.
This grant, funded by the Baptist Theological Union, sends students abroad each summer to study.
During summer 2016, I spent my time in Cairo observing and learning from a Sufi spiritual order (the Naqshabandis) and tried to understand how ritual and community in this spiritual order are forms of pastoral care that can be used in the field of chaplaincy. I spent time mostly with women of this spiritual order and interviewed them, too. Sufism's emphasis on ritual outside of the 5 daily prayers gives one calm, order and peace in the heart. Despite the hardships going on in Egypt, these people didn't move away from God, but rather, came closer to God.
I also took classes in Arabic, Islamic law, and Sufism, and traveled throughout Egypt visiting al-Azhar Mosque, Alexandria and the Roman ruins, and the famous Old Cairo where the Amr al-As mosque, Hanging Church, and Ben Ezra synagogue are located.
The picture is me at the Muhammad Ali mosque with its beautiful, famous lights.
-Nora Zaki, current MDiv student
My project explored the possibility of a Confucian ministry by spending time at two locations during the summer of 2016: Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Jun Tian Fang UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage Site in Beijing, China. Specifically, the time spent at each of the sites allowed me to live into various spiritual practices, such as quiet sitting meditation, walking meditation, and playing the guqin, as scaffolds for fleshing out a Confucian identity in diaspora and discerning sustainable practices for a Confucian ministry in the American context. A highlight of my summer was learning to play the Chinese guqin, an instrument with a three thousand-year history, as a technology of personal cultivation and exploring how guqin practice is embedded in China’s humanist ideology.
-Angela Lei Parkinson, current MDiv student
Out of Nicaragua’s ecclesial base community movement of the 1970s and 80s came a flourishing of non-government agencies committed to human rights work. The CANTERA Communication and Popular Education Center and the Antonio Valdivieso Ecumenical Center both arose during the revolutionary era, and consider themselves part of the tradition of liberation theology and the popular pedagogy of Paulo Freire. For ten weeks, I worked with these two non-profits, accompanying their gender justice workshops. Building off their Freirean/liberationist roots, both centers use play as a means of affirming the intrinsic value of pleasure and for envisioning new ways of being in community. Games provided opportunities to imagine and create relationships based in mutual love and the affirmation of human dignity. Within the popular workshops, play became a means of living out liberation theology’s mandate to create the kingdom of God on earth.
- Kathryn Ray, MDiv/AM'15
My project was a ranging study of religion in the Gezi Park protests and Syrian crisis in Turkey. Findings centered on several appearances of religion in these settings: narratives and counter-narratives of religion in the Gezi Park protests; Anti-Capitalist Muslim messaging and organizing through public fast-breaking; a peace-centered, multi-faith guest house and education center in the Turkey-Syria border region; and Syriac monasteries as waypoints for Syrian Christian refugees.
- Ryan Fordice, MDiv'15
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) has 20 dioceses, each of which is paired to a US counterpart, an ELCA synod. These partnerships are intended to be mutual, where the US partners are companions, not just sources of technical expertise. The companion synod program is a fruitful place to accomplish sustainability projects. This in due (in part) to the infrastructure of the ELCT and the longevity and personal nature of their relationships with American synods. Americans in this program are working to seek out and value Tanzanian’s localized and experiential knowledge when addressing environmental problems. Tanzanians in turn, can seek out what experiential and traditional knowledge Americans may hold about their own home environments impacted by Climate Change. By this mutual sharing and valuing of all ways of knowing, each encourages for the other the comprehensive knowledge base essential for combating environmental problems.
- Erika Dornfeld, MDiv'14