Calvin Seminary kicked off its academic year with a convocation address that highlighted the past while also encouraging new and returning students in anticipation of a year full of reflection and commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

In her presentation “How to Flourish in Seminary: Lessons from Reformation Geneva,” Karin Maag offered reflections on seminary life during the Reformation in 16th century Geneva, making connections with the experiences of students today. 

Maag, director of the Meeter Center for Calvin Studies and an expert in the area of early-church training and higher education, painted a picture of life for a pastor in training at the Academy of Geneva in the 1500s.

While some aspects of early Reformed education may seem odd in today’s context–did you know all courses were taught in Latin?–Maag showed how this early student body had an interest in strong theological education for the purpose of church service within the growing movement of the Reformation.

These early students came from all over to study at Geneva; many, coming from areas that still leaned heavily toward Roman Catholicism, took a great risk in doing so.

Maag drew connections between the students of the past and current Calvin Seminary students. While the lives of students may look different today, the dedication to strong theological and ministry education remains the same. So too does the strong connection to the church.

Maag  began and ended with the encouraging words of Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. . . .”

Referring to this text, she reminded students that within a call to service in the church and to the body of Christ, they are not alone. Nor are they the first to traverse this path. Instead they are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” 

About the Author

Matthew Cooke, director of admissions at Calvin Theological Seminary