Divinity Courses

ISM Divinity Courses, 2017-2018

See the bulletins of the School of Music and the Divinity School for full course listings and degree requirements. Courses listed here may be cross-listed in other schools or departments. 

The letter “a” following the course number denotes the fall term; the letter “b” denotes the spring term.

Courses fulfilling the distribution requirements for Institute students pursuing the M.Div. are indicated with a letter representing the subject area: W (Worship), M (Music), and/or A (Visual Arts or Literature). In the School of Music, courses designated NP are nonperformance courses. Courses designated P/F will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. See the Schools’ respective bulletins for full explanation.

Courses are 3 credits unless otherwise indicated.

REL 3910a–b, Colloquium 0.5 credit per term. P/F. Participation in seminars led by faculty and guest lecturers on topics concerning theology, music, worship, and related arts. Required of all Institute of Sacred Music students. Martin D. Jean

REL 607a, The Theology of Vatican II This course focuses on the key texts of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) and the theological vision they contain, especially with regard to the nature of the church, the liturgy, the Scriptures, the role of the church in the world, and religious pluralism. The Second Vatican Council constituted the most important moment in the life of the Roman Catholic Church in the twentieth century. Students study the key texts of the Council with emphasis on theological developments that preceded them and made the texts possible. And, for certain conciliar documents, the class examines their reception history in the fifty years since the Council ended. The course is thus not only an inquiry into historical theology but also an engagement with the Catholic tradition in the twenty-first century. (W) Teresa Berger

REL 611b, History of American Evangelical Worship This course examines the history and development of American Evangelical worship from the eighteenth century to the present day. Topics include the shift in sacramental theology between the First and Second Great Awakenings, the liturgical legacy of early-twentieth-century Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies, Pentecostal contributions to evangelical worship, ways in which race and gender have shaped evangelical identity, and evangelical approaches to liturgical renewal at the beginning of the twenty-first century. (W) Melanie C. Ross

REL 635a, What Is a Sacrament? What is a sacrament, and what does it do? Why do Christian traditions view them so differently? How do sacraments relate to fields of study like Christology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology? This course addresses these questions in an array of historical periods and theological traditions. All students are welcome; no prior background in liturgical studies is required. (W) Melanie C. Ross

REL 643a/MUS 617a, Music and Theology in the Sixteenth Century The Reformation in the sixteenth century was a “media event.” The invention of the printing press, the partisanship of famous artists like Dürer and Cranach, and—not least—the support by musicians and composers were responsible for the spreading of the ideas of the Reformation. While Luther gave an important place to music within the liturgy, Zwingli and Calvin were much more skeptical, and even the Catholic church, in the Council of Trent, reconsidered the place and form of music within the liturgy. The course explores how music was viewed by the reformers and the Catholic church and analyzes the theological decisions that formed the basis for their views. (M) Markus Rathey

REL 656a, Designing and Curating Worship The purpose of this course is to provide training in the practice of planning, curating, and leading Christian worship in parish or congregational settings, and also in broader contexts. The course reviews all the major elements of liturgical/worship planning, including attention to the use of space and light, architectural detailing, the relationship between bodies and space, the inclusion of the congregation in worship design, and how context guides worship planning. Class sessions are devoted to discussion of how all these elements are put into practice in various different denominational settings, as well as in new settings (e.g., emergent, postmodern, Alternative Worship, para-church, etc.). The course also draws extensively from the world of the arts, including insights from dramaturgy, interior design, theater, and music, to understand worship as an event in space and time, not a lifeless script. (W) Maggi E. Dawn

REL 680b, The Churches of the East: The Greek Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church, and the Church of the East This course gives an introduction to the different Churches of the East. It examines the Christological controversies that caused the divisions between the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East, using primary documents in English translation. It then focuses on the liturgies of the Byzantine, Syrian Orthodox, and Assyrian (Church of the East) Churches, using primary liturgical texts, classical commentaries of each tradition, and secondary sources from modern liturgical scholarship. (W) Ramez Mikhail, Bryan D. Spinks

REL 682a, Foundations of Christian Worship The core course in Liturgical Studies. The course focuses on theological and historical approaches to the study of Christian worship, with appropriate attention to cultural context and contemporary issues. The first part of the course seeks to familiarize students with the foundations of communal, public prayer in the Christian tradition (such as its roots in Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament; its Trinitarian source and direction; its ways of figuring time, space, and human embodiment; its use of language, music, the visual arts, etc.). The second part offers a sketch of historical developments, from earliest Christian communities to present times. In addition, select class sessions focus on questions of overall importance for liturgical life, such as the relationship between gender differences and worship life, and the contemporary migration of liturgical practices into cyberspace. (W) Bryan D. Spinks, Melanie C. Ross

