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Class of 2020 Capstone Projects

The new curriculum that began in the Fall of 2017 added the Senior Colloquy, a capstone seminar in which master of divinity students create a final project integrating theology and practice. The goal of the Senior Colloquy is to help students integrate their seminary training with their future work as community leaders in a guided and supportive seminar.

Students begin their final year at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary by identifying an issue or situation in the world that they think needs a response. They revisit their coursework and seek reading recommendations from classmates and professors so that they can analyze the situation biblically, historically, theologically, and practically. Finally, they craft a response to the situation.

Past responses have ranged from conferences to pamphlets to new programs for churches. Members of the Class of 2020 took on a wide variety of issues and situations within their capstone projects. To learn more, we reached out to four members of the Class of 2020 and asked each to walk us through their project and the process.

Alexandria Bobbitt
Alexandria Bobbitt created a curriculum for training older generations on mentoring college students and young adults. She combined information about the younger generation with reflection exercises about the "elders'" own religious formation to help build bridges between generations. (To read more, see the slider below)

Kaitlyn Frantz
Kaitlyn Frantz created a six-week curriculum for white-bodied persons. The study fosters a space for biblical exploration at the intersection of transformational care that would awaken them to their own biases and embodied racism within the context of a Bible study. (To read more, see the slider below)

Jonathan Chinkee Kim
Jonathan Chinkee Kim developed a presentation about racism against Asian Americans and the need for education, awareness, and action among Asian Americans themselves. He proposed that Confucian ideas about hierarchy and obedience might make Asian Americans less likely to stand up for themselves. He wove together history and theology to give background on the issue, introduce Asian theology, and suggest some next steps Asian Americans can take to resist racism. (To read more, see the slider below)

Patrick Mulloy
Patrick Mulloy wanted to marry his experience as an engineer with his theology and appreciation of church buildings, so he created a presentation to get churches thinking about their buildings and the role they play both in their mission and budget. His project examined the role of the building in the life of the church, churches expenditures on their buildings, ideal maintenance and replacement schedules, and ways to reduce costs. Mulloy is looking to expand on this and work with conferences to produce information and to help them save money and advance their ministries. (To read more, see the slider below)

To learn more about these Capstone Projects and these four members of the Class of 2020, click on any of the four sliders below. If you or someone you know is conisdering a vocation in ministry we encourage you to learn more about the Master of Divinity degree today.

A Curriculum for Cross-Generational Mentoring | Alexandria Bobbitt

Alexandria Bobbitt

Alexandria Bobbitt
Chicago, Illinois
Master of Divinity, 2020

This project was created to help people who want to work with Generation Z do the work necessary to be postured to enter into their world and be faithful companions on the journey. This is out of the conviction that each generation experiences the world differently and asks a different spiritual question that gets at the heart of how they are longing to experience God as well as hear and see the gospel lived out.

What motivated you to tackle this issue?

I am a campus minister. I have noticed the differences between me and my students though I am still very young myself. I found myself becoming frustrated with them because of their differences rather than becoming more curious and open to new ways of doing ministry and learning from them. I have also realized that in order to work with students one of the best ways I can best prepare is being aware of where I am and what I believe. Additionally, I find that many churches are lacking in discipleship. I have seen valiant efforts around outreach and evangelism without a plan for how to continue to care for and walk with people on their faith journey. I regularly hear conversations about how to get more young people in churches and I think a better question is how do we love and disciple the next generation well? How do we meet them where they are? How do we share our lives with them and open ourselves to being changed by them and led by them?

What was the hardest part of the project?

