Dear MTS Community,
In life there is death, and from death God brings resurrection. We live out these central realities in our Christian faith in ways both personal and communal. Lately, following the death of my mother, I have been dwelling upon a prayer in my faith tradition from the Mass for the Dead:
In him who rose from the dead,
our hope of resurrection dawned.
The sadness of death gives way
to the bright promise of immortality.
Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended.
When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death
we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.
Each of us in the seminary community and in our churches and the broader society are living through a time in which death has come with more frequency. The pandemic reminds us of the power of death and of our human limitations. Members of the seminary community have lost relatives, friends, and spouses. There have also been alumni of the seminary who have died due to COVID19.
In this time, we have also encountered not only physical death, but the “death” of so many other ways in which we had lived. The campus is largely silent, with no classes, no worship in chapel, no hallway meetings and conversations, no studying in the library, no gatherings for community meals, or faculty or committee meetings. Churches have been empty or at best partially filled with social distanced worshippers. Visits with family and friends have been truncated. Isolation is more normal than gathering.
But in the face of death, our faith in the resurrection calls out to us and asks, “How will we rise from this death?” How will we live into the resurrection reality that, “life is changed, not ended.”
In the change we will continue to miss and to grieve those whom we have lost. But in our faith, we will continue to live into new life. We will remember with gratitude those whom we have lost to death. We will affirm by how we live with love and compassion that death does not have the final word. And we will find ways to live faithful to God, to our memories, and to love.
At the seminary, there are some signs of our living into a changed world. In the summer and the fall, we will have some classes in-person, but all will be hybrid, and we will continue with some classes completely online. We are planning for a reopened campus, but we are also hoping to continue to develop our digital resources in the library. We are seeking ways to improve formation for ministry and supervised ministry by more closely integrating those two dimensions of our curriculum, while also placing supervised ministry in sites where students are already doing ministry. We are continuing to explore partnerships with churches and other institutions of higher learning as they, too, are seeking new life. We will begin to make use of our newly renovated chapel to have weekly worship, both in person and online.
At Memphis Theological Seminary, in these and other ways, we are committed to living into our faith in the resurrection. We are not going back to a previous normal. We are finding ways to go forward with a renewed practice of seminary life and theological education that will serve a revitalized church, and a society in need of the good news of the Gospel. Life is truly changed; not ended.
Dr. Peter R. Gathje
Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean