Back in June last year I shared that I would be starting an MA in Theological Studies in September, and my goodness time has flown since then!
The entirety of the Masters is 60 credits, and I opted to take nine credits in each of my first semesters – this is the minimum requirement for a full time student, and I figured that being new to Grad studies it might be an idea to take it slow!
When I applied, I was hoping to be able to find a part time job to accompany my studying. For about eight months I had been working at Starbucks part time as well as my admin job at church until my co-worker went on maternity leave in December 2019 and I took up extra hours to cover her. I had a loose plan that when I began studying, I would leave my job at church, and try to pick up another job at Starbucks – favouring the lower responsibility and flexible hours! Plus, that way I could spend a month or so settling into the routine of study before starting back at Starbs too… Little did I know that COVID would mean Starbucks were far from hiring come the autumn!
Our visas came through on day two of orientation which meant that I could begin classes as I had intended and didn’t have to do some loophole work around that I had in my back pocket to buy me an extra month. I took three courses in the Fall Semester of three credits each, and the same in the Winter Semester. Shockingly, the second semester just ended last week!
I have so enjoyed my time studying so far. I thought I’d give a brief reflection on each of the courses I have taken so far! The classes I took in the Fall term were Old Testament Foundations, Missional Church, and Christian Thought and Culture I. These courses were so varied, and yet had so much overlap – they seemed to gel really well together despite their vast differences. The same again happened this term when I took Christian Thought and Culture II, Intro to World Christianity, and New Testament Foundations.
OT Foundations is just what is sounds like – an overview of the Old Testament. I had to read the whole OT during the term, and ultimately take two exams – all quite daunting tasks! Besides that though, this course was excellent. I can’t find it now for proof, but the professor appeared on a list of something like the top 20 modern scholars on the OT this last year, so you can imagine learning from him was an incredible opportunity and experience. He’s also a Scot and has a very dry sense of humour which is much appreciated in the midst of learning about ancient kings and Levitical laws. It was very much a whistle stop tour through the history, narrative and styles of the OT, but more of the focus was on giving us the tools on how to best read it, recognise why it’s important, and to place ourselves in the narrative too. It really gave me a new passion to read and spend time in the OT!
Missional Church was a course that really caught my eye because of how practical and applicable it sounded. The professor is a new faculty member at Regent having been pastoring churches here and in Australia on and off for the last, I’m not sure, but maybe, decade and a half? When I found out that I was the only new student on the course I had instant regret and strongly considered changing courses last minute, but I am so glad I stayed! It was so refreshing and also challenging. Turns out the prof is also an OT scholar and much of what he was teaching aligned with my daily reading and what I had just learnt about in OT Foundations. I loved how he married the law and festivals of the OT to how we should practice kinship today. Every week I felt like my understanding of the Gospel and Mission had been altered. I was introduced to several new authors too through reading assignments and look forward to re-reading many of the texts.
Christian Though and Culture I – I wasn’t super looking forward to this course but it’s one of the requirements for the MATS and it’s recommended to take in the first year because it gives a historical overview of philosophers and theologians which helps ground you as you continue in your studies. One of the reasons I wasn’t looking forward to it was because of the weekly assignments assigned – where you had to read set pages and answer a discussion question (DQ), and then you had to attend a tutorial and discuss that week’s content. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed learning about the different thinkers and their thoughts from the early centuries up to the reformation. I’ve never really taken an interest in history or philosophy so all of it was new to me, and I genuinely found it all quite fascinating! The same Scottish prof had taken over at the helm of the course this year and with it brought in some changes to the DQs which apparently made them a little easier to digest than previous years which I was thankful for too. Another element of this course was an additional reading log where you had to give an overview of your reading from a list of books you could choose from, but you could also replace some of these pages by watching a suggested film and joining the movie discussion. This was a lot of fun because it really mixed up the learning methods and helped me to understand different aspects of what I was learning. I watched Contagion and Noah as two assigned films and read a chapter of a book on Earthkeeping which I loved! Overall it was a course that follows history, theology and culture including the establishment of the Church, the Creed and why we believe what we believe.
