by Kristen Padilla
What sets Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School apart from other seminaries and divinity schools is its commitment to personal theological education.
In an effort to live out its mission, and demonstrate how to do spiritual and academic formation as a theological community, Beeson Divinity School celebrated its second annual Finkenwalde Day Oct. 11, a day set aside for spiritual, academic and recreational retreat.
The divinity school held its first Finkenwalde Day in fall 2015 during its semester-long chapel series on German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s seminary vision. The daylong retreat was patterned after a day in the life of Bonhoeffer’s underground seminary in Finkenwalde during Nazi Germany, which included prayer, meditation, worship, lectures, singing, recreation and fellowship at table.
“I had a number of students approach me after we did Finkenwalde Day last fall about doing this again,” said Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School dean.
Finkenwalde Day II began with morning worship, Scripture meditation and prayer. The morning also included two lectures on prayer: Stefana Dan Laing, adjunct assistant professor of theology at Houston Graduate School of Theology in Texas, lecturing on “Prayer in the Early Church,” and Beeson Divinity School professor Carl Beckwith lecturing on “Prayer in the Reformation.”
The community met for its normally scheduled 11 a.m. chapel service. George preached on “Praying with Bonhoeffer,” and the community shared Holy Communion together.
The divinity school community also enjoyed a meal together, and participated in outdoor and indoor recreation.
New to Finkenwalde Day II, participants walked around the entire Samford University campus praying for the Samford employees and students.
“To go on a prayer walk is to intentionally and purposefully engage all the senses — how is God directing our prayers through what we see, touch, taste, smell and feel,” said Christy Harper, associate curator of Andrew Gerow Hodges Chapel and alumni relations coordinator. “One observation that seemed to be shared among the group participants I spoke with was that it was a tangible way of looking at the places we go to every day — the library, the university center, Pete Hanna Center — and to see those ordinary places as opportunities for God to work mightily and make his presence known.”
Bonhoeffer wrote his book, Life Together, for seminarians while he was leading a seminary. Bonhoeffer’s “experiment in theological education” was one that practiced theology within community. This has served as a paradigm for Beeson Divinity School, said George.
“From the time Beeson Divinity School was established in 1988, the life and witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and especially his book Life Together, have informed our vision of theological education,” George said. “Theological education is not just about information, but about transformation. I think we learn a lot by being in community. This is really what seminary should be about.”
The third annual Finkenwalde Day is scheduled for Oct. 31, 2017, which will be held in conjunction with Reformation Day in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Kristen Padilla is marketing and communication coordinator for Beeson Divinity School.