Contemporary ecclesial ministry is the continuation of Jesus’ ministry in the world. As confirmed in the Church’s history, new ministries and new ministers are called to serve the evolving needs of faith communities. Ecclesial ministry is “the Church in the heart of the world and bring[s] the world into the heart of the Church” (quoted from Co-Workers in the Vineyard) as ministers serve the needs of the world today. Ministers working in and for the Church require support, education, and encouragement in this special role in the Church.
Our lay ministry programs responds to the growing need to serve the Church by educating the people of God and training leaders through rigorous theological and ministerial education. We offer an education in the Augustinian Tradition that advances Lay Ministerial Education in the U.S.A. and serves the Church.
As Augustine put it, theological knowing is “understanding what we believe,” that is, as a critical, systematic reflection on the life of faith. However, in our Augustinian tradition, knowing is both speculative and practical and distinctive in its emphasis on the union of mind and heart (or knowledge and love, theory and practice). Because, as Blaise Pascal says, “the heart has its reasons that reason does not know,” learners in our lay ministry programs engage their minds and deepen their lives by integrating the speculative (mind) and practical (heart) in their studies. Learning in the Augustinian tradition “strives to arrive at action through reflection on experience taking into account accumulated wisdom” (McCloskey, Cracked Pots). In light of Augustine’s emphasis on the will, “authentic Augustinian pedagogy demands that disposition and learning are put into action through practice. This practice reflects Augustine’s own arrival at effective learning” (McCloskey, Cracked Pots).
Practicing the Augustinian ideal of unity (unitas), truth (veritas), and compassion (caritas), the proposed program nurtures a way of learning and knowing (mind) that is infused with care and love (heart) or, to use an Augustinian metaphor, knowing with the heart and the mind. This particular way of knowing is holistic and humanistic; unites and transforms heart and mind, love and knowledge, practice and theory; authenticates inner- and inter-personal experiences; fosters moral reasoning; invites cultivating one’s self; and develops the desire to search out the unknown.
In other words, students in lay ministry programs pursue the Augustinian way of knowing, which is (1) a journey seeking truth (veritas); (2) a dialogue with learners different from ourselves (unitas); and (3) a transformational wholeheartedness (caritas) that serves (ministers to) others.
Meeting the needs of Lay Ministerial Education in the U.S.A.
Preparing students to become competent, knowledgeable leaders in ministry, the proposed program is highly competitive in the market of north-American ministerial education. Yet, the program is distinctive in that it formulates and advances ministry within the Augustinian tradition, and does so in unique ways of structuring ministerial education. Flowing from the Augustinian vision of reasoning and learning, the program is
- inclusive of all dimensions of faith, worship, and human experience, that is, of theory and praxis, or learning and service; and
- interdisciplinary and integrative.
With the integration of theological and ministerial ways of knowing as objectives, the program introduces a new and distinctive way of "doing theology" on campus, which is, in essence, an ancient Augustinian concept. In particular, the program studies the relations between theological knowing and ministerial expressions of that knowledge from three perspectives by promoting competency in theology, lay ministry, and counseling.
Meeting the needs of the Church
The program meets ecclesial needs in innovative ways. It
- reflects on Christian faith and practice and develops new possibilities for Christian experience;
- emphasizes the ministerial contextualization of “faith seeking understanding;”
- places ministry in dialogue with theology and theology in dialogue with ministry;
- enriches Christian service and enhances discipleship; and
- it encourages students to pursue a career in ministry by preparing them to become knowledgeable leaders in the Church who competently make use of their theological education in professional ministry as they serve the evolving needs of faith communities.