The Alexandrians, maybe next to St. Justus, set up what may be the first catechetical schools for Christians. These weren’t seminaries, so to speak, but they did engage believers — and non-believers – in helping to foster an understanding of the Christian faith. Today, after 1500 years of not having seminaries to educate clergy, we have massive black holes of debt that are turning out more than their fair share of lackluster and undisciplined thinkers. And they are generally dying. Not all, to be sure, but many (mainline) ones are. I argue that’s a good thing.
The creation of that first seminary triggered a seismic shift in thinking about where theological education happens. For the first time in history, it became possible to imagine clerical training and lay education as occurring outside of local churches and monasteries. Now, almost 500 years later, it is hard to imagine things any other way.
The shift away from the cathedral model has come with some unintended and unfortunate consequences. The invention of seminaries led the church to outsource what it had long taken to be an in-house responsibility: in-depth teaching on the Bible, theology, and the Christian traditions.
I have written before about Cuba’s model, and it is one I hope to see in the local church – or diocese at least. As our very Western ideas of education – and faith – are changing, I wonder if it is not time to use the local church as a type of school, to both teach believers and non-believers alike? What if seminaries were held in the local church as a way to teach clergy and non-clergy alike so that even the “ploughboy” could read Scripture alongside the Church?
What are you thoughts?