Sunday, March 25, 2012

Master of Divinity

I obtained my Master of Divinity degree through Almeda University a few years back.  Having been a Christian as a child attending sunday school and later teaching Sunday school I did Bible Studies at United College, then did night and summer courses on spirituality over a half dozen years at three university seminaries, one a liberal Christian College, one a Catholic College and the last an Evangelical college. In addition I'd received accreditation in the spirituality of yoga and tai chi, studied hinduism, Taoism and  Buddhism and took courses in comparative religion. I'd taken a variety of courses in spirituality offered in the churches I belonged to as well as doing meditation retreats and writing post graduate papers on spirituality. I have further had a formal relationship with a spiritual director over many years.   I was teaching courses in spirituality as part of university curricula and had published papers on spirituality in internationally acclaimed academic journals as well as many papers in more secular journals and doing research in spirituality.  I had been involved in 12 step programs reading and studying and participating in the spirituality associated with these.
As a psychiatrist I had trained in spiritual psychotherapy and pastoral counselling and was working as a psychotherapist for many years in areas overlapping with the religious. I'd had dozens of priests, ministers, medicine men,  holy men and women as patients requiring me to understand and discuss their concerns in a more than secular context. I'd taken pilgrimages  and increasingly my life was made richer by  focus on the spiritual.
I thought I should formalize my spiritual studies as I'd done with my Medical Degrees, Specialty Degree and Subspeciality Degrees. There was no 'spirituality' subspecialty at the time though there is a division of Spirituality and Psychiatry in England and courses and conferences on Spirituality.  I approached a variety of bible colleges and Christian diploma offering schools but found that each of these was specifically attached to a religious perspective. I had been raised Baptist, taught and studied with the United Church of Canada, studied Yoga,  Tai Chi, Philosophy and Psychiatry, attended Pentecostal Church and Methodist Church, been baptised in Israel, and later in the Anglican Church where I was now attending.  My principal interest was 'ecumenicalism' and 'spirituality' rather than any particular 'religious sect'.
I was offered degrees from diverse institutions but chose Almeda because I could have a degree in divinity that emphasized my focus on Christian spirituality and ecumenicalism without committing myself to a specific liberal, conservative, evangelical position. Perhaps some I'll be more 'subspecialized'.
I have continued my studies formally and informally.  So far the best part of having the MDiv is that it's on my wall and I don't anymore have to explain the 'Serenity Prayer' that's on the wall, the Bible, Koran, Mishna, Bhagad Vita in my bookshelf  or my referencing the Bible in my work. There is less pressure on me by secular religionists to conform to their practices.  More people who have an interest in spirituality are discussing this with me.  Ironically I feel like I've come out of the closet in doing this and feel less inclination to explain myself in my writing, studies or work.
I once said too that  I felt I knew Christ and some time later came to know Jesus. I considered the experience of a higher power certainly more important than my experiences of lower powers. I've felt that students of theology in general were further along than those consumed by money or alcohol.  Scientically there is clear evidence of the benefits of spirituality in general but not so clear evidence for the benefits for one denomination over another.  My personal faith is more specific than my general studies so this degree served to clarify more what it is I am doing in my work and writing.

No comments: