Empowering liberal religious leadership in ordained ministry in Unitarian Universalistm and other faith contexts

The Master of Divinity degree program at Meadville Lombard provides the academic and experiential grounding you need to minister effectively in our multicultural, multiracial, and interfaith world.

A liberal religious minister is required to be many things: a public speaker with a strong heart and a sharp mind, a community leader, a compassionate presence, an effective navigator and administrator of institutional system and structures, and a wise teacher. Meadville Lombard’s rigorous academic courses and integrated internships are designed to help you cultivate all of these attributes and fully bring out your gifts in ministry.

Our MDiv degree program prepares students for ordained ministry in a variety of contexts, including fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), in roles ranging from parish ministry and chaplaincy to nonprofit leadership. Students seeking credentialing within the UUA are guided step-by-step to ordination. The program is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and satisfies the requirements of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the UUA.

My own sense of having a spiritual grounding and a sustaining theology came to be largely because of my experiences at Meadville Lombard.

Rev. Chris Jimmerson, MDiv '14

Degree Requirements

The MDiv degree requires 90 completed credits. The program can be completed in three years by full-time students, but is flexible to accommodate students who plan to study part time.

Below is an outline of the three-year, full-time MDiv pathway. Our Contextual Learning model of theological education allows you to learn and gain experience in your own community and/or congregation, and travel to Chicago only for Intensive classwork portion of the courses in the Fall from late September through mid-October and in the Spring from late February through mid-March.

You’ll complete and discuss coursework every semester with peers and faculty via Meadville Lombard’s low-residency education platform, and you’ll get hands-on experience through an internship at a nonprofit organization and a two-year internship at a congregation, which are integrated into the curriculum, as well as a basic unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. Our Senior Director of Contextual Ministry will work with you to find the best internship site and teaching pastor for your personal formation. 

Year 1: Cultural Grounding and Theological Formation (Fall) and Social Engagement (Spring)

  • Focus on theological literacy, intercultural learning, social analysis, and spiritual formation
  • Complete six academic courses during Intensives
  • Internship: Serve four hours a week in a community studies service site in the Spring term
  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE): Over the summer, complete a basic 10-week unit in a program certified by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education that focuses on pastoral encounters with persons in need or in crisisInternship: Serve eight hours a week in a community studies service site

Year 2: Vocational Studies

  • Focus on the formation of ministerial identity and on the work of ministry in diverse communal and congregational settings 
  • Complete six academic courses during Intensives
  • Meet weekly with your teaching pastor
  • Internship: Serve 20 hours a week in a congregation

Year 3: Leadership Studies

  • Focus on public theology, the nature of leadership, and inspiring change
  • Complete six academic courses during Intensives
  • Meet weekly with your teaching pastor
  • Internship: Serve 20 hours a week in a congregation


Signature Courses

Meadville Lombard’s Signature Courses are multi-credit, multidisciplinary, yearlong classes that help students move from discernment to leadership. They are designed to give you an opportunity to integrate your academic learning with the real-world experience of service and leadership in community and congregational settings.

Signature Courses are taken in the following sequence:  

Year 1, Fall: Cultural Grounding and Theological Formation

This course launches students into the lifelong formational work of integrating intercultural and theological learning. The course will introduce students to basic theological literacy and a program of intercultural learning in order to help them to examine the relationship between their cultural and religious identities.  

Year 1, Spring: Social Engagement

This course is designed to help students to develop the theoretical, analytic, and practical skills needed to undertake and sustain socially engaged religious work. The course will include readings and assignments in social analysis, social ethics, and theories of social change. Students will be expected to undertake fieldwork during the course, as appropriate to their degree program. MDiv students will be required to complete an average of four hours per week of volunteer work at an approved community site, while MALS students will be expected to reflect on their internship experience.

Year 2: Vocational Studies

This course is linked with an approved, 20-hour a week, congregational or community internship. The focus of this course is on the formation of ministerial identity in the Fall, and on the work of ministry in diverse communal and congregational settings in the Spring. The internship site serves as a place for structured engagement and reflection on a range of topics and moves students more deeply into praxis. Students explore the roles and responsibilities of ministry including the intersections of personal, cultural, and professional identities, emotional literacy, professional boundaries, the influence of shifting trends and demographics on religious leadership, the impact of context on leadership, and public speaking, among others.

Year 3: Leadership Studies

This course is linked with an approved 20-hour per week congregation or community internship.  The course builds on forms of awareness of congregational/organizational systems gained during the first year of the internship and provides space for making meaning of the skills and dispositions needed for a career of leading people and organizations. Through the use of case studies and engagement with visionary religious leaders, students will explore personal leadership capacities, challenges, and rewards of leadership styles, including exploration of the intersection of personal and professional act of leadership. In the tradition of appreciative inquiry, the student will also try on leadership skills and dispositions that serve organizational needs and self-identified areas for growth.  Topics covered include, but will not be limited to the following: leadership in times of crisis, effective communication, team management, financial sustainability, strategic planning for social change, leadership through times of organizational change, and the spirituality of leadership among others.