The inaugural cohort of Newbigin Year students gathered in San Francisco for their first intensive on August 2-5. While students can participate in this flexible online program from anywhere in the country, they gather twice for face-to-face learning over the course of the year. Nine students from six states are part of this innovative new program that seeks to make contextualized seminary education more accessible.

For their introductory course, “The Peace of the City,” students engaged the city as a text worth their time, attention, and care. As they participated in historical, sociological, and theological reflections on the urban context, some of the highlights included:

  • An introduction to the theology and legacy of Lesslie Newbigin by Dr. Scot Sherman, executive director of Newbigin House.
  • A history of San Francisco with author and longtime San Francisco pastor Mark Scandrette atop Bernal Hill with the city in its breathtaking beauty right under our noses.
  • An invitation to vocational discernment and reflection alongside lectio divina with Rev. Lydia Suh.
  • A lecture on racial disparities in medical research with Dr. Sam Oh, an epidemiologist at UCSF who has been part of groundbreaking research funded by the National Institutes of Health and featured on NPR, the Huffington Post, Newsweek, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • A presentation on contextualization and the city by Dr. Liz Lin, a senior fellow at Newbigin House and co-founder of the 4000+ strong Progressive Asian American Christians network.

While the learning was challenging and exhilarating, for many students their favorite aspect of the intensive was the opportunity to build relationships of trust and mutual support as they embark together on a year of discerning God’s call on their lives. Listen to some of the students in their own words:

  • There is something very encouraging and comforting about being among like-minded people, but at the same time I was reminded that it’s helpful and important to welcome perspectives and voices different from my own.
  • …it was a great week to reorient my awareness around how I lead, and how I share leadership, and whether I’m sharing enough of it.
  • A major draw of this program for me was being able to process with like-minded folks who love their cities, love God, and are wrestling with big vocational/calling questions.  I appreciated everyone’s open, honest vulnerability in sharing your amazingly diverse stories, hurts, and hopes for the communities you want to serve.
  • None of the topics, or walks, or meals would have been the same without a fellow traveler and for me, the highlight was to have so many and of such quality.
  • Our excursions into the city on Thursday and Friday reminded me of how many different ways there are to see a city … Perhaps it’s a bit of an obvious lesson, but I think it’s a worthwhile reminder for how much we need humility in how we look at the city, both as we live there and in terms of doing ministry there.
  • Without a doubt, the highlight of the intensive was engaging in relationship with others who are thinking critically about the church. I found many conversations to be challenging, enlightening and refreshing.
  • I found the process of cultural exegesis that was modeled during the intensive to be extremely helpful in thinking about context. I often heard people say that context was important, but now I know what it looks like to be curious and investigative about the place I live.

The next SF Intensive will be in January 2018. A new cohort will be starting in the January term as well; if you are interested, please visit this page to find out more!

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