The most difficult part of this project for me was narrowing down what I would do and what I would include. I began by wanting to do a project about the necessity of ethnic specific ministries on college campuses. I wanted to do something that helped to show that it is not a separate vision from multiethnicity. How often for students of color being plopped into “multiethnic” ministries is damaging and they are not cared for and as a result turn away from Christianity more and more. I believe that college students are at a stage of development where identity is so important and that having faith communities of people who have similar experiences based on race and ethnicity is vital as they explore faith. From there I realized that I was really longing for students to have more safe places and people to do this work within their communities on and off campus. So many people want to work with and mentor college students, but are not ready to journey with them and embrace them fully. I felt that inviting older adults who want to work with young adults to reengage with their own journey of faith and identity development and to do some more theological reflection and remember where they have come from would be helpful in preparing people not with answers, but with an open posture to encounter the next generation. At the end of my time in seminary I was amazed at how much asking new questions and doing theological reflection had enhanced my own discipleship as well as my ability to engage with my students and I wanted others with the heart to work with young adults to have that same opportunity.

What did you learn from the process? Did the final project turn out differently than you thought it would at the beginning?

From this process I learned how much I love and believe in campus ministry. That was reinforced for me. I learned that I would love to continue to think about curriculum for college students and those who desire to work with them. I also learned that I needed time and space for my project to take shape. Where I began is not where I ended, but the journey was still necessary. I loved the exploration and question asking that I was able to do.

Did you find that your previous work at Garrett-Evangelical informed your project?

I was able to take aspects of all of my classes taken over the last three years for a comprehensive work that I think people will actually benefit from. It felt good to end up with something that I am excited to a utilize in ministry that feels like I am making my seminary education accessible to those who will never enroll in a program. And that is the goal!

Will this project be something that you continue to pursue in your ministry?

Yes, I will continue to build upon and refine the work I began here in this project. I am excited to keep thinking about generational differences and how the gospel is good news to each generation. I will continue work around discipleship and how to prepare those who will be engaging in discipleship with young adults. Because I see discipleship— not getting them into churches—as the way we will really reach the next generation effectively.

Biblical Exploration on Biases and Embodied Racism | Kaitlyn Frantz

Kaitlyn Frantz
Kaitlyn Frantz
Fort Worth, Texas
Master of Divinity, 2020

For my capstone project, I created a six-week curriculum for white-bodied persons. The study would foster a space for biblical exploration at the intersection of transformational care that would awaken them to their own biases and embodied racism within the context of a Bible study.

Several various things motivated me to create this project. The first was when I was asked at a conference to reflect on a time I had made a mistake as a white person. It was the first time I realized that deep in my bones I was racist and had made decisions that harmed people of color. In that conference room, we gathered as white folks and entered into a practice of forgiveness, leaning away from guilt and leaning into advocacy and action. I realized from that experience that perhaps we need less spaces for “diversity education” or “cross-cultural immersion” and more spaces of soul-filled and mindful practices that care for the racial trauma even white folks hold in their bodies. Additionally, I just really love the Bible. I love studying it, I love teaching it, and I believe that God has worked through the community of people who compiled it to share with us something special.

Therefore, I wanted to explore the dynamic of biblical studies interacting with the pedagogical task of centering soulful care for the work of anti-racism. As a white woman, I felt it was important for me to create a study for other white people by incorporating the interpretive work of various scholars of color alongside spiritual practices and weekly reflections on our biases.

I think the hardest part of the project was finding pedagogical methods for centering soulful care. Perhaps I was just unaware of the right places to search, but overall, my experiences in academia have often failed to consider the spiritual wellbeing of a student. I relied heavily on the work of both Dr. Mai-Ahn Le Tran and Resmaa Menakem in their books Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope and My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies respectively. In conversation, these scholars helped me to discover new ways of teaching that both educate and heal.

From a personal perspective, I discovered a renewed love for writing. The previous three years I had become accustomed to academic writing (which I definitely enjoy!), but it was exciting to employ different modes of writing - from memoir-like anecdotes to research-based findings to practical curriculum.

My previous work at Garrett, as well as my field education site, were fundamental in stirring this interest and bolstering my work. Particular attention was given to my class “Teaching for Biblical Faith” with Dr. Jennifer Moe and “Biblical Law and the Ethics of Interpretation” with Dr. Cheryl Anderson. My field education at the Inclusive Collective campus ministry familiarized me with the work of anti-racism and the need for white folks to do their work in spaces with other white folks.

