Episcopal Divinity School Launches New Contextual Education Program

Episcopal Divinity School

Beginning in the 2016-17 academic year, Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) will launch a new Contextual Education program, replacing the school’s Field Education program and giving students preparing for both lay and ordained ministries expanded opportunities to receive hands-on education and experience in churches, non-profits, and community organizations around the country.

“While Contextual Education will remain critically important in forming students for pastoral ministry, our new model will also provide students with the key competencies to be useful and faithful in our era, especially the ability to lead change,” said the Rev. Amy McCreath, EDS’s director of Contextual Education. “Wherever they go, whatever context they offer ministry in, our students will be helping groups achieve their purposes in the midst of uncertainty.”

The Contextual Education program also aims to expose students to the wisdom and resources of a broader range of faith-based, social service, and civic leaders in the Boston area, while creating greater equity in stipends for students serving at their sites. These new revisions were developed to be in line with EDS’s dedication to advance God’s mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation in the world.

“Contextual Education brings the core values of EDS alive in the students’ learning,” McCreath said. “Students will be taking their commitment to justice and putting it to work straightaway when they arrive at EDS.”

Key Elements of the Contextual Education Program

1. The program will now be called “Contextual Education” rather than “Field Education,” to emphasize the call all pastoral leaders have to read and respond to specific contexts.

2. All first-year masters degree students will spend eight hours/week during their first term immersed in a non-profit organization, doing non-worship-focused ministry. Students will be assigned to this site in consultation with the director of contextual education. They will also meet for a two-hour/month practicum on campus, facilitated by the director of contextual education and attended by the student’s faculty advisor. This practicum will focus on reading one’s context, theological reflection, and appreciative inquiry. This practicum replaces what was previously known as Curriculum Conference.

3. In an MDiv student’s second or third year, they will complete two 350-hour placements at an EDS-affiliated site or another BTI site (usually a congregation or chaplaincy). In each site placement, at least one of the student’s learning goals must be justice-related. A CPE placement may serve as the equivalent of one of the two required placements.

Each student will also attend a monthly practicum with other students doing a contextual education placement. In addition, students will attend a monthly panel discussion featuring local pastors, civic leaders, EDS alumni/ae, and faculty on particular issues in ministry. These panel events are co-created with EDS Lifelong Learning, open to the public, including site supervisors, and will be recorded and made available online.

4. Students will not be paid for their one-term eight-hour/week placement in the first year. In the second and third year, all EDS students will receive a stipend of at least $2,500 for their 350-hour Contextual Education placement.

5. EDS-affiliated site supervisors are understood to be an extension of the faculty of the school. As in the past, they will be expected to participate in monthly Supervisors’ Practicum meetings with the director of Contextual Education.

This article was reported and written by the Episcopal Divinity School Communications and Marketing staff. For questions or comments, please email comms@eds.edu.