Andover Newton Theological School

“ANTS” became the name we ascribed to the seminary, situated on a beloved hill overlooking a section of Newton Centre, Massachusetts. Its history combines Congregational and Baptist traditions, and is a proud one in the story of New England churches dedicated to governance with a minimal dependence upon regional structures. The education it offered featured a faculty, composed mostly of men, with one woman, sometimes obviously striving to “establish” her credibility. Notable while I was there was an experiment to offer three years of on-campus academics, to be followed by a fourth year of “internship” ministries, supervised by faculty, with only occasional returns to the campus. ANTS had also pioneered a “clinical” program which involved at least one full summer of work in a Boston hospital, with practical experience in supervised ministry to patients. Studies among graduates have confirmed the singular importance of that practical training.

The student body was a close group, and we organized to provide a student “voice” in evaluation of courses offered, and more modestly of administrative decisions. That was a good experience, and certainly was for me a beginning understanding of the importance of listening to students, now central to my pedagogy. The education was a fine one, and the fact that I have now moved “out” of the church, and no longer adhere to much of the theology I learned, is in no way a critique of the school, its faculty, or the total experience there.

Upon graduation in 1953, I was “railroaded” into the position of Class President. It happened after the graduation ceremony, when classmates sat for a final meeting. Suddenly there was a motion that the class should have a President, and that I should be it! In what was a very un-democratic procedure, there was no opportunity for discussion! I suggested that there should be a stated term for the President to serve, and there was an immediate motion passed that the President should serve “in perpetuity”! “That”, I said, “sounds like long-time!” It became clear that a small caucus had already determined no further discussion!

I have continued to serve “in perpetuity” in that position, and have had the very good experience of meeting regularly with class members George Sinclair, Joe O’Donnell, and Finley Keech, to plan appropriately timed reunions of our class, and the members of the classes just before and just after ours. While I still prize a more democratic procedure than the one by which I came to the position, I feel no need today to admonish the conspirators, but rather feel grateful.

My relationship to ANTS continued lively over the course of some twenty years, when I served as a part-time faculty person, co-teaching Church Administration, first with Walter Telfer, then with George Sinclair, and two semesters in Church History, with Earl Thompson.

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