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Co-op Model: Looking forward to Urban/Rural Settings

New MDiv Co-op student Alex Zuber looks forward to Urban/Rural Settings for Learning

AlexZubar-webAlex Zuber, a new Philadelphia Seminary (LTSP) Master of Divinity — Co-operative Model (Co-op) student, once thought he wanted to become a physician. A resident of Roanoke, Virginia, Zuber was majoring in public health education at James Madison University, intent on specializing in pediatric cardiology.

“It didn’t take long for me to figure out I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor,” Zuber explained. “I began to discover that relating to patients would be the best part, rather than the actual practice of medicine.”

Zuber said he began to seriously discern a call to parish ministry four years ago during his freshman and sophomore years in college. “I talked about it with my Mom over tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant,” he said with a smile. “And I opened my heart to the voices in my life who were saying I had the gifts for ministry.” One of the first voices to raise the notion of such gifts had been the Rev. Scott Mims, now a pastor in Virginia Beach, during a confirmation interview with Alex. The interview took place at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Roanoke. Also influential was the Rev. Dave Delaney, a Virginia Synod assistant to the bishop, who directs youth and young adult ministries.

Zuber took several years to search for a seminary while finishing up college. “The idea of studying in a major urban center like Philadelphia really appealed to me,” Zuber said. “I was also excited to be a part of LTSP’s new Co-op program, and to be part of how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is re-evaluating approaches to seminary education. It just seems that the Co-op program is a new and innovative approach to learning lessons both in the classroom and a congregation.”

The Co-op model enables seminarians to complete their studies in three years, rather than four. Zuber and eight other colleagues who are part of the initiative’s first year in 2014-15, will engage in classroom study Tuesday through Thursday and serve a congregation Friday through Monday. Zuber anticipates serving Stoney Man Parish in Luray, Virginia, a collaborative of two congregations, Grace and Beth Eden Lutheran Churches, now served by one congregation council. Zuber’s supervising pastor will be the Rev. Nick Eichelberger.

In his initial orientation, Zuber’s excitement is growing. “My Co-op colleagues are all from different situations, and I anticipate learning a lot from them,” he said. “I also look forward to the bigger experience of taking classes in the city and working in a rural congregational setting. It sounds like a fun dichotomy.” The drive to Luray takes four hours one way, but Zuber looks at the trip as “a strong personal time for reflecting about things. I’m a hands-on type of person, and I think I will learn best using the Co-op approach.”

He thinks his background majoring in health education will be an advantage when he takes up Clinical Pastoral Education in a clinical setting. Most of all, Zuber is excited about serving as a parish pastor. “I like the ELCA’s approach to Word and Sacrament ministry,” he said. “A ministry celebrating the body and blood of Jesus Christ has a way of bringing people together. Through such a ministry amazing things can happen.”

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