REL 687a, English Reformation Liturgical Traditions and the Evolution of the Books of Common Prayer This course falls into two sections. The first covers the period 1500–1789 and is concerned with the development and theologies of the Reformation liturgical traditions in England and Scotland. The second is concerned with the specifically Anglican tradition, with the impact of the Tractarian and Liturgical Movements to the present. It compares the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and Enriching Our Worship with The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland, 2004. (W) Bryan D. Spinks

REL 690b, Liturgical Theology This seminar proposes for scholarly inquiry key texts and themes in theological reflections on Christian worship. We probe some of the voices that initially defined the field in the twentieth century, asking: What is “theological” about this reflection on worship? How is the relationship between Christian faith and cultural context understood? What has been occluded in most traditional definitions of “liturgical theology”? Who is absent, and who cannot be rendered visible, within the traditional framework? We also keep our eyes open to theologies of worship embedded in actual, local congregational practices. These practices are integrated into the work of the seminar through visits to distinctly different worshipping communities during the course of the term. (W) Melanie C. Ross

REL 693b, Gender and Liturgy The basic questions pursued in this course are: How have gender differences shaped liturgical practices, and how does gender continue to inflect Christian worship? The category “gender” will be understood to attend to all gendered identities and sexualities, and thus go beyond binary femininity and masculinity to include all gendered particularities (e.g., eunuchs in Byzantium, or people with intersex conditions in North America today, as well as men and women). This course, then, investigates how liturgical history was profoundly shaped by, and itself shaped and continues to shape gendered lives and symbolic meanings associated with gender identities. Given the breadth of the subject matter, the course attends to a spectrum of themes related to gender and liturgy, yet has to do so quite selectively. Overall, the course seeks to create space for a nuanced reflection on gender-specific themes in the liturgical past, as both backdrop and resource for contemporary gender-based concerns in the worship life of Christian communities. (W) Teresa Berger

REL 695a, Daily Prayer: Liturgical Developments, Theological Principles, Contemporary Practices This seminar inquires into the rich tradition of rhythms, materials, and practices of daily prayer that have developed and continue to develop in Christian communities. The course is organized around three main foci: questions of historical development; basic theological convictions and material sources that have shaped practices of daily prayer; and the contemporary cultural context, including digitally mediated practices as these influence forms of daily prayer. (W) Teresa Berger

REL 750a, Object Lessons: Material and Aesthetic Formation in the American Sunday School Through a focus on the material culture of Christian education, this course explores the history of the American Sunday school. Tracing the development of the pious pedagogical method known as the “object lesson,” the course examines the relationship between seemingly spiritual performances such as prayer, memorization, and the sensation of sacred presence, and material things such as picture cards, finger games, and optical devices. The overarching theme of the course is aesthetic formation, or the particular ways in which pedagogical techniques attune the senses to certain experiences of divine presence and sacred immediacy. Grounded in questions of materiality and sensation, the course relates the formation of Protestant religious instruction to the broader fields of advertising, popular culture, museum display, racial classification, and foreign missions. (W, A) Anderson Blanton

REL 801a–b, Marquand Chapel Choir 1 credit per term. Nathaniel Gumbs

REL 802a–b, Marquand Gospel Choir 0.5 credit per term. Mark Miller

REL 825b, Music Skills and Vocal Development for Parish Ministry This course is designed to help those training for lay and ordained ministry to improve their musical and vocal skills as part of the larger process of their transformation into living instruments of God. The course is comprised of three components: skill development, spiritual formation, and theological reflection. (M) Awet Andemicael

REL 901b, Modern Faith This course addresses issues of faith using the work of various modern artists and thinkers. Some of the questions raised include: Is there such a thing as a “modern” faith? What does the language we use have to do with what and how we believe, and is that language amenable to change? What is the role of art with regard to personal and collective belief? What is devotional doubt? And how does one change one’s life? Students become familiar with various modern artists and thinkers who have engaged issues of faith; gain a clearer sense of what art has to do with faith and how they might use this knowledge in their own lives; learn to analyze the readings theologically and to explain how they relate to and differ from each other; and achieve a clearer sense of what they mean when they use words like faith, belief, prayer, devotion, and God. Consequently, they learn to better articulate their own faiths. (A) Christian Wiman

