United Theological Seminary Students Travel to Cuba, Israel and Palestine

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Dayton, Ohio, seminary students travel to Cuba and to Israel and Palestine as part of Master of Divinity program.

One aspect of the class is actually to prepare you to have an open mind and to respect other religions, other cultures.

Master’s degree students from United Theological Seminary traveled internationally this month as part of the Seminary’s Contextual Theology and Immersion Program. From Jan. 5 through Jan. 15, David Watson, Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, led a group of 14 through Cuba, staying primarily in Havana with an overnight trip to the Isle of Youth as well. Christopher and Lisa Heckaman of Trinity United Methodist Church in Columbus, OH, adjunct instructor Brian Maguire, associate professor Lisa Hess, and Rabbi Brad Hirschfield are leading a group of 15 through Israel and Palestine from Jan. 26 through Feb. 4.

Many of these students are fulfilling requirements toward a Master of Divinity degree, although United encourages all masters-level students to participate in the Contextual Theology and Immersion Program. Before embarking on a trip to a foreign country, students must take the three-credit course “Methods for Interreligious and Intercultural Encounter.” The course equips students for working in different cultures alongside people from diverse religious traditions.

“At least one aspect of the class is actually to prepare you to have an open mind and to respect other religions, other cultures,” said Marcus Mills, a student who participated in the trip to Cuba.

Hess, Associate Professor of Practical Theology and co-leader of the Israel and Palestine trip, emphasizes that the goals of the course and the subsequent international experiences are to help students strengthen their own faith and to prepare them for their future ministries, not to attempt to solve problems in areas of political unrest, such as the Middle East.

“We want students to arrive at who they are as a rooted Christian disciple but also to be able to say, ‘You know, this is a lot more complicated than we thought,’” Hess said.

United Theological Seminary, now in its 144th year, is one of the fastest growing theological schools in the United States. It was founded in 1871 by Milton Wright, a Bishop in The United Brethren Church and father of Wilbur, Orville and Katharine Wright. United offers accredited, innovative graduate and non-degree education programs for both clergy and laity. Please visit United for more information.

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JoAnn Wagner
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United Theological Seminary
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