Contextual Education is the broad term used at the School of Theology for the numerous ways students apply academic knowledge and classroom experience to ministry opportunities in a variety of settings.

For a seminarian, the phrase “practice what you preach” means more than it might to the rest of us—it is, after all, impossible to learn ministry without doing any ministering. Students at the School of Theology are lucky to receive an outstanding contextual education experience. In fact, according to a recent evaluation by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), Sewanee’s contextual education program is one of the seminary’s “distinctive strengths.”

Today, contextual education at the School is some of the most robust and enriching formation a seminarian can receive anywhere. Ours is a holistic approach where practical efforts cohere directly with classroom education and gives students “a sense of connectedness”—they know how every part of their training—both theoretical and practical—grounds their theology and ministry. 

Contextual Education is the broad term we use at the School of Theology for the numerous ways students apply academic knowledge and classroom experience to ministry opportunities in a variety of settings. This includes classes in leadership and parish dynamics, internships, Clinical Pastoral Education, cross-cultural experiences, and other extracurricular activities. Contextual education takes place alongside your classroom experiences.  

Our mission is to prepare clergy to serve a growing and evolving church. Outlined below are the minimum requirements and typical sequence. Some dioceses require three or four semesters of field education which we’re happy to accommodate for students.

Semester By Semester

Semesters One & Two

During your first two semesters you’ll be spending time visiting congregations all around the dioceses of Tennessee, East Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Atlanta reflecting on your experiences in settings different than your sponsoring parish. You’ll also be preparing for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).

Summer One

During your first summer you will participate in Clinical Pastoral Education. Some students choose to stay in Sewanee and commute, some students return to their home diocese, and others choose sites that are across the country.

Semester Three

After returning from CPE students begin participating in a mentor selection process that mirrors that of the call process for job placement. Students will do interviews with mentors for placement at sites ranging from small rural congregations to large urban parishes, and opportunities for both day school and college chaplaincy.

Semester Four

Following the completion of your scripture, church history, pastoral theology, spirituality, systematic theology and homiletics foundations courses, students begin field placements. Students and mentors develop learning goals based on the needs of the student and ministry contexts, so every seminarian has a unique experience in the field. You’ll also be enrolled in Contextual Education I and begin meeting with fellow seminarians in your colloquy group.

Summer Two

Seminarians have several options for the second summer. Some continue field education in their placement, some take internships back in their home dioceses, and some take advantage of cross-cultural experiences across the globe.

Semester Five

Students continue work in their placement from the previous semester or, if needed based on the learning goals, begin a placement in a new context. You’ll also be enrolled in Contextual Education II and continue meeting in your colloquy group with fellow seminarians.

Semester Six

Your final semester of seminary has no requirements for contextual education, however students may continue working in parishes to gain experience and put what they’re learning in the classroom to work in the field.

a holistic approach