DIVINITY: What benefits are emerging from the students’ interdisciplinary research interests?
HALL: Our students are pursuing questions as diverse as evangelism in Asia and health and embodiment in the U.S. They are bringing together all that a major research university such as Duke offers.
They are taking courses in The Divinity School, but also from the history, English, and comparative literature departments. They come together for one seminar a year to focus on a set of texts in practical theology. The combination of interests and gifts is proving quite electric.
DIVINITY:As new members of The Divinity School community, what do these students bring to intellectual and spiritual life?
HALL: The students in our first class each have spent at least three years in sustained ministry, forming wise questions that are already informing their studies. They are genuinely gifted for ministry, and have discerned a holy call back into the stacks of the library—so that they might serve their callings in new ways.
In addition, the faculty anticipate they will serve as preceptors with pastoral wisdom and intellectual vigor.
DIVINITY: After completing the doctoral program, what contributions do you envision these students will make within the church and the academy?
HALL: The current group of students represents scholars who already have served as missionaries and ministers, in fields as varied as health care and youth work. I anticipate that they will be highly sought as faculty in ecclesial colleges and seminaries.
Their attitude is a witness: They insist, when people ask, that God will find a way for them to be “put to use.” Through their witness, I have been reminded to be more Wesleyan.
DIVINITY: As you look ahead at the challenges inherent in starting a new program, how do you envision the future for the Th.D.?
HALL: This is an ambitious new program. While some scholars have put up fences, we are criss-crossing fields of inquiry. Our students are going to need to be nimble, knowing how to translate across fields.
They will need to be apologists of a sort, explaining that their intellectual pursuits and their ecclesial passions are actually consonant, not conflicting. But, as I get to know these amazing pastors, I am clear that they are up for the task. I consider it a blessing and honor to be of use to them.