Last month I had the privilege of joining Fr. Doran in a visit to his alma mater, Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin. He was able to reconnect and go to meetings, I attended some lectures and special events, and we both celebrated the graduation of Jonathan Jameson, a friend of the parish who has been discerning a call to the priesthood.
It was really interesting to get a chance to see the campus. It’s a beautiful place with a contemplative atmosphere. Being there, it can feel like visiting a monastic community. I have visited different schools and seminaries before but the distinctives here were tangible and striking. Born out of the Oxford Movement in 1842, Nashotah’s Anglo-Catholic environment has also adopted a model based on The Rule of St. Benedict. This guiding spirit structures the school. You see seminarians working in the kitchen, maintaining the grounds, and students and faculty all come together each day for Morning and Evening Prayer.
Even as a visitor, the prayer routine quickly absorbs you. I’m typically not a very faithful attender of the weekday services here at St. Michael’s, so I appreciated being able to catch more of a vision for what this daily rhythm could feel like and how it can unite a community. There was an intense affection for Nashotah that you could feel from everyone. The historic roots and Benedictine spirituality are regarded as a rare treasure that keeps drawing in students.
Their current slogan is “Real Presence, Real Preparation,” which alludes to both the Eucharist and the seminary’s belief in the importance of communal living. Many college universities and seminaries have begun moving away from residential formation for long distance learning or online programs. Nashotah is happily resisting this. Here, the students and their families can live together alongside faculty, creating an intimate, close-knit feeling. Students and alumni I spoke with told me how much they loved this and it’s a key thing what sets Nashotah apart from other schools. They live together, study together, serve each other, and work out the natural tensions that arise from close proximity. All of this is what Nashotah sees as important, holistic formation for life in ministry.
Monastic themes came out in several different contexts while I was out there. Nashotah House is having a summer conference this year, “The Monastic Call of Every Christian,” arguing that in one sense, all Christians are monks, called to center life around God. Faculty member Dr. Greg Peters recently wrote a book The Monkhood of All Believers: The Monastic Foundation of Christian Spirituality, which seeks to reintroduce monasticism for Protestants and clarify misconceptions about this theology and apply it in contemporary contexts.
There are several new additions at the school. Dr. Elisabeth Rain Kincaid joins the faculty this summer as Assistant Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology. She received her Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in Moral Theology and Christian Ethics in 2018. Dr. Hans Boersma was brought on last year, and he just received Christianity Today’s 2019 Theology and Ethics book of the year award for his book Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition. Labin Duke has also been brought out from Baylor University as their new Executive Vice President for Institutional Advancement. The school is primed for some top notch scholarship and continued growth.
It was encouraging to see these developments and hear from the administration about how a place like Nashotah House is being preserved and nurtured. Seminaries are crucial for the development of healthy congregations and the wider Episcopal Church. I met alumni clergy from dioceses all across the country, giving a clear picture of the reach the school has. Supporting Nashotah is one helpful, tangible way that we at St. Michael’s can have an impact beyond our local parish. It’s exciting to see the possibilities!