Academic Programs

ESR blends academic rigor with spiritual formation, in pursuit of a holistic education designed to lead our students and alumni/ae to lives of creative ministry. We are grounded in Christian belief with strong Quaker influences, but serve the wider ecumenical community. We believe in the power of personalized attention within the classroom, but weave experiential and technology-aided learning into the educational experience. And while we prepare students for traditional roles in churches and meetings, we recognize and support the many evolving forms of ministry and leadership.

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ESR Catalog - 2020-21

Fall 2021 Educational Opportunities (course listing)

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Master of Divinity and Master of Ministry

The M.Div. and M.Min. are equivalent degrees, with identical requirements. This graduate program prepares all students to exercise broad competency in ministry by providing foundational and practical studies that are deep, rigorous, and adaptable to students’ interests and concerns. Degree requirements include a core curriculum of historical, biblical, theological, practical ministry, and spiritual formation studies. This three-year program is available to residential and ESR Access students. Residential and Access students select a ministry emphasis from one of seven focus areas, which provides them the opportunity to focus on areas of ministry that are most important and relevant to their spiritual and educational journeys.

Ministry internships support these academic concentrations and provide students latitude to explore ministry that most fully utilizes their gifts.

Master of Arts in Religion

An M.A. in Religion from ESR is an academic degree designed for students who want to hone their research skills, follow a career in parochial or Quaker education, or pursue doctoral studies. This two-year program is available to residential and ESR Access students.

Four concentration areas offer opportunities for specialized study: Biblical Studies, Christian Theology, Quaker Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies. Coursework focuses on academic study and research, leading to the development, writing and defense of a thesis. M.A. program students can elect to take coursework in spirituality and practical theology, but these classes are not required for completion of an M.A.

Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing

An M.A.: Theopoetics and Writing is designed to enhance students' ability to write and think at the intersection of creativity, faith, and meaning. Along with academic study, it trains students in various forms of written communication and other media that bring spirituality into public conversation with the whole of life. This program is offered jointly with Bethany Theological Seminary (students enter and complete the program either as an ESR or a BTS student).

Graduates from the M.A.: Theopoetics and Writing program will be prepared to:

1. Read, write, and engage in various types of linguistic creativity as formative, spiritual practices, both for communities and for individual lives, including their own.

2. Apply intellectual disciplines, skills, and creative processes that empower them to practice their writing publicly in ways appropriate to specific genres, audiences, and purposes.

3. Demonstrate theopoetic understanding of method, meaning and value, with attention to their function in the public sphere and connections to the cultural context.

4. Explore and articulate diverse, lived possibilities of theopoetics, such as literary craft, popular writing, justice advocacy, peacemaking, and community building.

Master of Arts in Peace & Social Transformation

This new specialized MA in Peace and Social Transformation provides theological education and practical experience to students who wish to pursue ministries of social change. The program shares several courses with our MDiv program, particularly the first three formational classes. Spiritual formation is core to this MA, with the goal of developing the personal and moral integrity that is essential for a public witness in a diverse world. Courses in theology, Biblical studies, and interfaith dialogue or contextual theology provide grounding in the religious heritage and critical tools for understanding and compassionately engaging a complex, often oppressive society. Students will have the opportunity to develop peace and justice skills and to specialize their ministry through the three practicums.

Certificates and Other Non-Degree Programs

Prospective students who want to study theology, spirituality and related topics, but aren’t ready to commit to earning a graduate degree, may elect to pursue a certificate from ESR. These students may be interested for vocational reasons, personal development, or to expand their opportunities for ministry. ESR non-degree programs balance academic rigor with spiritual formation, and provide opportunities to engage in studies while earning credit that can be applied to a future graduate degree.

Certificate programs in Quaker Studies, Spiritual Exploration, Spiritual Formation, Quaker Spirituality, Spirituality in a Multifaith World, Writing as Ministry, Entrepreneurial Ministry, and Bivocational Ministry combine foundational classes with specialized courses that deeply explore areas of concentration. Students can choose from residential, intensive, online or blended residential/online courses to fulfill certificate requirements. These flexible yet rigorous programs can support vocational or ministry goals, or serve as an interim step toward a degree program.

Accessible Education

We believe that a seminary education should be accessible to anyone who is called to serve in ministry. Both full-time and distance, or ESR Access, students can participate in our full range of course offerings and earn accredited M.Div./M.Min. or M.A. degrees.

ESR Access is designed for students who can’t relocate to attend courses. Access combines online courses with periodic two-week intensive classes that take place at ESR. Students can earn accredited M.Div./M.Min. or M.A. degrees, or participate as occasional students.

Students in certificate programs can select from residential, online, hybrid residential/online, and intensive courses, and earn graduate credit while completing a non-degree certificate.

Preparation for Seminary

Prospective students should have a well-rounded undergraduate education that includes training in critical reasoning, the thoughtful assessment of texts, standard library research techniques, and written communication. Entering students will find it helpful to have studied English language and literature, history, philosophy, natural sciences, social sciences, the fine arts and music, Biblical and modern languages and religion. Students should also have basic computer literacy skills, as these abilities are required for research and writing. Most important, however, is a student's demonstrated capacity for creative learning, self-discipline and the pursuit of excellence.

What Students Should Expect

As a graduate school, ESR expects a standard of excellence significantly higher than expected in most undergraduate studies. Students should expect to spend a minimum of three hours of work per week outside class for every semester hour of coursework taken in a given semester. This is consistent with the standards appropriate for seminary education.

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