Jeffrey Carter

Portrait by Ellen Marello

At the center of the educational enterprise is relationships: relationships of faculty to their scholarship, students to faculty, students with one another, and the community they will serve in the wider Church and world. Our theology is grounded in this, with a focus on the gathered community. For most of our history as an institution, that was lived out in the physical presence of one another.

Today, 90 percent of our growing student body is distance students. As we’ve expanded our use of technology, we’ve doubled down on how we build relationships and on the avenues of formation. Face-to-face interactions between faculty and students have moved to Zoom. I host a weekly coffee time with the entire seminary community, including our campus in Nigeria. All this is made easier and more efficient by the transformation of our spaces into technology hubs. That means in every room there are multiple cameras, screens, and microphones. The technology is present, discrete, and intuitive, so it doesn’t feel like a video set. It feels like a community space where people are welcomed from afar as full participants, not spectators.

The process to get here has been emergent, one piece at a time, with one decision leading to another and then another. We have a culture of success because we embrace failure. It’s been okay to fail. We start small, we try, we evaluate, we reflect on our failures, we find our successes, and we build on them. It’s not an “either/or” between technology and community. You can embrace technology while integrating the underlying values of community and formation into this “new normal” life of the entire seminary, including its faculty, administration, staff, students, and trustees.


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