The Integrative Project serves as a capstone for students in our theological programs as they look back on their training while discerning what it will look like for them to serve God and neighbor in their post-graduate contexts.
The Integrative Project is a capstone research project for students in our theology programs (Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theology & Culture) and is completed in their final year of the program. Students work with a faculty advisor to form a project that integrates the student’s passions and calling with the student’s unique embodiment of text, soul, and culture. Students draw from the fullness of their experience at The Seattle School and a robust research methodology to create a major project or paper.
The presentations below synthesize the project thesis along with the student’s experience and research in creating their final project. Final drafts of each Integrative Project are available in The Seattle School’s library.
When you watch these presentations, said Dr. Dwight Friesen, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, you are “bearing witness to the student’s best work to date—to what God is doing in them and through them.”
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“Creating Space for the Sacred in the Public Sphere,” Lang Charters, MDiv
Peter Rollins tells a story about a competition to build the largest sheep enclosure entered by a mathematician, an engineer, and an old Irish farmer. They have limited tools, materials, and time to complete it. The mathematician employed her geometric skills to fashion a structure that could hold 100 sheep. Likewise, the engineer deciphered he could split the materials in half, so made one to fit 400. Impressed by them, the contest judges came to the farmer and watched him step into a one-foot square box he had made, with unused planks and nails lying all around. Dumbfounded, they asked if that was his pen, to which he responded: “Of course not! You’re standing in it!”
This highlights a core, and often forgotten truth about church gatherings. Jesus invites churches to gather with people in more diverse and frequent manners than normal Sunday church services. Today, many people are interested in God, spiritual matters, or Jesus, but not the usual Sunday worship services.
With that in mind, the key topics this paper will explore are why and how churches can go beyond this. Specifically, it will help Christians, ideally along with non-Christians, create spaces outside churches for people who do not participate in church gatherings where communally acknowledging the sacred is possible. The goal of these regular events is the formation of intimate relationships/communities, through which people can journey through life together, mutually transform one another, and experience ever-greater wholeness and goodness.
A major part of Jesus’ ministry on earth was table fellowship. Further, the Christ left Christians with a meal, the Eucharist, as a prime way to remember and celebrate their LORD’s life, death, resurrection, and future return. With this mentality in mind, this paper will use table fellowship, or Eucharistic meals as a center point for discussing why and how Christians and non-Christians can gather in the public realm to experience the sacred together.
“Triune Life: The Relational Ecosystem of Creator and Creation,” Jonathan Plummer, MATC: Interdisciplinary Studies
In his book, Trinity and Society, Leonardo Boff writes that the “community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit becomes the prototype of the human community dreamed of by those who wish to improve society and build it in such a way as to make it into the image and likeness of the Trinity.” This line from Boff explains exactly what my project/paper will aim to integrate, connect, and create by looking at text about the doctrine of Trinity, the soul of the psychological person, and the ecological and economical culture that we find ourselves in. The goal is to take the Triune life prototyped in the divine Trinity and place it within the life of the human psychological self and within communities present in the rest of creation.
The first part is intended to take a closer look at the life of the divine Trinity, how do the persons of the one God interact, live, give, and receive. Then, how does this triune life inform the life of the creation that is breathed into for life?
The second part is meant to look at how the Triune life critiques society starting with the human self. Drawing from Daniel Siegel’s and David Wallin’s books on attachment and the involvement of the brain and relationships, the hope is to take a look at the self and how the triune life may take life within a person, which involves integrating the self and inevitably the relationships with the Other, God, human, or creation.
The final part, and most important piece because of the apparent lack of attention it seems to have received in the past, is a focus on Christian ecology, addressing how relation to the rest of creation could reflect the triune life. This involves how life is lived out, economically, ecologically, and socially.
“Cultivating Good Soil: Spiritual Disciplines and Christian Formation,” Philip A. Vestal. MDiv
In the beginning, when God created humans, God created them as both physical and spiritual beings. When it comes to the formation of desire and purpose, therefore, both aspects must be integrated for a deep and lasting impact. American culture is really good at this. Advertising speaks to us in ways that touch both our deepest longings and our physical senses. In his book Desiring the Kingdom, Jamie Smith explains that places like the mall and the sports stadium shape us into certain types of people with certain desires. Many times, however, this formation doesn’t shape us into the types of people or the type of world that God intended: people of shalom and fulfillment.
The question then becomes, in what types of ways can the Church and God’s people be shaped in order to truly grow into the image of God created them for? I think it starts with spiritual disciplines. in Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster explains that we are like soil and God is like a farmer. The spiritual disciplines help put us in a position for God to cultivate a certain type of existence in us. While there are many historically important disciplines, some of the foundational ones include meditation, the Sabbath, fasting, and lectio divina. These disciplines are physical practices that engage us body, mind, and soul, and create space in our lives to desire and discover those good things God created us for. Through an explanation of each discipline and a guide to actually engaging them, I will show how each one helps shape us in a unique way because they engage us in different ways.
Ultimately, each and every human is going to be formed toward some end through the practices they engage in. The question is: aware of these influences and are we choosing practices that will shape us into who we truly want to be and who God intended for us to be? It is through the spiritual disciplines that we can begin to be formed toward the image of God and shalom we are created for.