Monday, June 27, 2011

So Meadville/Lombard Has a Home

And (at least from my parsonage chair in Burbania) it looks like a good one!  M/L will be moving out of the old neighborhood to downtown digs owned by the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.  Seminaries are struggling everywhere.  It is nice that M/L found somewhere to settle. 

At first glance, the new location has some obvious advantages.  Since M/L seems to have pretty much given up on its residential program, the connections to Hyde Park are no doubt less central.   When I attended, I took a majority of my courses either at the University of Chicago or the "Hyde Park Cluster" of seminaries.  These were very important connections for me and I wouldn't have attended M/L without them.  Of course, that train left the station well before now. 

In the current "TouchPoint" program, students are there for shorter periods of time with fewer needs or opportunities to interact with these other institutions in long-term or meaningful ways.  Now short-term housing is necessary.  Non-seminary attractions need to be more like the ones that bring folks to GA than the ones that encourage long-term residency.  I never visited Navy Pier when I was a Meadville/Lombard student.  I did go to the grocery store. However, when I attended intensives as part of my ACTS DMin Program, Navy Pier was a fun and regular weekend distraction.  It also doesn't hurt to have a classroom-with-a-view.  I hope the architect at Spertus put in some nice ones facing Grant Park.

This is not to say that there isn't a flip side.  As I said, if I were a 23 year-old looking for a seminary, I wouldn't consider M/L now.  I would go to a place with the strong residential program and resources of the old model and location.  I didn't want to visit Chicago.  I wanted to live there.  When I was M/L seminarian, though, I was the second-youngest student in my entering class, which had an average age higher than my current age.  Perhaps for institutional health this is an important move.  Perhaps for the health of the movement it is important to provide UU-specific training to prospective UU ministers. 

However, I do hope that in the midst of selling this new era in theological education people take the time to remember that what we had was good and worthy, too.  Neither the past nor the present are better.  They are just different from each other.  When something is gained (even something good) something is lost as well.

Here is the link to the announcement in the UU World.  I couldn't find anything on the Meadville Lombard Home Page.  That may just be a function of having made the announcement at GA.

Also, here is the website of M/L's new landlord.  It is unclear the extent to which the two institutions will be collaborating, but that would be nice, wouldn't it?

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