M. Div. Pastoral Formation
New York City offers a rich environment for experiencing and participating in ministry in diverse contexts and neighborhoods. During their first year, M.Div. students are encouraged to visit a variety of churches, outreach programs, cultural events, and ecumenical and interfaith ministry settings. Beginning the summer after the first year of study, or at another time that part-time students arrange with their advisers, M.Div. students are required to participate in the Pastoral Formation Program.
The first part of the program is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), an intensive experience in the formation of pastoral identity and ministry. Common in North American theological education since the mid-20th century, CPE is required at General for graduation with an M.Div., and it carries 6 academic credits. Placements, typically in hospitals, expose students to pastoral care with persons in need, illness or other forms of crisis. Supervisors are accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). CPE programs emphasize pastoral visitation, peer group discussion of clinical experiences in an ecumenical or interfaith context, development of the student's self-awareness, and careful supervision. CPE is normally undertaken during the summer between the first and second years, but may be taken at other times with the approval of the Chaplain, who coordinates CPE placements. The Chaplain conducts an orientation to CPE and its application process every September, because students need to apply to Summer CPE programs during the first two or three months of the academic year.
The second component of pastoral formation is a sequence of 8 credits in Pastoral Theology, 5 credits of which are for PT1-4, which are required courses for all M.Div. students. Most of the courses are six-week modules to allow for greater flexibility in taking a variety of Pastoral Theology offerings.
The third component, usually simultaneous with the PT courses, is four semesters of Theological Field Education, TFE1-4, in a parish or other ministry setting where the student undertakes ministry with the guidance of a clergy mentor. The student's engagement with the field education parish or other ministry setting entails attendance, observation, and a variety of ministerial tasks such as liturgical roles, preaching, teaching, home and hospital visiting, youth work, and outreach. Tasks expand and the seminarian's skills deepen over the two-year engagement with the setting. Field Education sites are developed by the Director of Field Education, who must approve all site assignments. Beginning in Easter Term of the first year, the Director assists each seminarian in the selection of a suitable placement in a parish or other setting. The seminarian and mentor develop and sign a learning agreement each semester and carry out a written evaluation at the end of each term, all of which must be approved by the Field Education Director. A lay reflection group is normally convened in each setting to enhance community response the seminarian's reflection. Additional theological integration of the experience may take place in the courses PT1-4.