About the Program
“In a world where diversity is often an excuse for hatred and a trigger for violence, Drew students learn to use diversity as a key to unlock the mysteries of a God beyond individual understanding, who is revealed more fully through our shared faith and experience.” (Drew catalog 2003-2005, pg. 9)
In May of 2000 the faculty of Drew Theological School voted to require all Master of Divinity students to enroll in a cross-cultural course as part of the degree requirements. Students choose from several options, both domestic and abroad, to fulfill this requirement. This experience of difference will allow students to view their own lives, values, and belief systems with greater objectivity while encouraging them to appreciate the values, belief systems, historical experiences and cultural resources of a cultural context that is not their own. The following topics are representative of the issues addressed in cross-cultural study in the Theological School : Health care, healing rituals, liberation theology, economic development, socialism and politics, inter-religious conflict and dialog, ecology, women and children, family structures and systems, social justice and the role of the church in social transformation. Reflection on these and related topics enables students to think more critically about issues of ministry and the role of the religious leader in the church, society and the greater global context.
Drew Theological School cross-cultural courses provide students with a pedagogically intensive, guided corporate immersion experience in a cultural context that is not their own for the sake of the following curricular goals:
- Ideally the immersion experience includes some form of the following contrastive elements: kind of living setting (e.g., urban, rural, village), language (i.e., not one well-known to the student), socio-economic class setting (different from that of the student). It should be for a minimum of two weeks, and while not necessarily excluding multiple locations and wide range of sites and experiences, should allow or some continuation in a particular place or area. An immersion experience may also have a predominantly inter-cultural dimension, where students experience multiple cultures engaging and interacting with each other at particular event and/or location. Students gain knowledge of and appreciation for the ways in which history has shaped the present cultural landscape (religiously, socially, politically, economically) of a culture, coming to appreciate the tragedies and triumphs of that history and the richness of traditional cultural resources and creativity that have enabled and sustained human and creaturely survival and flourishing throughout that history. Students experience hospitality from hosts who serve as teachers with regard to the shape of reality and cultural authority in that cultural context, as well as with regard to challenges to and resources for surviving and flourishing within – and/or resisting and transforming – that context.
- Students expand their understanding of global Christianities, gaining knowledge of and sensitivity to the needs, challenges and opportunities regarding church identity, life and mission in the context of a cultural and/or religious history that is not their own. Students gain knowledge of and appreciation for the distinctive histories of the churches in this cultural context through encountering a variety of church and para-church communities, institutions and organizations as they have developed within that national-cultural history. Students learn about and, where possible, encounter non-Christian religious traditions as they have impacted and shaped the history of a cultural context and currently function in the contemporary life of that culture (including how they relate to other religious traditions, particularly Christianity).
- Students develop knowledge about the global and trans-national forces, structures, institutions and histories that have impacted and continue to impact (a) a culture’s global relations with other nations and cultures, and (b) the intra-national and intra-cultural relations and dynamics of power between communities, institutions, ethnicities, religions, classes, etc., within a particular culture. Students learn about and encounter the impact of global forces and structures (e.g., history of imperialism and colonialism, peace treaties, post-colonial nationalism, global capitalism, the World Bank, IMF, Free Trade Agreements, etc.) upon a particular national-cultural reality. They meet various religious and non-religious community organizations and religious and political institutions that work in relation to these global forces in different ways (e.g., support them, benefit from them, resist them, attempt to counter and/or alleviate their consequences for particular communities, etc).
- Students are encouraged to remain connected with individuals, communities, and organizations encountered in the immersion experience, and the social struggles in which they are variously engaged, to pursue creative ways in which these enduring relationships might become sites of mutual, inter-cultural education, challenge and transformation for the communities to which the students are called to practice ministerial leadership. Continuing conversation and activism as a class cohort, especially in relation to these communities and struggles, is also encouraged. Where possible, cross-cultural courses are planned in relation with a partnering organization working “on the ground” within the cultural context of the immersion experience. This provides structures of continuity and stable sites of communication to better enable students (as individuals and/or class cohorts) and the Theological School as an institution to develop and maintain these mutually transforming global, inter-cultural relationships.
- Students learn about and appreciate the different ways in which church leaders and parishioners have come to understand and to live out their vision of ministry, church identity and mission, and faithful Christian existence more generally, within their distinctive cultural and religious-ecclesial histories in response to their contemporary cultural context. Students encounter a variety of theological traditions as they have shaped and been shaped by a culture’s unique history. They reflect upon how their own theological understanding and trajectory of spiritual growth thare challenged and enriched by this encounter and how their vision and practice of ministry might be transformed in specific relation to the multicultural global realities of church and world.
- Students encounter the limits of their own cultural knowledge, assumptions, practices and habits of behavior within a cultural context that is not their own, wherein they are dependent upon the hospitality and generosity of hosts and host communities and must accommodate themselves to a different cultural “playbook” and unfamiliar cultural and/or religious authorities. Students gain an appreciation for how their own cultural and religious context “looks” from the perspective of—and is experienced by those living within—another culture. This may include a critical understanding of the role their own cultural and religious history and identity can be seen to play in the global, inter-national, inter-cultural and inter-religious forces, structures and relations that bear upon the material and cultural reality of their hosts.
