In a year of firsts colored by the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell Divinity delivered theological education through a new lens: a degree program for professionals seeking to merge their lives of faith with their chosen careers.
The Master of Arts in Faith and Leadership Formation is an 18-month, 36 credit hour hybrid program with coursework that includes afternoon and evening classroom intensives, residential weekend intensives, and online instruction. In addition to the academic rigor of the MA in Faith and Leadership Formation, the program is also a learning community that fosters relationships rooted in the call to integrate spiritual lives with professional pursuits.
“When we were dreaming about this degree, we imagined what theological education for everyone could look like. We were convinced that countless people want to be equipped for lives of faithful service, whatever their occupation,” said Dr. Cameron Jorgenson, Associate Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics and Program Director of the MA in Faith and Leadership Formation.
Vocational formation for the rest of the church
“While Divinity School education was originally designed to train clergy, our goal for the MA in Faith and Leadership Formation was to reimagine theological education for the rest of the church. The first cohort demonstrated that we had rightly identified a need—and the degree was doing exactly what we hoped it would accomplish,” Dr. Jorgenson added.
A team of faculty and staff crafted the program for students like charter cohort graduate Abigail Pore, a current student in UNC’s Library Sciences graduate program.
“I was trying to find a place where I could merge development in my faith, a desire for spiritual disciplines, and discipleship to be real in my life, with my desire to work in libraries rather than in a specific ministry,” she said. “I’m hoping to be a librarian, and the program taught me to balance what librarianship looks like as a vocation, and not seeking perfection in my career but instead seeking my true self as a vocational journey.”
While Pore is a recent Campbell alum, having earned her bachelor’s degree in 2020, the MA in Faith and Leadership Formation degree also engages longtime professionals like 1976 graduate Jimmy Allen, a music minister and professional photographer.
Allen values both the scholastic and community focuses of the program.
“A highlight for me was the closeness that our cohort developed. Those personal relationships will be for life. I am also very appreciative of the quality of the classes we had. They were intensive, but filled with content we can carry throughout life,” he said.
Pandemic pedagogy pivots
The charter cohort had just completed its first weekend residential intensive and celebrated its Divinity School commissioning in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced students, professors, and staff to pivot – quickly.
“Originally, we planned to offer three of our first four classes as retreat-based hybrids, combining the intense community building opportunities of a retreat with discussions of great texts and interaction using the best online tools at our disposal. As it turned out, we had one amazing retreat that surpassed our highest hopes—and then COVID-19 pounced. All Divinity School courses had to be reimagined using Zoom as our primary way of staying connected,” explained Dr. Jorgenson.
Professors could deliver content virtually – but could the cohort maintain its sense of community through screens?
“It was stunning to see that the bonds that were forged on that first retreat were maintained—and strengthened—by the time the cohort walked the stage to receive their diplomas,” shared Dr. Jorgenson.
As the charter cohort continues to grow into their individual vocations in the community, the second cohort of the MA in Faith and Leadership Formation is already blazing new trails.
“We admitted 13 students into the second cohort—that means we saw more than 50% growth over the charter class! Because the second cohort is quite diverse in terms of age, gender, race, and professional background, this group is confirming our conviction that this program meets a crucial need that transcends demographics,” celebrated Dr. Jorgenson.
He added, “To see how leaders are already being formed and lives are being changed by way of this degree—it seems like confirmation that God is powerfully at work.”