Master of Divinity student Hannah Andres has returned to the U.S. after studying abroad for a semester at the Ecumenical Institute at Château de Bossey (EIC) in Switzerland!
The EIC is the World Council of Churches’ center for encounter, dialogue and formation. Founded in 1946, this “ecumenical laboratory” welcomes students and researchers from around the world for academic study that specializes in ecumenical theology, missiology, and social ethics.
Hannah, hailing originally from eastern Nebraska, received her Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Willamette University in 2019. She credited a Liberation Theology class with Chaplain Karen Wood, emphasizing practical social change, as the catalyst for her choice of major. Last year she was part of the first Claremont School of Theology (CST) incoming class to begin their studies in Salem, Oregon. She is in the ordination process with The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Claremont School of Theology is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment of the United Methodist Church.
Hannah’s learning community at the EIC was a globally, culturally, and denominationally diverse group with Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant students and teachers from all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Studying alongside 28 students from 22 countries, Hannah took two electives—Ecumenical Missiology and Ecumenical Biblical Hermeneutics—and earned a Complementary Certificate in Ecumenical Studies, administered through the University of Geneva.
Hannah’s experiences at the EIC gave her an intimate look at both the opportunities and challenges of ecumenical learning and community-building. Operating as a queer woman in spaces where not everyone affirmed LGBTQIA+ people or supported women’s ordination was, at times, a frustrating and painful experience. She discussed the difficult tension in ecumenical spaces of being inclusive and open to difficult conversations:
“We have to ask, ‘How do we get to those conversations [about sexuality or women’s ordination] without forcing people [who don’t affirm them] out of the table?’ But there is also the reality that by not talking about these things, we’re already keeping people from the table.”
During her time at the EIC, Hannah made invaluable connections with professors and others who encouraged her to continue wrestling with these challenges, pursuing justice, and “being subversive.” She met regularly with one professor with whom she could discuss whatever was on her mind, hear an informed, global perspective, and discuss the practical ways the church has served as a tool of injustice as well as the ways in which it can continue to subvert that legacy. Hannah’s friendship with a nearby United Methodist missionary also expanded her awareness of how complex the world of mission can be.
Although program-directed traveling was cancelled due to COVID-19, Hannah and her friends pursued their own adventures in Switzerland and beyond in their three-week Christmas break. “There were a handful of us who didn’t go anywhere because of COVID-19,” Hannah explained, “so we spent a lot of that time traveling around Switzerland mostly – we saw the Matterhorn and went to Bern and saw the whole capitol building and everything. We also visited France and I had the best crêpes of my life.”
Claremont School of Theology website, Claremont, CA
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.