Yale…What an experience!
Last Michaelmas, I had the opportunity to spend a term at Yale University. I was warmly welcomed by the community at Yale Divinity, the Berkeley Divinity and the Yale Black Seminarians. These communities formed my time in New Haven and enhanced my participation in the exchange program.
I wished to participate in the exchange program for three main reasons, which can broadly be described as ecumenical, academic, and formational. It has been, to date, the most tremendous and formative experience of my training.
Ecumenically speaking, having been raised within the Caribbean Pentecostal tradition, through to discerning a vocation to ordained ministry within the Church of England, I was fascinated to learn more at Yale Divinity about other traditions and denominations within the Christian faith. I was not disappointed!
Weekdays would begin Divinity with Morning Prayer alongside the Episcopalians at Berkeley. Built on a solid foundation of fellowship, and the Eucharist at 7:30, I shared countless cups of tea and enjoyed hours of laughter. It was here, too, that I joined a worship team and gained some valuable and immensely knowledgeable colleagues, but Marquand Chapel is where the real ecumenism happened – where I was able to experience the most of Yale Divinity School’s broad range of traditions and ecumenical expressions. Worship planned and led by students, I had the opportunity to take part in reading scripture and leading prayers. From Taizé chants, to eucharistic liturgies (in various formats), to dramatic performances of the Old Testament, to Gospel performances. I experienced the preaching and the politics, in which the voice of the oppressed was heard in God’s house. I also daily looked forward to the 11:30 am service, which became for me an important meditative break within the day and just before lunch. On Sundays, I attended Baptist, Methodist and African American Pentecostal churches dotted around the New Haven area. This experience reminded me of my upbringing and helped me to reimagine my theology within an ecumenical setting.
The excitement continued with the breadth and depth of the academic opportunities available at Yale. My own research, for instance, discusses the language of slavery in the Bible, particularly within writings attributed to Paul, and the range of modules offered at Yale – as well as its strong history in Black Theology – were ideal for my work. Particularly the modules of Black Feminist Theory; Pauli Murray and; Finitude, Risk and Vulnerability (especially in relation to the doctrine of the suffering of the black community). Not only were these topics prominent for my work, but for my personal experience as a black female. Learning more about the culture and becoming more confident in the person and identity that I am.
I was able to preach in a new space, to present ideas, and to facilitate conversations. I was able to debate, engage in dialogues, experience food and culture, and all in a community as rich in diversity as it is in God’s grace. All in all, I made and continue to have great friendships! It has been an amazing experience. I pray others are able to be formed and enjoy the richness of the relationship between Westcott House and Yale Divinity.
Shana Maloney |Ordinand | Westcott House | London Diocese