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Academic Catalog

Academic Catalog 2023-24

The Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree curriculum is designed to challenge and support students in an on-going process of developing their individual and unique gifts for service in the liberal religious community. It provides a foundation of basic preparation for ministry centered in the following learning outcomes:

MDiv Outcomes

Liberal religious heritage: The ability of students to read themselves deeply, passionately, and critically into the story of liberal religion, especially Unitarian Universalism, as part of the larger human story.

Excellence in ministerial practices: The ability to demonstrate a significant understanding of, and progress in, the basic arts and skills of ministry. This includes leadership and administrative skills, worship leadership, religious education, preaching, pastoral care, and prophetic ministry in the larger community.

Intellectual capacities: The capacities that will open students to the fields of intellectual discourse, allowing them to make significant contributions to the cause of liberal religion.

Moral vision grounded in an engagement with a diverse world: A deep, moral engagement with the world, celebrating its rich diversity, and confronting its problems of oppression, injustice, poverty, and environmental degradation.

Personal readiness: Personal self-awareness, resilience, humor, good judgment, ethical and moral integrity, a well-tested seriousness of intent, and the ability to balance personal needs with the needs of ministry.

Spiritual depth: A spiritual depth united with disciplines that aim to preserve and increase that depth as students encounter the challenges and distractions of a ministerial life.

Interdependence: Ability to exercise collaborative leadership of the church understood as a covenant community learning institution and agent of broader cultural transformation.

Interfaith and Intercultural Orientation: Ability to connect across religious and cultural difference and a broad understanding of global religions and faith traditions.


The MDiv degree program consists of 90 units anchored by and organized around our three Signature Courses: Grounding (Year 1), Vocational Studies (Year 2), and Leadership Studies (Year 3). The Signature Courses are multi-unit, interdisciplinary courses that integrate practical field work and seminar learning. In addition to the Signature Courses, students meet their total unit requirements by taking 1 unit of CPE, for which they are awarded 6 academic credits, and a combination of additional required courses and electives.

All students (part-time and full-time) will be required to complete the Year 2 and 3 Signature Course during two consecutive academic years.

Full-time students can plan on completing the MDiv degree in three years.

As many as twenty-seven (27) credits may be transferred in from prior graduate work.  Students must petition the faculty for transfer credit. Once students matriculate, they may take up to 9 credits outside of Meadville Lombard—at the University of Chicago or another accredited graduate institution. Online or residential classes taken at any of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools member schools are not considered transfer courses.

MDiv Degree Requirements

Required Courses


Signature Courses


Introduction to Pastoral Ministry


Grounding: Theology and Social Praxis


Constructive Theology


Vocational Studies: Formation


Topics in Worship and Liturgy


Vocational Studies: Communities


Preaching as if You Mean It


Year 2 Internship (year-long)


Faith Formation in a Changing World


Leadership Studies: Formation


Global Religions


Leadership Studies: Administration


Hebrew Scriptures


Year 3 Internship (year-long)


New Testament




Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Ministry




Introduction to Ethics: Themes & Topics


Clinical Pastoral Education


History of Global Christianity


Electives (8 courses)*


Total Credits


Total Credits


*Students seeking UUA fellowship must also take UU History and Polity and Tools for Parish and Nonprofit Administration.

Signature Courses

At the center of the Meadville Lombard Contextual Learning Model are the experiential Signature Courses, designed to give students an opportunity to integrate their learning as they process the work that they are required to do in site placements in community and congregational settings.

Each week students meet in assigned small groups (usually by telephone or video conference) to address a question posed by the faculty and work together to create a reflection paper. The whole class also meets by conference call four times per semester and gathers during the Ingathering. As one of our students noted, the course is designed so that no piece of the learning can be done without the other— the site work informs the group reflections which then further inform how the students respond in their site work. Students throughout the country are able to maintain a learning cohort through the weekly small group meetings, as well as through the large group virtual meetings.

Students take the courses in the following sequence, building on their learning from year to year:

Year 1, Fall – Grounding: Theology and Social Praxis

This course launches students into the lifelong formational work of integrating intercultural and theological learning. The course will introduce students to basic theological literacy and a program of intercultural learning in order to help them to examine the relationship between their cultural and religious identities. MDiv students will be required to complete an average of four hours per week of volunteer work at an approved community site, while MALS students will be expected to reflect on their internship experience. 

Year 2, Fall and Spring – Vocational Studies

This course is linked with an approved, 20-hour a week, congregational or community internship. The focus of this course is on the formation of ministerial identity in the Fall, and on the work of ministry in diverse communal and congregational settings in the Spring. The internship site serves as a place for structured engagement and reflection on a range of topics and moves students more deeply into praxis. Students explore the roles and responsibilities of ministry including the intersections of personal, cultural, and professional identities, emotional literacy, professional boundaries, the influence of shifting trends and demographics on religious leadership, the impact of context on leadership, and public speaking, among others.

Year 3, Fall and Spring – Leadership Studies

This course is linked with an approved 20-hour per week congregation or community internship.  The course builds on forms of awareness of congregational/organizational systems gained during the first year of the internship and provides space for making meaning of the skills and dispositions needed for a career of leading people and organizations. Through the use of case studies and engagement with visionary religious leaders, students will explore personal leadership capacities, challenges and rewards of leadership styles, including exploration of the intersection of personal and professional act of leadership. In the tradition of appreciative inquiry, the student will also try on leadership skills and dispositions that serve organizational needs and self-identified areas for growth.  Topics covered include but will not be limited to the following: leadership in times of crisis, effective communication, team management, financial sustainability, strategic planning for social change, leadership through times of organizational change, and the spirituality of leadership among others.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

In addition to the signature courses, MDiv students are required to complete one basic unit of

clinical pastoral education in a program certified by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) or the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP). CPE programs are usually held in hospitals, but they also take place in mental health facilities, correctional institutions, nursing homes, and more. Full-time students should plan to complete CPE during the summer between their first and second years in the MDiv degree program. This requires the ability for the student to devote full-time work to the placement setting for approximately twelve weeks during the summer.

Part-time students may complete the requirement over the course of a year but should plan to do so in a year when they are not also enrolled in a Signature Course.

Additional fees will be levied by the CPE site associated with this requirement. The Senior Director of Contextual Ministry will assist the students in finding such placements.



The MDiv with a Concentration in Chaplaincy provides preparation for those seeking to serve in chaplaincy roles in a variety of settings, including medical, military, prison, and university contexts, and to bring chaplaincy best practices to bear as faith leaders in congregational and community settings.  Grounded in religious literacy and intercultural competency, the concentration prepares students to offer spiritual care in times of need and to all who seek comfort and support.

To receive a Concentration in Chaplaincy, a student must complete Introduction to Chaplaincy, plus three elective courses in the area of chaplaincy.

To pursue board certified chaplaincy, students should also consult with the appropriate certifying body – additional educational requirements will apply.

Faith Formation Pedagogy

The MDiv with a Concentration in Faith Formation Pedagogy prepares students to hold faith formation leadership roles in a congregational and/or community setting, to direct a faith formation curriculum as part of a congregational or community leadership team, or to provide faith formation leadership at a denominational level. Building upon the learning experience and content of the Signature Courses, this concentration develops principles of engaged/transformative pedagogy. In addition, this concentration builds on religious literacy and intercultural competency and in the formational growth and community leaderships skill, in preparing students to lead faith-based organizations into commitments of being socially inclusive, adaptive, and strategic change communities.

To receive a Concentration in Faith Formation Pedagogy, a student must complete three elective courses in the area of faith formation and religious education.

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