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The education of learned ministers has been central to the mission of Harvard since its founding. Recognizing that the world is a religiously plural place, MDiv students of many faith communities study side by side in order to foster a greater understanding of interreligious dialogue and work. As part of its growing diversity in ministry offerings and strengths, HDS has established a newly focused Buddhist Ministry Initiative, and other such initiatives may follow. The uniqueness of the HDS MDiv experience lies in the belief that to be a learned minister it is imperative both to study one's own religious tradition and to be exposed to others. MDiv students at HDS learn to let the knowledge gained in one's setting—a classroom or hospital or congregation, for example—inform and enhance the knowledge gained in another. Graduating MDiv students leave HDS with a toolkit that prepares them to serve within a religious community, to explore the spiritually formative dimension of intellectual work, to evaluate and act on the needs and questions of religious communities and beyond, and to speak with both a pastoral and a public voice.
This three-year full-time degree program is for those preparing for ordained or lay ministry and leadership in congregations and other religious communities, ministries in social service, hospital and prison chaplaincy, interfaith ministry on college campuses, and teaching and scholarship. Students in the MDiv program learn to work at the intersections of the academic study of religion and the practices of religious communities, the past and the present, classroom study and field study, and the convictions and practices of their own religious tradition and the convictions and practices of traditions other than their own.
We believe that the education of learned ministers should include:
- Rigorous education in the religious traditions that shape the scholarly, spiritual and practical dimensions of a vocation to ministry
- The capacity to use the fundamental intellectual tools in the study of religion.
- Genuine reading competence in a scriptural language and/or a language of theological scholarship that allows for the lifelong use of that language in ministerial leadership and scholarly inquiry.
- Education in the arts of ministry pursued in both the classroom and the field.
- Significant learning in a religious tradition other than one's own.
- Cultivation of the intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral agility that will enable graduates to move with skill, confidence, generosity and grace across the complex and plural religious, cultural, and moral spheres of modern society.
At HDS, there is almost no field of study that does not touch in some way upon ministry preparation. While the entire Faculty of Divinity is, in this sense, engaged in ministry teaching and supporting MDiv students, the Office of Ministry Studies (OMS) and the faculty members who work specifically in ministry studies provide a focal point for the MDiv program and its relation to professional ministry.