Oregon Synod Lay School of Theology
Want to dive deeper into our faith traditions and listen for how the Spirit is guiding us now?
Living out the principle of the “priesthood of all believers,” the Lay School of Theology fosters an empowered and educated laity, where theological reflection and community building are available to all.
The school originated as a series of courses to equip our SALMs (synod-authorized lay ministers) and quickly grew into a program that facilitates lifelong learning for lay people from congregations around Oregon. Typically 25-30 folks gather one evening a week for four, six, or eight weeks over Zoom, to explore and learn together. We are encouraged to bring our whole selves to the table together with our sacred curiosity. Participation and relationship-building are prioritized.
These courses are not meant to replicate seminary, but they do provide vital opportunities for deep engagement, spiritual practice, critical thinking, and holy listening for what it all means in today’s world. Through these courses, relationships are growing between curious, creative, and mature faith leaders across the state. Recent courses have included:
- Invitations Into Liberation
- Parables as Invitation
- Discernment: In Solitude and Community
- Death and Dying
- Finding Liturgy in Life and Life in Liturgy
- Engaging Conflict for Growth
- Coming Home to Earth: an Evangelical Lutheran Perspective on Faith and Ecology
The courses are facilitated by an ever-growing list of guest instructors from across the synod. They are offered in fall, winter, and spring, with occasional additional offerings. During the courses, participants engage in spiritual practices in the intentional and deep ways for which people in our communities are hungry. Vicky Hart, who has participated in several of the lay education courses including the one on liturgy, describes her experience as transformative:
This [class] woke up something in me…it helped me find new meaning and richness in something that I’d previously done by rote without much thought. This was an opportunity to think more about the meaning-making, the context, the connection to cultures, and the ways we act them out in our lives. It brought new life to the things we do on a daily basis. These classes give us entry points into conversation with our ancestors in a way that might not happen otherwise. Each of these courses has allowed me to be an adult with a brain, heart, and body and to think critically about my beliefs rather than passively consuming them. This community has made me feel less alone. Being able to be in a community of other people who want to show up and dig deep into what we believe, why we believe it, and where it all came from has provided a deep sense of connection and called me out of isolation.
We believe that faith isn’t something to simply be consumed but to be explored, examined, and fully experienced within the context of our community. Every person deserves the kind of depth offered in these classes. Courses are designed with a Lutheran lens and inclusive heart; all are invited to participate. One of the riches of these courses is the community and diversity around the table, including varied life experiences, church experiences, images and language for God, and more. We try to practice deep generosity with one another, knowing that we most often meet Christ through authentic encounters with others. There is no limit to what we can learn from each other when we enter into genuine conversation and expansive spiritual community.
We invite you to join us in the ongoing process of faithfully learning and unlearning together!