REL 912a/MUS 672a, Sacred Music: Unity and Diversity What is “sacred music”? The answer depends on the individual perspective, denominational affliation, and also personal musical taste. The course takes an ethnographic approach and explores the use, understanding, and function of sacred music in different local congregations in New Haven. The work in the classroom provides the theoretical and methodological basis, while students each visit one local congregation from a denomination different from their own over several weeks. Students observe the musical practices and engage with members of the clergy and community about questions of “the sacred in music” and the function of music in worship and devotional life. A particular focus of the course is on music that does not represent the Western musical canon. Students conduct and evaluate their research during the term and present their results in a small symposium at the end of the term. (M) Markus Rathey

REL 915a, Faith-[In]forming: Christian Poetics for the Twenty-First Century This course centers on the question: Is a Christian poetics for the twenty-first century needed, or even possible, and if so what would it look like? From this guiding question students consider what the designation “Christian” means for theories of literature and literary-critical practices, and how other approaches to literary studies support or challenge the endeavor to formulate a Christian poetics. The first half of the course frames the study, drawing first upon classic statements on the nature of literary creation and interpretation, then turning to various efforts by twentieth- and twenty-first-century Christian writers and critics to describe a Christian poetics or theology of language (theopoetics) for modernity and postmodernity. From this theoretical framework, the second half of the course is devoted to critical practices. Students examine the poetry and critical thought of several twentieth- and twenty-first-century poets, paying particular attention to form and how religious faith informs poetic vision and poetic statement, as well as critical reading. The last two of these poetic sequences are not by poets writing from a faith perspective and so provide the opportunity to test the broader application of a Christian poetics to literary studies. (A) David Mahan

REL 943a, Performance behind Bars: Sacred Music, Sacred Texts, and Social Justice The course meets in a maximum-security prison where students collaborate with incarcerated men on the creation of performances of theater and music inspired by their collective reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Students learn how to apply their skills as writers or performing artists to a real-world situation and gain knowledge of the American criminal justice system and its relevance to Dante’s poem from a unique perspective behind bars. (A) Ronald S. Jenkins

REL 944a, Religious Themes in Contemporary American Short Fiction This course provides a broad look at the twentieth- and twenty-first-century American short story with interest in both its particular narrative genre and its incorporation of Christian and Jewish religious traditions, especially the Bible. Writers studied include both short story “masters” (O’Connor, Cheever, Updike, Raymond Carver) and relative newcomers (Junot Díaz, Jamie Quatro, Kirstin Valdez Quade). (A) Peter S. Hawkins

REL 945a, From House Churches to Medieval Cathedrals: Christian Art and Architecture from the Third Century to the End of Gothic This course examines the art associated with, or related to, Christianity from its origins to the end of Gothic. It analyzes major artistic monuments and movements in a variety of regions, paying particular attention to how art shapes and is shaped by the social and historical circumstances of the period and culture. The class considers art in diverse media, focusing on painting, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts. Trips to the Yale Art Gallery and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library are included. The course aims to familiarize students with key monuments of Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, and related arts, analyzing each within its particular sociocultural and theological perspective. The course stresses the importance of looking at works of art closely and in context and encourages students to develop skills of close observation and critical visual analysis. Additionally, students are encouraged to examine the ways parallel developments in Christian theology, dogma, and liturgy are influenced by art. (A) Vasileios Marinis, Sally M. Promey

REL 947b, Christian Art and Architecture from the Renaissance to the Present This course examines art associated with, or related to, Christianity from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century. It analyzes major artistic monuments and movements in a variety of regions, paying particular attention to how art shapes and is shaped by the social and historical circumstances of the period and culture. The course aims to familiarize students with key monuments of Christian architecture, sculpture, painting, and related arts, examining each within its particular sociocultural and theological perspective. The course stresses the importance of looking at works of art closely and in context and encourages student to develop skills of close observation and critical visual analysis. Additionally, students are encouraged to examine the ways developments in Christian theology, doctrine, and liturgical practice interact with visual and material arts. Regular readings from the text are complemented by in-depth class lectures and discussions. Special attention is given to examples of Christian art and architecture in the greater New Haven area. (A) Vasileios Marinis, Sally M. Promey

REL 949b, Spiritual Topographies in Modern Poetry and Fiction This course examines the role of place, and physical space, as both setting and trope in modern/postmodern poetry and fiction. Beginning with notions of sacred space(s) from Scripture, the course examines works of poetry by a range of poets including R.S. Thomas, Denise Levertov, Mary Karr, Wendell Berry, and Ilya Kaminsky, and the novels Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, Home by Marilynne Robinson, Native Son by Richard Wright, and Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy. Through close readings of these works, the course considers how meaning is conveyed through the author’s development of physical locations and spaces as a mirror of spiritual journey and human longing and as windows into the human condition. Themes of the sacred and the profane, the material and the transcendent, good and evil, home and homelessness, and identity and transformation are among the theologically important questions that arise from this study. (A) David Mahan

