Searching for Mystery, Metaphor, and Meaning with the
Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing

The application deadline for Spring 2021 entry is November 1, 2020. The application deadline for Fall 2021 entry is June 15, 2021.

Earlham School of Religion provides a unique educational experience with its new graduate degree in theopoetics and writing (MATW). The first of its kind at a seminary, this degree enables students to focus study in ways that celebrate mystery, metaphor, and meaning in texts and contexts for expansive reflection, critical engagement, and various forms of writing. The MATW joins theology, poetry, narrative, spirituality, and public conversations together in the pursuit of inquiry and understanding that result in creative production across multiple genres.

Drawing on the strengths of ESR's Ministry of Writing Program and Bethany’s theopoetics curriculum, the MATW degree was developed through a collaboration by both schools. The degree is offered independently by both ESR and Bethany and requires 36 credits (twelve 3-credit-hour courses). At ESR it may be done residentially or through our distance education program, Access. There is no residency requirement for Access students; however, recipients of the Quaker Professional Scholarship must take one residential intensive course.

The MATW degree is led by the following faculty:

  Ben Brazil
Assistant Professor and Director of the Ministry of Writing Program
Earlham School of Religion


Scott Holland
Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Peace Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies
Bethany Theological Seminary



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  Although ESR and Bethany represent two distinct traditions—Quaker and Church of the Brethren—they share a common Peace Church tradition. While they have been partner schools since 1994, the theopoetics and writing degree represents a new level of collaboration. If you are interested in learning more about Bethany, please visit their website here.

Program Objectives

The master of arts: theopoetics and writing program 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.

Graduates from the MATW program will be prepared to:

  • read, write, and engage in linguistic creativity as formative spiritual practices, both for communities and for individual lives, including their own;
  • apply intellectual disciplines, skills, and creative processes that empower them to practice their writing publicly in ways appropriate to specific genres, audiences, and purposes;
  • demonstrate theopoetic understanding of method, meaning and value, with attention to their function in the public sphere and connections to the cultural context;
  • explore and articulate diverse, lived possibilities of theopoetics, such as literary craft, popular writing, justice advocacy, peacemaking, and community building.

Course Requirements

Students must complete 36 semester hours of course work directly connected to the study of theopoetics and writing. The 36 hours will include prerequisites for required courses.

Summative Exercise (one course, 3 hours)

  • MA summative exercise (thesis/portfolio/project in final semester)

Core Theopoetics and Writing Courses (six courses, 18 hours)

  • Theopoetics 1
  • Theopoetics 2
  • Two 200-level writing courses from list below
  • Two other courses from list below

Elective Courses (five courses, 15 hours)

These may come from the list below or may be any course offered by either ESR or Bethany.

  • Writing the Story
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Writing Public Theology
  • Writing for God and God’s People
  • Writing Mental Illness/Writing as Mindfulness
  • Writing Seminar
  • Applied Storytelling
  • Peace of the City and Quest for Public Theology
  • Narrative Theology
  • Science Fiction and Theology
  • Modernity, Postmodernity, and Belief
  • The Theological Imagination
  • Theology and Preaching
  • Preaching, Theopoetics, and Society
  • Preaching, Poetry, and Prophetic Imagination
  • Writing Midrash
  • Spirituality courses, ESR
  • Readings course, Bethany
  • Poetry
  • Digital Genres
  • Hebrew Bible Theopoetics
  • Poetics of Jesus
  • Survey of Christian Poetry