Co-op Program enjoys strong first year, anticipates expanding
The new Master of Divinity — Co-operative Model (Co-op) at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) enjoyed a highly successful first year, according to the Rev. David Jordon, director.
“The traditional model of seminary education has placed seminarians in the classroom for two years while they engage in some field work, then placed them on a full-time year-long internship in a congregation, then brought them back to a final fully year in the classroom,” Jordon explained.
“The new model features three full years of school rather than four, where the seminarian is assigned to a congregation for part of the week while spending part of the week in the classroom,” Jordon said.
“The idea is that Co-op students can immediately apply their classroom learning to a congregational setting simultaneously,” Jordon continued. “The initiative makes sense financially too because we can give seminarians more financial support through remuneration where they serve and complete their seminary training in three years rather than four. And we’re finding that to be a really positive development as well.”
Twelve seminarians were interested in the program this past year, and the seminary managed to find placements in congregations for six of them — in Connecticut, Virginia, and at closer sites in places like Baltimore, Maryland, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Fairview Village (Montgomery County), Pennsylvania.
First year seminarian Alex Zuber was placed in two Luray, Virginia, churches through the cooperation of the Virginia Synod bishop and staff. Zuber serves and leads worship in the two parishes each week under the supervision of a pastor who serves at a nearby congregation. The congregations where Zuber serves do not currently have a pastor in place. “It is a challenge because it is a bit of a commute to Virginia,” Jordon explained. “But Alex is from Virginia, and he is genuinely enjoying his role in the congregations he serves.” Zuber is in class three or four days a week and in Virginia the rest of the time.
Serving rapidly growing Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairview Village is Micah Krey, who likes the Co-op model “because it is fast-paced,” he said. “I completed my studies at Lenoir-Rhyne College early, in three years, and I was involved in many things — choirs, a fraternity, student government, serving as a mentor and a tutor. I like the Co-op program because you get to work on many things at once and apply them all together. When I’ve had a preaching class, I can use those skills at Trinity Church immediately. When I’ve learned pastoral care I go right away into people’s homes and apply what I’ve learned. In this program you get to try a lot of things you have been learning, and if you fail in some way you just get up and try again.”
For many years, Micah Krey could never have imagined himself as a pastor.
“I come from a family of pastors,” he said. “My dad is a pastor. His dad was a pastor. His brothers are pastors and my sister is a pastor and her husband is a pastor. So the last thing I wanted to be was a pastor. I grew up loving the church but never felt a calling toward it.”
In college and away from home for the first time, he said he began to lose touch with who he was. “I stopped going to church and my life kind of nose-dived,” he said. After graduating from college he traveled thousands of miles working for a time as a leadership consultant for his fraternity. “I found myself longing for home while I was working in Los Angeles and traveling around,” he said. He saw many beautiful parts of the country in the Rockies, Washington state, and Arizona, where he visited the Grand Canyon. “Much of it was beautiful, but something was missing,” he said. He began going to church again, and while worshiping at a congregation near the University of Idaho, he began to feel at home in the congregation’s rural, mountainous setting “for the first time in years. I began to feel a sense of hope and a call toward the church and to ordained ministry.”
Soon he was applying to LTSP, and has found a home in the Co-op program, seeing some of his professors, familiar to him in his growing-up years, in a new light.
“LTSP is an amazing place,” he said. “It is such an ecumenical space that provides many ways to view your faith and learn how to teach it. Professors from Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran backgrounds will all teach you something different about faith, and you can develop your own theological story. You get to test out your understanding of theology and why you believe the way you do, getting a deeper perspective on your own tradition.”
Trinity pastor Kim Guiser explained he has found it an honor to work with a young candidate for ministry like Micah Krey. “The congregation really has developed a sense of responsibility for its place in the church through its role in preparing a student like Micah, and he has meant a lot to us.”
Micah explained that sometimes Pastor Guiser lets him visit with the congregation’s leadership. “It is really the lay people who have a significant role in developing the ministries of the church, such as working with the homeless, and running a nursery school with 200 students,” he explained. “I get to listen to them and learn about their passion for the faith. Trinity is an amazing congregation, and I am so happy to be such a part of it.”
Seminarian Micah Krey talks about his first year in the Co-op Program
Vicar Alex Zubar in the congregation: