I HATE your ignorance, I hate the way you waste time, but I love you guys for what you may become! I love you!" The forty-six-year-old professor of theology paused, brown eyes flashing, forefinger jabbing the air. "I love you!"
None of us taking notes that March day during the first class of the spring quarter, 1971, had any illusions that this class in Christology would be a push-over. We would have to produce read, assimilate, reproduce facts and ideas and more: "Gentlemen, if you give me back, in perfect form, exactly what I have given you, you will receive a B for the course; but if you want an A you must give me more than I have given you. You must study beyond the boundaries and enrich your answers!"
Enrichment---this is what we're here for, I thought. This is why I first came to the Seminary twenty years ago, fresh out of college, and why I've returned now after nine teen years of denominational service at home and abroad.
Just how "rich" is our Seminary program today compared to that of twenty years back? What is happening on the Berrien Springs campus? Can one be a part of Semi nary '71 and keep his balance "stay on the level"?
Founded in 1934, the Seminary in 1951 graduated forty-two students with twelve month Master's degrees. The majority were experienced workers back for a refresher after service in North America or foreign lands. Only two Bachelor of Divinity degrees were awarded in 1951. The Seminary was young, moving gradually into its changing role from a place of renewal for mature workers to a final "rounding off" program for college graduates. Located in Takoma Park next to the General Conference, research facilities were excellent with the Library of Congress nearby, and certainly young seminarians benefited from rubbing shoulders with Adventist leader ship at world headquarters.
Twenty Years After
Today, twenty years later, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary shares the Andrews University campus in rural Berrien Springs, Michigan, part of a two thousand- member undergraduate and graduate school with Adventism's top liberal arts university facilities and equipment available.
The James White Memorial library provides 227,344 volumes. Seminary holdings alone have increased from 27,000 in 1951 to 73,000 at present. A complete 60,000-page collection of the Ellen G. White writings is available for research in the Seminary vault. Within driving distance of Berrien Springs are the excellent libraries of the universities of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Chicago.
From two B.D. and forty-two M.A. graduates in 1951, Seminary '71 will graduate approximately eighty with the Master of Divinity degree (formerly termed the B.D.). The Master of Divinity degree calls for nine quarters of work beyond the Bachelor of Arts and five quarters of additional training beyond the four-quarter Master's degree of 1951. Now most graduating ministers are directly from college, or workers with one or two years' experience studying on leaves of absence from their conferences.
What of class requirements? Have they relaxed through the years? In my view, requirements have definitely tightened for higher grades, with more collateral reading required and higher, but not impossible, standards set. True, graduation calls for only a C average, but few are satisfied with this, and most students aim for higher marks.
When I began lining up courses that would carry me through each quarter of my current stay at Seminary '71, it became apparent there were enriched advantages in sharing a campus with a university. Beyond the core requirements of the Master of Divinity program are electives that may be chosen from a variety of upper-bracket graduate school courses, as well as subjects tailored to the young minister's needs and interests.
Tailored to Your Needs
Planning a health-oriented ministry? Take the course "Ministry and the Healing Arts," taught by dedicated staff doctors. Apprehensive of the ministry's demands for writing talent? "Writing for Publication" will smooth the way to the editor's desk. Perplexed by evolution's trends? "Science and Religion" taught by the Geo-Science Institute located on campus shows creationism to be scientifically sound and a reason able explanation of origins.
Required courses range through seven departments. In the Old Testament we watch God's unfolding revelation to the patriarchs, follow Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel in their prophetic writings, learn of Biblical scholarship's stand against erroneous criticism. In the New Testament through the original language of the manuscripts we listen to Christ speaking in the Gospels and Paul through his Epistles; in Church History truth is traced through the ages and we hear Luther's hammer blows on the door of the Wittenberg church echo in Joseph Bates's cheery response, "The seventh day is the Sabbath!"
In the department of Church and Ministry we preach, and learn to preach, and preach again. Here is a significant development since 1951. This year 146 students are assigned to 67 churches throughout Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, preaching, assisting in youth work, learning by doing. At the Seminary an hour a week is spent reporting and discussing weekend activities of the churches. This outreach extends into the summer quarter when 105 students participate in ten Seminary-sponsored Field Schools this past summer in California, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Montreal, New York, and Dublin, Ireland. There in the field, evangelism is done, not merely recommended. Inner-city work brings involvement; soul-winning fervor is both taught and caught!
