(E)pistle: From ‘Low-Res’ to ‘Hy-brid’

There are two ways one can get their seminary degree.  One is to live at the seminary and take classes in person, the “residential” approach.  This is the traditional way one trains for ministry and it has its definite advantages—getting to know in person one’s teachers and fellow students, participating in community worship, emersion in a larger academic community (in this case UCBerkely and other denomination schools on “Holy Hill”).  

But taking three years out of one’s life is often an impossibility for many of our students today.  For them, we offer a “low residency” program.  This takes a bit longer, and still requires students to be on campus for two, two-week sessions each year.  But it gives them the opportunity to do most of their degree work online.

It’s a sign of the times that most of our student body uses this option, as the process of distance learning has been accelerated and improved as a result of the realities of COVID.  This trend towards digital work and education affects affects all of us. I believe we now have the best low residency program of any of the Episcopal seminaries, and it is getting better all the time as we find new ways of providing that community spirit and pastoral connection of the traditional residential model.

There was only one problem- the students in this program really didn’t like the term “low res.”  Maybe it was the adjective “low,” it sounded to them as if they we regarded as second-class seminarians—which they certainly are not!  So we had a little contest. They submitted quite a few alternative names, and finally voted to be henceforth known as “hybrid” students.   

I like their choice.  Being a seminarian is hard, and probably even harder when one is trying to balance the demands of family, job, and school.  Those students who are training in that fashion deserve as much credit for their dedication and hard work as their residential counterparts.  Their time on campus may be low, but their faithfulness and devotion are high.  Thank you hybrid students, you bless us by your presence in person and online!