We do not think ourselves into new ways of being. Rather, we act ourselves into new ways of thinking and being.

Dr. Sharon Welch, Affiliated faculty

Contextual Learning: Learning by Doing

In 2009, Meadville Lombard significantly changed the way we organized and delivered our curriculum. We moved from a residential format to a low-residency, integrated education model rooted in contextual learning—learning by doing. 

This approach is followed and informed by many different philosophical, religious, and cultural traditions the world over, including feminist theory, engaged Buddhism, and many Indigenous cultures, which teach that transformational learning is not grounded in thought, but in action.

It is also informed by research from the Alban Institute and Auburn Seminary, whose studies on the effectiveness of theological education have shown that ministers often feel well prepared in theology, scripture, and ethics, but not in hands-on aspects of congregational life such as creating worship and church administration, because these skills can’t be fully learned in a classroom.

So our curriculum integrates theory with practice, providing opportunities to study theology while leading worship, learn best practices in pastoral care while tending to souls, and deepen understandings of human diversity while actively engaging with others across lines of difference. Our students benefit from academically rigorous coursework, immersion learning, and the support of a student cohort, faculty, and teaching pastors and mentors.

Our Integrated Curriculum

All students pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree spend their first year taking foundational coursework, including the Fall Grounding course which offers theological grounding and supports students’ ability to read and appreciate communities of difference—key skills for religious and spiritual leaders.

Students in the MDiv program also complete a basic unit of Clinical Pastoral Education in their first year, and then serve at a congregation as an intern for two years for a total of 1,000 hours, learning the bedrock of congregational ministry from being immersed in it and doing hands-on work. In addition to the Signature Courses and Contextual Learning experiences, MDiv students also complete a total of eleven required and eight elective courses, for an additional six courses per year, and learn from and with fellow students in a student cohort.