Thematic Findings: Discoveries and Adjustments in the Evolution of a Program

Theme One: Toward Mutual Partnerships and Shared Vision

In our first round of exploration, we discovered the need for broader mutual partnerships and a shared longer-term vision. This finding coincides with Yamamura and Koth’s (2018) second and third principles. Neighboring, we posited from the beginning, includes mutuality. And it includes a commitment to each other and our shared home. In our initial inquiry stages, ways we sought to bring these commitments to life in our particular work were specifically through the elements of developing: (a) mutually beneficial partnerships and (b) embodied, integrative, experiential, and reflective learning practices growing out of and shaping what have become porous classrooms. We have come to understand these dimensions of community engagement in how we practice it to include:

  • • Embodied practice in context (to the direct benefit of our students)
  • • An increase in the presence of diverse voices, experiences, and networks into our classrooms and purview (to the benefit of our students and faculty)
  • • Partners in the work to address shared social concerns of our city where we bring our varied expertise, questions, and lenses to the table together with students learning new competencies to pair with their energies and desires to make a difference in the world (to the benefit of our students, WP, our community partners, and our neighborhoods)
  • • Maintaining our commitment to mutuality by working to also find and make pathways to education for our partners and their communities (to the benefit of our partners and to us)

Before Warner Pacific was even named Warner Pacific, it was a ministry training school and one that, in some ways, always had an eye for creative adjustment and innovation. Some of the most creative thinkers from the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) came to the school on the west coast, a place heralded (and sometimes scorned) for its openness to pioneering and piloting new ideas and practices. In some ways, that nimbleness and spirit of experimentation is embedded into the very DNA of the ministry department at WP. This characteristic has been a great benefit.

When I became faculty at WP, I inherited and was oriented into a program with a rich tradition and reputation for being rigorous in academic excellence. The reputation was that our alumni arc fully prepared for graduate school and, in fact, many of the classes reflected graduate level learning even while carrying undergraduate credits. This emphasis was partially in response to the reality that ministers in the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) are not required to obtain a graduate degree for ordination or licensing, yet my colleagues and those who preceded me knew how important biblical, historical, theological, and ethical literacy and skills are for ministry. One could count on graduates of WP to be theo-ethical thinkers who knew the historical context of the church and who were skilled interpreters of biblical texts.

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