This program of every-student involvement in actual church work, plus a summer of in-the-field training with an experienced evangelist, results in more value gained from "theoretical" classwork. When we re turn to our books, having learned from firsthand experience what we need, we recognize it and get it.
One area that hasn't changed much in twenty years is student-teacher relation ships. No one sitting under Dr. Frank Yost in the fifties will forget his friendly inter est, nor Dr. R. E. Loasby's oft-repeated ad monition to "stir up your pure minds" his favorite expression urging us on to greater intellectual attainment! The name of Dr. Charles Weniger always recalls a unique combination of gentlemanly courtesy combined with scholastic perfection.
We of Seminary '71 respect our teachers too, but this is not to say that they have all "attained" in our opinion. Sometimes we still feel that certain assignments are not exactly realistic and some examinations emphasize less than vital details. But we live too close to these men to doubt their interest and sincerity. When a teacher invites a class to its knees for twenty minutes at the beginning of a study of the atonement; when another prays at the opening of each class, for interests, by name, in the community; and when a third conducts each lecture in an "envelope" of prayer, asking God's blessing both at the beginning and the close of class we know the channel is open for the Holy Spirit to work.
The Student Forum
Seminary '71 sees students assuming increasingly important roles in Seminary life. Coordinating activities and promoting all-around development, the Student Forum helps bridge the gap between school and field. Arranging and conducting one Seminary chapel each week, the Forum brings in dedicated ministers from the field to share successful means and methods, and now and then opens the floor for our own ideas "What Works for Me." Recently in one period we listened to a fellow student fresh from New Guinea describe his method of organizing his church into dynamic prayer-work groups. A Canadian student promoted Bible listening via cassette tape when driving to appointments. Flip-chart technique in Sabbath school and Bible study was demonstrated by an IBM executive turned seminarian.
In other areas students sponsored a book exchange and shared in planning and furnishing a "common room" for informal staff and student relaxation. Recreation is encouraged--skiing in winter, softball in summer; basketball, volleyball, and swimming each Thursday night. Highlighting the year was the Forum-directed October retreat at Camp Au Sable, a sparkling week end of canoeing, appetizing food, and spiritual fellowship in the golden autumn forests of northern Michigan. Linking up with undergraduate ministerial students, seminarians recently preached at six of the college Student Week of Prayer services. Frequently they team up for community visitation programs too.
Preparation to meet friends of other faiths received a boost in the spring of 1971 when Skip MacCarty, Seminary student with two years' field experience, offered to share his insights on methods of working for friends of the Jehovah's Witness faith. Expecting perhaps a dozen or so students to be interested, the appointment was set for seven-thirty on a Friday night at a staff home one with a parlor large enough to accommodate twenty-five people. Nearly one hundred showed up and somehow managed to squeeze in!
Realizing the potential of such fellow ship-learning appointments, the Student Forum arranged other topics for succeeding Friday nights. "Biblical Perfectionism" and "Working for Roman Catholics" have followed the original Jehovah's Witness studies as one hundred students and wives learned, prayed, and fellowshiped together.
The wife of Seminary '71 is not forgotten. Graduate Guild, the wives' organization, sponsored in 1970-1971 a four-meeting study of the Holy Spirit, and health and nutrition classes leading to a demonstrator's certificate. Women attended sewing lessons, personality development sessions, classes on entertaining, flower arranging, and cake decorating. One well-attended session even gave tips on how a minister's wife can offer constructive, tactful criticism to help her husband in his work!
More is happening in the program. For instance, ministry-oriented, staff-conducted chapels. Weeks of Prayer that continue for months afterward in half-hour Wednesday sharing sessions. Participation in nearby evangelistic efforts. A week of physical fitness emphasis with Dr. C. S. Thomas and a Loma Linda health team which sparked an immediate surge of early-morning walking and jogging. Outstanding are Spirit-filled moments during a Friday night communion service when students and teachers testified, knelt, and prayed for one another, rejoicing in the fellowship of united hearts.
What is Seminary '71? A preparation for ministerial service, of course, but much more. Enrichment? Yes, through search and discovery, friendship and fellowship, dynamic and devotion.
Can a student attend Seminary '71 and "stay on the level"? Possibly not. Most of us find the "level" a bit flat. It's hard to stay on the level when the trend is upward.