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Drew Theological School Students Thriving in Virtual Internship Settings

The virtual space is proving effective in gaining real-world experiences.

April 2021 – Drew Theological School is rooted in the belief that real-world experiences are essential to a relevant, applicable theological education.

While many vocational internships are now virtual thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Theological School continues to ensure students gain experience beyond the classroom through a site placement that resonates with their vocational call and professional aspirations.

“Our students have shown an adeptness and creativity in their ability to adapt to a ‘virtual’ internship experience,” said Tanya Linn Bennett, associate dean for vocation and formation, associate professor in the practice of public theology and vocation and university chaplain. “This nimbleness demonstrates the desired outcomes of a Drew Theo education—to be innovative and improvisational in a shifting societal landscape. In their commitment to serve their churches and their communities in impactful ways during this pandemic time, our students have been insightful and compassionate in applying critical classroom learning to everyday public practice.”

We talked with five Master of Divinity students in virtual vocational internships. Here’s a look at their positive experiences during this unprecedented time.

Martha M.G. Frame
Intern, Creation Care Alliance (CCA) of Western North Carolina, Asheville, NC

Responsibilities:
“My responsibilities have included co-facilitating several projects and initiatives, including Eco Grief Circles (a weekly support group), a film study on This Changes Everything, two annual symposium workshops and a six week book study circle. I have also been included in the monthly steering team committee meetings for CCA program development and strategic planning.”

In what ways have you applied the education and skills you’ve learned at Drew to the virtual internship space?
“I was drawn to seek out this internship opportunity with CCA because of my enlightening learning experience in Drew’s course Global Faiths and the Earth. It is my intention to integrate practices of creation care, eco-theology and eco-therapy into my professional ministry as a chaplain. I have benefited from perspectives and practical applications of remote learning and worship that has been taught, modeled and experienced through several courses I took at Drew this year. Specifically, learning to master Google docs and Zoom technology, creative use of video and audio spaces, discerning individual and collective contexts of participants in virtual spaces, co-creating sacred and safe shared virtual spaces within overlapping personal spaces.”

Please share any positive outcomes in performing your internship virtually.
“Within this virtual context and experience, I have been able to meet and collaborate with faith and community leaders from across western North Carolina and the rest of the country. We have been able to extend the sacred and healing work of CCA’s Eco Grief Circles globally, and in doing so, we have experienced the expansiveness of the many forms and areas of grieving that are occurring across our world. Because of the remote nature of CCA’s work at this time, we have been able to facilitate learning opportunities specific to faith based creation care in the form of symposium’s, book studies, film studies and workshops to a larger, diverse community beyond western North Carolina.”

Tonya D. Jackson
Minister, Rivers of Living Water Ministries, Newark, NJ

Responsibilities
“My current responsibilities are to establish chaplaincy that could work within the church setting. So far we have developed a program entitled “Shades of Blue,” which addresses depression, grief and loss. Additionally, I have developed (thanks to COVID) a virtual chaplaincy ministry entitled “A Time For You,” which utilizes in-house chaplains and counselors to meet with requesting congregants via a video app.”

In what ways have you applied the education/skills you’ve learned at Drew to the virtual internship space?
“Drew, shadowing a chaplain and pastoral care classes have provided me with the opportunity to put into practice learnings in those venues. I have applied a host of the learnings from my pastoral care classes, which detail how to hold space for people who are experiencing discomfort. I have also been able to develop a reporting system that provides the senior pastor with information necessary to access the viability of the program without compromising confidentiality. Further, it was at Drew that I fully understood my call to people in a chaplaincy context and my current internship has provided me with the opportunity to put feet to my calling.”

Please share any positive outcomes in performing your internship virtually.
“This virtual internship has been amazing. It has been a joy bringing portions of the church into the current century and showing that sometimes change really is good.”

Woo Lim Kwak
Intern, Covenant United Methodist Church, Plainfield, NJ

Responsibilities
“I lead the children’s program every Saturday morning on Zoom. In addition, I have been invited to preach several Sunday services and serve as a musician, playing piano and leading the choir. I have also created and posted several musical videos for use during Sunday service on Zoom. I am responsible for the technical side of the church’s virtual services, including live-streaming services on the church’s Facebook page and posting the service recordings on the church’s YouTube channel. I also post some posts and announcements on the church’s Facebook page.

In what ways have you applied the education/skills you’ve learned at Drew to the virtual internship space?
“There was a mandatory training, led by Mark Miller, about digital worship last semester. The training gave me some clues and ideas helpful to the church’s online ministry. Moreover, Drew’s anti-racism training was very helpful in understanding the culture and history of the predominately Black congregation.”

Please share any positive outcomes in performing your internship virtually.
“Previously, I have never had an experience of having a worship service on Zoom, live-streaming on Facebook or posting a video on YouTube. This year at Covenant UMC has given me these useful skills and brought me to another level. Moreover, it has expanded my experience and thought toward diversity.”

Morris G. Lucky
Family Wellness Coach, Family Promise, Summit, NJ

Responsibilities
“My primary responsibility at Family Promise, a nonprofit homelessness resource agency, is to provide holistic counseling services to the guests and former guests of the agency. In addition, I was given the opportunity to provide mental health and wellness psycho-educational workshops for the guests as well as the staff. I also have the privilege of shadowing their administrators to become more endowed with agency policies, grant management and other administrative functioning.”

In what ways have you applied the education and skills you’ve learned at Drew to the virtual internship space?
“If there is one thing I learned at Drew, it is that ministry must go on despite a pandemic. I have maintained my commitment to social justice advocacy through a virtual outreach of holistic change. My service at Family Promise has been about simultaneously elevating the living status and social-emotional status of our guests. Fortunately, I’ve been able to continue this change process through telehealth services.”

Please share any positive outcomes in performing your internship virtually.
“I take pride in the growth of a couple who were referred to me because of social and emotional interpersonal conflicts. Through Zoom calls and text messages, I’ve been able to establish a trusting therapeutic relationship with the two guests. With a greater understanding of themselves and a new love language, the couple stands in a better position to nuance, navigate and negotiate their way through a highly stress-impacted environment.”

Terry J. Washington
Community Minister, Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY

Responsibilities
“I was a facilitator for Judson Memorial Church’s meditation and prayer circle and worship planning committee, provided pastoral care and made check-in phone calls to Judson parishioners. The apex for my internship was representing Judson Memorial Church to deliver a prayer during a prayer vigil for families who lost members of their families loved ones to COVID-19 on the steps of the Cathedral of Saint Divine in New York, NY.”

In what ways have you applied the education and skills you’ve learned at Drew to the virtual internship space?
“As much as the context of ministerial leadership has changed over the past three decades, Drew Theological School is preparing its graduate students for ministry in the 21st-century. The school had the foresight to incorporate into its curriculum an opportunity to develop holistically articulating skills that will aid me in affectively communicating with Community in, and out of a pandemic. One of many courses like Gospel Living in Social Transformation opened my mind to how we can redevelop leadership, as well as my-Self as a leader in the 21st century.”

Please share any positive outcomes in performing your internship virtually.
“Due to the pandemic, the digital space gave me an opportunity to enter a space of liminality to transform; I overcame social anxieties that prevented me from connecting with others in the past. Through the digital space created by Drew Theological School, I relearned how to confidently connect with people, as well as my-Self. As a result, I now have an indescribable calling to connect with people through pastoral care and counseling. I am currently achieving this through a digital platform called “Prayer & Meditation Circle,” sponsored by Judson Memorial Church.”

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