REL 955b, The Cult of Saints in Early Christianity and the Middle Ages For all its reputed (and professed) disdain of the corporeal and earthly, Christianity lavished considerable attention and wealth on the material dimension of sainthood and the “holy” during its formative periods in late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Already in the second century Christian communities accorded special status to a select few “friends of God,” primarily martyrs put to death during Roman persecutions. Subsequently the public and private veneration of saints and their earthly remains proliferated, intensified, and became an intrinsic aspect of Christian spirituality and life in both East and West until the Reformation. To do so, it had to gradually develop a theology to accommodate everything from fingers of saints to controversial and miracle-working images. This course investigates the theology, origins, and development of the cult of saints in early Christianity and the Middle Ages with special attention to its material manifestations. The class combines the examination of thematic issues, such as pilgrimage and the use and function of reliquaries (both portable and architectural), with a focus on such specific cases as the evolution of the cult of the Virgin Mary. (A) Felicity Harley-McGowan, Vasileios Marinis

REL 962b, Performing Rituals in East Asian Traditions This course examines a number of ritual practices in religious, philosophical, or cosmological traditions associated with East Asia: Buddhism, Shamanism, Confucianism, and, in the more recent centuries, Christianity. Students explore how these particular rituals—from Buddhist chants to shamanist performances, Confucian ceremonies, and Christian prayers—were and are enacted as scripted or improved performances of bodies, voices, and instruments and what meanings they have had for the practitioners. The course takes a case-study approach, selecting particular forms of past and contemporary ritual practices from a much wider spectrum. Students are also guided to understand how such rituals have been recontextualized and repurposed in the course of East Asia’s pursuit of nationhood, modernization, and globalization in the twentieth century. Given the interdisciplinary nature of this class, readings are drawn from religious studies, ethnomusicology, anthropology, and East Asian studies. (W) Hyun Kyong Hannah Chang

REL 971b, Creative Faith: A Writing Course Students work on different forms of “spiritual” prose, leading toward a longer final project. This final essay may take the form of spiritual autobiography, but it might also be more outward-focused, employing criticism, biography, or other method. This course is part seminar and part workshop. About a third is devoted to the reading and analysis of exemplary works of art. “Exemplary” in this context means, first of all, works of art that are works of art and not merely examples of spiritual writing. “Reading”—again, in this context—means reading as writers, which can be both predatory and infinitely sympathetic (often at the same time), but in any event is quite different from reading as a scholar. The remaining time is devoted to discussing work done by students in the class. (A) Christian Wiman

REL 975a, Gospel Music in the Church and World This seminar analyzes contemporary African American gospel music as it is currently implemented for liturgy, evangelism, and popular consumption. Beyond analysis of key musical and lyrical characteristics of gospel, this class gives attention to the religious and sociocultural contexts that inform gospel composition and performance. Black American gospel music is integrally connected, if not inextricably linked, to the liturgical and theological traditions of black American Pentecostals, Baptists, and Methodists. Consequently, this course is also a musical introduction to African American Christianity, and especially to African American Pentecostalism, which is the faith tradition that a majority of contemporary national gospel artists claim. Finally, the global resonances of this music are explored. Classes include interactive demonstrations in addition to discussion of audio/video recordings, other primary source material, and other required texts. Students also engage in participant observation of church services and music performances. (M) Charrise Barron

REL 977b, Poetry for Ministry This course is aimed at future ministers, church leaders, other students who may be entering related careers, and the occasional wild-eyed prophet. It is designed to teach students how to use poetry everywhere from the pulpit to street corners, from hospitals to weddings, to your own most urgent prayers. A working assumption of the course is that we can only speak of God metaphorically, so it makes sense to employ the art in which metaphorical language is most developed. A second assumption is that, since much of the Bible is in verse, a knowledge of poetry in general will make one a better reader of the Bible. And a final assumption is that the aesthetic experience of worship has declined in this country, and that while this decline might not be the cause of religious attrition in general, it is probably related. Poetry can help with this. The course offers a combination of lectures, seminar discussions, and workshops. (A) Maggi E. Dawn, Christian Wiman

REL 990a, Challenges of Survival: The Worship Life of Egypt’s Coptic Christians and Its Continuity to the Modern Era This course explores the life of the Coptic community under various rulers, and how the Coptic Church functioned as a worshiping community despite the various attempts throughout history to curtail its freedom of assembly and worship. This is accomplished mainly through the reading of primary sources in translation. The course concludes with an exploration of the current situation of the Coptic Church after the Arab Spring and the increase in Islamic fundamentalism, particularly as these broader political issues impact the Coptic Church’s worship tradition. (W) Ramez Mikhail