The word “theology” is something of a vague or even strange term to many people, and the idea of studying theology can be an intimidating thought, even to people of deep faith. The word is often associated only with ordained ministers, but it is the conviction of St. Mary’s Seminary & University that theology is relevant for everyone. In fact, historically, most St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute students have been (and are) lay people planning to remain lay people.
One of the most significant definitions of theology in the Christian tradition is “faith seeking understanding.” For decades, many students at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute have begun their studies simply out of a desire to understand the Bible, or their own tradition (and perhaps the traditions of others), or contemporary issues more accurately and more fully.
Explorations in Theology allows people considering serious study of theology, religion, and ethics for the first time to take introductory level courses without committing to a full program. Some Explorations students take only one course, most take several, and many eventually go on to pursue a degree or certificate.
Some courses are designated for Explorations in Theology (500 level). These have no prerequisites or corequisites, and do not require a research paper. All 500-level courses are co-listed at the 700-level (e.g. BS502/702 Paul) so that certificate and degree candidates may take them, too (at the 700 level), usually with a required research paper.
Students interested in Explorations apply to St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute as graduate-credit students without declaring interest in a particular certificate or degree program. They may then take any courses without co- or prerequisites, as well as any other courses for which they fulfill the co- or prerequisites, including the 700-level versions of courses co-listed as both 500- and 700-level courses.
Students who later decide to matriculate into a certificate or degree program may count up to two 500-level courses (and any number of 600- or 700-level courses) that they have taken, as long as the courses fulfill core requirements or elective slots in the chosen certificate or degree program. Matriculated degree and certificate candidates may not enroll in 500-level courses but must register for those courses at the 700 level.
Students in the Explorations in Theology program are assigned an advisor to help them think about their selection of courses and their decisions regarding further theological study.