Details of Course Credits
All cross cultural courses consist of an on-campus class prior to a two- to three-week experience in a culture with which the student is not familiar. Traveling in groups of 10-15 and accompanied by a member of the Theological School faculty, students study the religious, political, economic, social, and historical realities of the region. Upon returning to campus students engage in several hours of debriefing and discussion of the experience. The class makes a presentation to the wider Theological School community about the experience, usually in a chapel service in the semester following the travel off-campus.
Students register for a cross-cultural course the semester before they travel off-campus. Pre-departure courses are scheduled in the fall for January trips and in the spring for summer trips. Students receive one (1) credit for the pre-departure coursework and two (2) credits for the off-campus experience. Students are responsible for both tuition and travel costs for the trip.
Tuition costs for the 3 credit course are covered by financial aid at the same percentage as regular academic coursework.
Travel costs, i.e. airfare, lodging, meals, admission fees, are not covered by financial aid and are calculated based on the number of participants and vary dependent on destination. Estimates will be recalculated closer to departure times to reflect prevailing economic realities. Prices quoted reflect a substantial subsidy through the Melander-Bollenger Fund of Drew Theological School and therefore no additional scholarship help is available from Drew. Prices are based on 10 student participants.
Deadlines and Timelines
Two-thirds of the travel cost will be billed upon enrollment in the pre-departure course. The remaining one-third will be billed with the two credit course. Once the add drop period for the pre-departure course is over, the student is liable for the travel fee even is he/she does not go on the trip. Additional costs, i.e. visas, shots, may be incurred depending on destination. Consult the lead professor for details.
The travel component of each course is subsidized by the Theological School . Students receive one subsidy during their time at Drew. Students electing to do additional cross cultural study will be charged the full price of the trip.
Other Approved Programs
BorderLinks. A bi-national non-profit organization that offers experiential educational seminars along the border focusing on the issues of global economics, militarization, immigration, and popular resistance to oppression and violence. For more information, visit their website at http://www.borderlinks.org.
Any non-Drew programs must be approved in advance by the cross-cultural committee.
The Native American communities of the Southwest, many of which have had continuity of place for a thousand years or more, have very rich and very diverse cultures. (They represent at least four distinct linguistic families or isoglosses.) They are intimately connected with their land, their history, and their religious traditions. Our goal is to become acquainted with them by engaging their history, seeing their land, observing their life, listening to what they will share of their experiences and practices, and joining with them in some of their religious and cultural activities.
In this course Drew partners with the Share Foundation, a historic non-profit organization of Salvadorans and North Americans who have worked for more than 25 years building partnerships for justice and sustainable development between faith communities. Topics include: the history, geography, and culture of El Salvador, the Christian Base Community movement and liberation theology, the struggle for justice in the face of civil war and globalization, and efforts for sustainable development, literacy, and women’s empowerment.
This visit to the ecumenical Community of Taizé, France is made in conjunction with the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church. The focus of this course includes studies in ecumenism, discovering spiritual traditions from Eastern and Western Christian thought, and dialogue about and with the members of the global church, both East and West, North and South.
Hawaii is said to be one of the most healing places on earth due to its unique ecology. It is a lush tropical paradise whose peoples have been exploited, pillaged and dominated for centuries by colonialism and capitalism, more specifically tourism, and whose environment has been devastated. Hawaii remains embedded in North American histories of war and peace with military installations and service personnel as influential portions of its culture and economy. This interdisciplinary, cross-cultural course will offer students the opportunity to be immersed in in-depth conversations with Hawaiian pastors, eco-theologians and activists, community leaders, educators, military personnel, and spiritual healers to better understand the complexity of religious life and the influence of paradise on spirituality.
This course introduces students to the Philippines, a land of contradiction. It is rich in natural resources yet 48% of its 88 million people live below poverty line. It has democratic form of governance, but majority of the people clamor for change due to absence of basic human rights and freedom of speech. What is the role of religion in such a social situation? What does it mean to be a Christian or Muslim in the age of decolonization, globalization, and the continuing influence of the West? What is the role of indigenous religions in the 21st century? This course explores these issues and more through meetings with key social and religious leaders (both lay and ordained), visits in church-related and NGO sites, and faith-based communities including indigenous religious communities.
Religion and Arts of Appalachia
This course will assist students to better understand the religious and economic realities that shape the artistic imagination and cultural forms of the Appalachian region of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Through interaction with artists, communities, and church leaders, we will address issues of cultural identity, the prophetic role of the arts, and the impact of change. Students will explore ways of religious witness through interpretation, shared resources, and political concern. Courses in Appalachia are offered in conjunction with the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center (AMERC). Appalachia course topics change year to year.
This course introduces students to the rich and diverse culture of Turkey, often called the bridge between East and West. We meet Turkish people from all walks of life and hear from academics, social activists, and a wide variety of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish groups. Topics include: ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation, struggles against poverty and illiteracy, the history of the Turkish nation and current discussions about diversity and democracy, the impact of globalization on Turkish life, economy, and environment. The course includes some visits to ancient sites related to early Christianity.
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