Columbia Seminary…and decisions.

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It’s been a good weekend, and it’s winding down, now. We saw old friends and made some new ones. Grady got to go to chapel (his favorite — he’ll make a good PK). I thought visiting Columbia Theological Seminary (in Decatur, GA) would make the decision easier. I think I came with my mind pretty much made up (in favor of Princeton), and now it is less so.

Of the three seminaries we decided to visit (and apply to), this is the last. Incidentally, if you want to see how family friendly a school is, bring your wife and two-year-old son along for their “preview weekend.” You’ll probably be the only ones with a child there, but you’ll learn quickly who’s for real, and who just talks about “community.”

Anyhow, when we visited Austin seminary, it didn’t seem right. It’s a good school, and so many pastors I know speak highly of it, but it just wasn’t what we were looking for in a seminary.

Which leaves Princeton Theological Seminary (to which I’ve been accepted) and Columbia (for which I’ll be staying up late tonight and completing my application). We like both, and for different reasons. Many things seem about equal between the two, but there are three critical areas that are shaping up to be deciding factors:

(factors) Princeton Columbia
Intellectual Atmosphere Definitely a place where academia and intellectual pursuit are valued, even cherished. Good groundwork for eventual PhD. To me, this is favorable. Less emphasis placed on cultivating an intellectual & academic atmosphere and more on pragmatism — Education seems to be more a means to an end rather than a valid pursuit in its own right. To me, this is unfavorable.
Administration Tradition is important here, almost too much so. Institution seems somewhat hierarchical in nature, and possibly resistant to student input, change and/or new direction. To me, this is unfavorable. Administration seems very accessible, and cultivates an atmosphere of openness to change and new direction. Student input seems welcomed and even encouraged. To me, this is favorable.
Dual Degree Program Dual degree in Education is offered here, completely in-house and integrated with M.Div — but I might not be accepted into it. As such, this is still an undetermined factor. Not much of a dual degree program. Public Policy is the only option offered, and it seems somewhat disorganized. To me, this is unfavorable.

The first two kind of cancel each other out (or at least I don’t see much likelihood of either school shifting in the opposite direction), so it’s looking like things may eventually hinge on the dual degree program. If I’m accepted into it, Princeton gains a definite edge. If not, we’re back to square one and all things being more or less equal between the two. I won’t know until March, so…that means more waiting.

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6 Responses to Columbia Seminary…and decisions.

  1. pastor ellen says:

    Princeton. Definitely. No contest.
    You are exceptional, not medocre. The education you will get at Princeton will stretch you/your faith in every way. You MUST take your wife on that academic journey as much as you can so that the two of you will grow and change in a parallel. Share your lectures, readings, and insights with her regularly. Encourage her to take some classes there.
    I expect nothing but the stars from you. The Christian camp needs you. And you will be taken more seriously with a piece of paper from Princeton.
    Living in N.J. last year, we were just 30 minutes from Princeton. It is awesome. You are up to it.

  2. Jeff Locke says:

    That is a tough one Neal. However, you have already done the Georgia experience once.

  3. Neal says:

    Yeah, Jeff–and look what I got while I was there: Emily, Joey, and you! Definitely worth the trip.

  4. Ginger says:

    When in March?

  5. Dante says:

    Princeton, so I can point and laugh at you due to the irony…

    But in all seriousness, I would choose Princeton. My mother would go off on a tangant on why NYC isn’t the best place in the world.

  6. Debbie says:

    Hi Mr. Locke,

    I am trying to make a decision between Columbia and Louisville seminary–unfortunately I didn’t get to Princeton in time for an interview with the early deadline. Anyway, I am a mother of young children and am considering many of the same things you are considering. I’ve heard that Princeton is more academic, but Columbia has some really excellent preachers, so it’s great training for parish ministry. If you have heard or experienced anymore with either seminary (and including Louisville) I’d love to compare notes.

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