Understanding the Thresholds
At Starr King School for the Ministry, our overall goal is to help each person prepare for religious leadership, within a multi-religious and counter-oppressive context. Towards that end, students will develop competency in each of the eight threshold areas described below.
Each threshold corresponds to the traditional disciplines and fields of religious study at the Graduate Theological Union (noted in bold, and in historically Christian language).
In 2014-2015 Starr King faculty created a series of learning outcomes for each threshold as part of its assessment study for the Association of Theological Schools. These learning outcomes will be used to support and document students’ progress in each threshold area.
Students will consult and work with their advisors to ensure they meet these learning outcomes. In their first year, they will conduct a Threshold Review with their advisor to identify areas where they already have some experience and those that will require more of their attention. In their second year, students will work with their advisor as they write an in-depth Threshold Assessment that reflects their work to date in each of the threshold areas. This assessment will become an essential part of their Portfolio Conference and Packet. In their final year, students will prepare a Final Threshold Assessment – again in conversation with their advisor – as part of their Petition to Graduate.
The eight threshold areas are:
1) Life in Religious Community and Interfaith Engagement
The Offices of Pastor, Chaplain, and/or Spiritual Activist
Students will develop leadership skills in their faith community and/or in interfaith settings. Work in this threshold may include courses in Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions, Ritual Studies (Liturgical Studies), Functional and Pastoral Theology, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold students will:
- Participate in a faith and/or or interfaith community.
- Study how faith communities – including their own – have organized and expressed themselves across time and space, including in their efforts to address injustice.
- Develop and apply leadership skills – including pastoral, organizational, and social change -in a faith community, interfaith setting, and/or movement.
- Examine faith and interfaith communities’ engagement – including with social change issues – from multicultural, counter-oppressive perspectives.
2) Prophetic Witness and Work
The Offices of Prophet & Social Change Agent
Students will learn to assess and respond to injustice and complex ethical issues in their communities and the world, while recognizing their own social locations and/or privileges. Work in this threshold may include courses in Ethics and Social Theory, Religion and Society, Religious Leadership for Social Change, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Study systemic oppression (e.g., based on race, gender, class, age, religion, ability, etc.), including in one’s own community, faith tradition, and life.
- Develop praxis/reflection skills to build just and sustainable communities and counter oppression.
- Become an activist and/or ally with those working for justice in a congregational, interfaith, community, or global setting.
- Engage in interfaith dialogue, action, and community with diverse audiences from a multicultural, counter-oppressive perspective.
3) Sacred Text and Interpretation
The Offices of Preacher and Spiritual Activist
Students will learn to use the sacred texts of the communities they serve in their speaking, writing, art and activism. They will also develop interpretations of sacred texts that are multi-religious and counter-oppressive. This threshold may include courses in Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions, Media Skills, Biblical Studies, Biblical Languages, Homiletics, Preaching, Sacred Texts, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Study sacred texts (written and oral), interpretive methods and cultural contexts in diverse faith traditions, including their own.
- Use sacred texts (written and oral) and interpretive methods in faith communities, interfaith groups, social change and/or spiritual care settings.
- Develop skills in multi-religious hermeneutics, including sacred texts, in context and conversation with others through worship, preaching, art, etc.
- Create multi-media resources based on interpretations of sacred texts (written and oral) for multi-religious and counter-oppressive purposes.
4) History of Dissenting Traditions and the Thea/ological Quest
The Offices of Scholar and Activist
Students will learn to articulate their thea/ology and call to ministry. They will research and connect the histories of dissenting traditions to current events. This threshold may include courses in History, Church History, Media Skills, Storytelling, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Examine the history and nature of dissent in different faith traditions, including their own.
- Develop a familiarity with the prophetic history of progressive religions and/or movements and their connections with and impact on current events.
- Develop skills in public ministry that are multi-religious and counter-oppressive.
- Address injustice and promote social change as part of a progressive religious community, interfaith group, organization and/or movement.
5) Spiritual Practice and the Care of the Soul
The Offices of Pastor, Chaplain & Spiritual Director
Students will develop skills for tending to the spiritual needs of the communities they serve. They will also develop and/or deepen a spiritual practice of their own. This threshold may include courses in Religion and Psychology, Spirituality, Pastoral Care, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Practice, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Develop and/or deepen their own spiritual practice.
- Explore different faith traditions’ core spiritual practices and how these might be used to foster spiritual growth, counter oppression and promote social change.
- Create and follow a self-care plan based on a holistic assessment of their needs.
- Offer spiritual care to others in a faith, interfaith, and/or community setting.
6) Thea/ology in Culture and Context
The Offices of Theologian, Scholar & Activist
Students will learn to articulate the thea/ological foundations of their ministry and call to religious leadership and/or spiritual activism. This threshold may include courses in Systematic and Philosophical Theology, Cultural and Historical Studies of Religions, Social Theory, Religion and Society, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Study thea/ologies of different faith traditions across time and space, including their own.
