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Students engage faith and politics in the National Capital Semester for Seminarians

Feb 10 2012

Politics and religion: these topics may be known colloquially as subjects to avoid during polite conversation, but at Wesley they are known as the subjects of choice for the National Capital Semester for Seminarians (NCSS) class. This class, held every spring, is a seminar-style class that examines ethics, theology, and public policy through a combination of in-class lecture and discussion, as well as field visits to and internships at various organizations engaged in policy research, advocacy, and implementation throughout Washington, DC. Students who take part in NCSS are given a unique opportunity to engage the often contentious interface of faith and politics at a deeper level than most church-goers or politicians who debate these issues seem to be willing to explore.
 
NCSS is opened up to seminary students not only at Wesley or even across Washington, DC through the Washington Theological Consortium, but is an opportunity offered to students from seminaries all over the country who are invited to come to spend a semester in the nation’s capital.
 
Wesley alumna Allison Smith, Master of Theological Studies (MTS), class of 2010, remarks on what she considered to be a particular blessing of the NCSS class: “NCSS gave me an opportunity to connect with students from other seminaries across the country - resulting in some amazing relationships that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.  Also, the dynamic of the class was really incredible - it offered hands on experience working in the intersection of faith and public policy, which was really valuable to me since the MTS program doesn’t have a Practicum in Ministry and Mission component.”
 
The NCSS field experiences and internships have taken students to places such as The White House, The Supreme Court, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United Methodist General Board for Church and Society, as well as the Newseum, Children's Defense Fund, and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
 
This spring, students participating in NCSS will have the bonus opportunity of experiencing the interface of faith and politics during a Presidential election year in Washington, DC. A more dynamic background may not be imaginable for students to engage in developing a ‘public theology,’ as the NCSS program encourages. Through development of this public theology, the community of faith engages a political system and decision-making process beyond the often-empty political rhetoric of invoking faith and religion to sway public opinion, and instead witnesses to God’s restorative justice and offers a ‘prophetic voice to the public square!’

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