For 2013, the Parish of the Good Shepherd in Mount Pearl, Nfld. is offering a six-year Bachelor of Arts degree program in theology that will allow people to study part-time while remaining in their home communities.
The Bachelor of Arts in Theology for Discipleship and Ministry is a distance education program offered in conjunction with Glyndwr University and the Anglican St. Mary’s Centre in Wales where it has been on offer for the past 20 years.
Importantly, it addresses one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s biggest education challenges: geography. “We have huge distances and it is very difficult for people to get to regional colleges,” says Archdeacon Geoff Peddle, who is coordinating the program in the diocese. “We still have lots of communities with no road connections.”
Ironically, the program is designed to be delivered in the local setting, but it must be completed in community. “You can’t do it by yourself,” says Peddle. Students work in local education groups of about 8 to 16 people with a facilitator.
The program serves people with different goals, from personal or professional development to those who intend to pursue ordination. Students who want to upgrade their knowledge and skills will be able to study for two years and receive a certificate; this may be ideal for lay leaders and eucharist assistants, says Peddle. He adds that successfully completing four years of study could open the door to becoming a deacon. “We’re going to take it right to ordination for some,” says Peddle, who noted that candidates complete the full six-year degree might also be asked to do a semester internship in a parish and another in a clinical setting such as a hospital.
So far, 50 people have signed up. “The level of excitement here is just incredible,” says Peddle, who also has a full-time ministry at Parish of the Good Shepherd. The course is slated to begin in January and Peddle is in discussions about a partnership with the local theological school, Queen’s College.
Peddle predicts that this is type of theological education will be a major trend in future, particularly for students older than 30. “I think you’re going to have the majority of people studying in quality programs in the local settings,” he told the Journal.