- Articulate their own thea/ology and call to religious leadership and/or spiritual activism.
- Develop skills in using thea/ological language in worship, education, art, media and/or activism.
- Engage people in thea/ological conversations that are multi-religious and counter-oppressive.
7) Educating for Wholeness and Liberation
The Offices of Teacher, Educator, Facilitator
Students will develop skills and resources for facilitating the learning, growth and transformation of the people and communities they serve. This threshold may include courses in Theology and Education, Organizational Development, Conflict Transformation, Religious Education, Human Development, Field Work and Internships. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Study the power of education to address injustice and foster the wholeness and liberation of people, their communities and environment, including through religious education.
- Develop, teach and/or facilitate educational programs, classes or workshops involving children, youth, and/or adults in congregational, interfaith and/or community settings.
- Develop expertise in a specialized area of social change, ministry and/or spiritual practice and share this knowledge through speaking, writing, activism, media and the arts.
- Create multi-media educational resources that are multi-religious, multigenerational, and counter-oppressive.
8) Embodied Wisdom and Beauty
The Offices of Liturgist & Artist
Students will learn to employ the arts in a variety of ways in their ministries and will develop and/or deepen a creative practice of their own. They will also learn to recognize cultural misappropriation and ways of avoiding and/or countering it. This threshold may include courses in Liturgical Studies, Art and Religion, Spirituality, Field Work and Internships, and specific artistic disciplines. To meet the learning outcomes for this threshold, students will:
- Explore the role of beauty, aesthetics and the arts in different faith traditions and communities, including their own.
- Develop and/or deepen a creative practice of their own.
- Use the arts and beauty in congregational, interfaith and/or community settings, including to address injustice and foster social change.
- Study historical and contemporary examples of cultural misappropriation and ways of avoiding and/or countering it.
It is not unusual to find yourself feeling overwhelmed at times. Your advisor will be there to support you as you plan your academic and vocational program. Starr King, as you will see, uses the language of “thresholds” and “portals” to ground students’ learning experiences. The thresholds point you to the breadth and depth of work that is expected of you. But you – in conversation with your advisor – will explore how, when and where you best do that work. The portals describe in a general way the issues you and your advisor will address each year and when certain key tasks (e.g., your threshold assessment) need to be completed.
While each student’s path through Starr King will be unique, the portals provide a common structure through which all students will pass. These portals and their associated tasks (including some threshold learning outcomes) are as follows:
Portal One: Exploring
- Attend SKSM Orientation*
- Meet with advisor for first time*
- Review advisee/advisor covenant*
- Engage in academic planning*
- Do Threshold Review*
- Identify MASC area of specialization* [MASC]
- Make friends and create a support system
- Develop and/or deepen a spiritual practice
- Participate in a cohort group, student body and/or MASC activities
- Attend religious, interfaith and/or chapel services
- Complete Educating to Counter Oppression Core Intensive*
- Attend Symposium*
Portal Two: Deepening
- Do Academic Planning*
- Articulate thea/ology and call to religious leadership and/or spiritual activism
- Become involved in a faith/interfaith community, organization or movement
- Complete Multireligious Core Intensive* [MDIV]
- Fulfill Theology & Ethics for Ministerial Leadership Core Intensive* [MDIV]
- Participate in six-month or longer Community Placement* [MASC]
‘ Prepare MASC Project proposal [MASC]
- Study and use sacred texts in culturally appropriate ways
- Conduct research on a historical topic involving dissent and social change
- Use the arts in congregational, interfaith and/or community settings
- Attend Symposium*
- Complete Threshold Assessment*
- Complete Portfolio Conference and Packet*
Portal Three: Going Forth
- Academic planning*
- Engage in an internship, clinical pastoral education and/or field education
- Complete MASC Final Project*
- Develop and follow a self-care plan
- Meet with a vocational mentor and/or in-care group
- Preach, lead worship and/or conduct rituals
- Teach and/or facilitate a class, group, workshop, etc.
- Develop skills in public ministry and/or sacred activism
- Complete Final Threshold Assessment*
- Update Portfolio Packet*
- Submit Petition to Graduate*
- Assist with Baccalaureate Chapel and/or Commencement
- Final meeting with Advisor to reflect on and celebrate SKSM experience
Students will not necessarily pass through these Portals in linear fashion. Some may already have accomplished certain tasks (e.g., active involvement in congregation and/or activist group) upon arrival at Starr King while others may choose to move ahead to tasks which especially excite them (e.g., UU history, labor union organizing). As a result, students may find themselves going back and forth through the Portals. However, to monitor and ensure students’ success some tasks (which are marked with an asterisk) will be required at specific times in a student’s journey through Starr King (e.g., Threshold Assessment and Portfolio Conference in second year).