I definitely think I will continue this work in both my ministry at the Inclusive Collective at Northern Illinois University, and perhaps someday by pursuing a further degree with an emphasis in pedagogy, care, and biblical studies. No matter what, I do feel called to do the work of dismantling my own internalized white supremacy so that I might be able to help other white people do the same.

Processing Asian American Racism | Jonathan Chinkee Kim

Jonathan Chinkee Kim
Jonathan Chinkee Kim
Milton, Wisconsin and from Seoul, Korea
Master of Divinity, 2020

My project was to create awareness of Asian American racism in the Asian American community. It is not that Asian Americans do not feel racism but I have realized that there is very little available in terms of processing it. This project was to show the history and current state of racism against Asian Americans and by doing so, offer a starting point to process and understand what is going on.

What motivated you to tackle this issue?

I felt the models of racism did not fit the narrative of Asian Americans. Hence, the project was about creating a model that is unique to the Asian American experience. Many of my Asian American congregation members knew and felt racism every day. However, I realized that there is very little out there to help them process it because the racism that is experienced is so vastly different from the narratives of racism in the media. I just wanted to create a way to highlight the similarities and differences of racism to offer up a way to reflect on and process the trauma that is brought forth of being a minority race.

What was the hardest part of the project?

The hardest part was trying to find a balance. I did not want to create more anger or resentment towards the dominant race or government. However, at the same time, there was a need to call out the sins and evil towards a specific race.

What did you learn from the process? Did the final project turn out differently than you thought it would at the beginning?

I learned how to conceptualize and implement. I originally thought of my project to be an academic paper. However, I soon realized it was about letting others know and working with others to create a program. Not only was I challenged academically but it was a very good way to reflect on my pedagogy.

Did you find that your previous work at Garrett informed your project?

It did. The way that equality issues were defined and narrated helped me a great deal to expand my horizons on what should be said.

Will this project be something that you continue to pursue in your post-Garrett ministry?

I do not know where God will lead me. I am in a cross-cultural context in right now in my journey as a pastor. If I go to an Asian American context, I will definitely pursue it. The structure in which I learned to create this process is something I will definitely use in my ministry right now because it applies to so many divisive issues.

The Theological and Practical Challenges of Church Buildings | Patrick Mulloy

Patrick Mulloy
Patrick Mulloy
Bettendorf, Iowa
Master of Divinity, 2020

My capstone project focused on the lack of resources that are available for pastors and congregations to help them care for, maintain, and evolve the physical church building. During my project, I talked about the theological and practical challenges of church buildings and joined the two for a more in-depth look into what our church buildings are saying about us and our understandings of God.

On the theological side, I argue two things. One, as an institution, the church needs to switch from looking at our church buildings as an asset to seeing them as spiritual gifts. These gifts need to be maintained, evaluated continuously, and need to be a driver of ministry and not an afterthought. Two, God dwells in our church buildings and the outside world. As the church, we need to combine both for a fuller expression of God in the world.

On the physical side, I talk about what it would be like if the United Methodsit Church (UMC) as an institution would band together on the conference level and use that power that comes with the vast amount of church buildings to go and negotiate maintenance contracts. These contracts would allow for a reduction of cost for the most expensive things that churches need, like roofs and heating systems—allowing for smaller churches to do projects that they could not afford before and allowing the bigger churches to take on more significant projects for less. I also discussed developing a maintenance care plan for churches on an individual level and the steps that can be taken to help evaluate the condition of the church building.

In joining them together, I finally talked about listening to what the church building is saying as a structure, both physically and theologically. Is the church accessible, including the pulpit, and if not, what does that say? If a congregation is spending a majority of its money just to stay in the building, what does that say about their want to do ministry, and what does that say about what is the most crucial aspect of God to them?

What motivated you to tackle this issue?

The thing that motivated me the most to start to look at this issue was during my time at my home church during seminary. I watched as a renovation project happened and the lack of understanding of the construction process. In watching the church go through the issues of coordination with the contractor, not issuing complete contracts and a failure to look at what the end product would be. I have also seen what the project did to the morale of the congregation, the negative impacts it can have on the trustees as a group, and the personal impacts it can have on the person trying to run the project without help or without understanding on what they are doing.