Christian Thought and Culture II – I assumed this course would stay on the same trajectory as CTC1, but I actually found it a lot harder to engage with this semester. We were now looking at different movements since the Reformation, which included Science, Evangelicalism, Colonialism, Romanticism, Evolution, and more… They were all really interesting topics but they were very challenging to engage with in such a short space of time, and some of them were particularly difficult to understand – I really struggled with the week on the Master of Suspicion – Freud, Marx and Nietzsche; and also the Quantum Physics week. As a newbie to these subjects I barely understood what I was reading let alone being able to academically engage with the topics and bring my own thought and criticism to the table. I valued the time spent on the topics and know that the conversations within the tutorials helped to form my understanding and thinking of certain subjects, so it was beneficial. But oh my goodness I was glad to hand in that final DQ!
Intro to World Christianity was one of the courses that caught my interest to study at Regent, and the professor was integral in my decision for it too. The reason being that in my Christian faith, I am intrigued by how faith is interpreted and lived out differently all over the world. Since moving to Canada and seeing first hand the impact of Colonialism and the “evangelism” that accompanied it, I’ve struggled to reconcile that with my own Christianity (particularly evangelism) – the fact that Regent has courses that explore topics like these was a key part of why I applied. So the course itself… it was another whistle-stop-tour style, but oh so valuable. We spent six of our weeks looking at the history of Christianity and its contemporary expression on each inhabited continent – so Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Oceania. It was fascinating getting a look at each different area and we had a guest speaker who was based in that area or from that area each week – a fantastic opportunity for real insight. I felt like this was a course that should be mandatory for all students – learning the basics of how Christianity was introduced around the world and how it changed over time. Some of the new facts I found particularly interesting were that our language is very important in how we refer to areas of the world, and Global South or Majority World are the generally accepted terms for what have been known as the Developing or Third World; another was that two thirds of the world’s Christians are found in Africa and S America – the challenge from this one is how often do we listen to theological voices from these places given that they represent the majority of our practicing Christians today! I loved it and look forward to taking more courses on the subject and with the professor in future.
New Testament Foundations was taught by the most enthusiastic and passionate NT scholar. He worked on the New Living Translation of Bible as he’s an expert on the book of Hebrews. He not only gave overviews on each NT book but also really practical advice from certain books (like how to make an appeal using Philemon) and tips on how to read the NT wisely. It really helped in figuring out what to look for, why certain things are important and once again renewed my excitement to get stuck into reading the Bible. We had to read a fiction book as part of this course too – so I chose A Week in the Life of a Graeco-Roman Woman and it was a fascinating dive into what life looked like to people in the first century AD, the story revolved around a pregnant woman which also resonated for obvious reasons! I’m eagerly awaiting taking a course with this professor in a couple of weeks on the Christology of Hebrews. The TA was so helpful in guiding us through a huge text book which drilled down into each NT book and section too – a book I will no doubt constantly come back to over the years!
So there you have it – two semester’s worth of courses and my thoughts on them! I wasn’t sure how I’d feel going back to school, as you know from my post last year, I didn’t enjoy the academic side of my undergrad and was worried this might be the same, but thankfully, it has felt so different. I have really enjoyed engaging with course material, being challenged by lectures, and able to explore different topics in assignments. I am excited to take some more classes over the spring and summer terms, and am really looking forward to my next full year (which will now start in Sept 22 as I’ll be taking a year off for “maternity leave”!).
I also had the joy of being employed by the Student Council as an Associate Editor of the Regent newspaper, The Et Cetera for a few months. It was a lot of fun having weekly zoom meetings with the Editor and other Associate Editor brainstorming article ideas and thinking of people to ask to write and contribute to the paper. It was only for a few months after the previous person left Vancouver, but I was so happy to be a part of that team and feel more involved and connected after six months of studying at home. Hopefully I’ll be able to pursue another student job when I return – it seems to be a really good way to connect into the community!