In my experiences, before starting seminary, I worked as a Construction Project Engineer and site superintendent on projects both big and small. I saw the same issues at all levels of projects that I worked on from all different fields of owners. I saw what these issues would do to the cost of the project. I experienced what happened when the owner does not know what they want and then, during construction, want to change it. I have seen what happens when contracts are poorly worded or missing critical elements of them, the full understanding of the construction impacts is not understood, and what happens when the money runs short.

I thought that the UMC would surely have resources to aid in this process. Looking for them, I found that there were extraordinarily little to help individual congregations in their construction and maintenance work. In fact, the last UMC issues documentation was issued by the MEC in the 1960s. I knew that I had the ability to help and that I could try and create the resources that could make that process a much less painful thing for my church and others going forward.

What was the hardest part of the project?

The hardest part of my project was that there are extraordinarily little in the way of resources that I wanted in the world. I tried to look for resources that talked about the theological implications about the way in which you construct and maintain your building but found none. I had to combine architectural sources about the theological implications of older church architecture, with modern-day business resources on how and what a reasonable maintenance structure is for your budget. I had to combine elements of stewardship with elements of spiritual gifts because I could not find resources on how to steward a spiritual gift. Most powerfully, though, I combined elements, both biblical and historical, on why church buildings are needed with the pastoral care of what to do when you need to close your building.

What did you learn from the process? Did the final project turn out differently than you thought it would at the beginning?

Throughout this process, I learned that there is not anyone that is talking about this, and no one knows what to do. The business world has it figured out how to care for and maintain the buildings that they use, but they do not care about the building's spiritual aspect. On the other hand, churches care about the spiritual aspect and what makes the building a holy place but understand little about what is needed to care for it.

I also learned that I need to continue to translate both areas of understanding into a language that can be accessible to everyone. There were times that my peers in the review process asked questions about a construction term, concept or other understanding that had not been explained, and it required me to go back and make sure that there was sufficient explanation. Conversely, I also struggled to express the theological implications of design in a way that would make sense to a non-seminary graduate.

When I started this project, I thought that if the church provided a training session or two for pastors and maybe some informational packets to send to churches, it would help solve these issues and help make some changes. Throughout this project, I realized that giving out information is the smallest part of the process. I realized that the pastoral care aspect of this project would be the most crucial part. Talking one on one, in personal contact with the pastors and congregations that want, or need, help is going to be the most essential part. When you combine money or the lack of money, with the history of churches being a fixture of the community as long as they have, emotions will get heated, just changing the carpet color gets people angry. The point of view of the project changed from providing passive information for those that want it to providing active care for all those that need it.

Did you find that your previous work at Garrett informed your project?

My time at Garrett allowed for this project to happen. Several teachers gave students the opportunities to look at faith and theological expression in different ways. In "Introduction to Theology," Dr. Bedford allowed students to express their theological thought in different ways and to explore theological understandings in new ways. During that class, I started to explore the theological implications that arise in the construction of our church buildings and what the construction of the building says theologically about the congregations to those that enter into the church for the first time. This exploration showed me that the design and makeup of our church buildings do matter, and how church buildings are used tells a theological story whether the congregation likes it or not.

The other major element that shaped this project is the pastoral care class with Dr. Armstrong. This class helped me realize the connection that can be formed with buildings and the strength of these connections. Due to my background and the need to look at buildings critically, the connection to buildings has never resonated with me. After seeing how these connections are made, what effects they can have on a person, and how to guide a person or congregation through the issues that may arise was eye-opening. This pastoral care understanding formed the backbone of the pastoral care and spiritual care aspect of my project.

Will this project be something that you continue to pursue in your post-Garrett ministry?

Yes, I will, and am, continuing to investigate this ministry path. I continue to look for resources on aspects of this to continue to do the theological work for it. I am also looking for locations to put the practical aspect of this in place as well. As churches continue to make the tough decisions on what to do with their buildings, pastors and congregations need to be trained on how they handle these issues as the arise or at the very least have access to the resources through the UMC Connectional body.