There is a focus on spiritual formation and worship at Trinity now that echoes the spiritual seriousness of the earlier charismatic and Evangelical renewal movements, although the approach is perhaps more distinctly Anglican. Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and weekly Eucharist are at the center of the school’s worship life. Trinity’s faculty find themselves among successors to that earlier movement in academic theology: Biblical studies center on biblical theology; systematic theology and church history focus on the creedal core of trinitarian theology, christology, and the church as not only regenerated individuals, but the corporate community of the body of Christ gathered to worship the Triune God in Word and sacrament. TSM carries on the “Chicago Call” by hosting “The Robert E. Webber Center for an Ancient Evangelical Future.”
The current crop of students were not yet born at the height of the charismatic and Evangelical renewal movements of the 1970’s, and many of them were raised in Evangelical homes where what once was renewal is now “just the way things have always been done.” While the renewal movements of the 1970’s were in some ways responses to the cultural uncertainties of the 1960’s, the counter-cultural youth movement, and too placid mainline churches, the generation that attends seminary now faces a very different culture characterized by post-modern pluralism, the prevalence of social media, and a dominant secularism in which skepticism about religious faith is a given assumption.
What form renewal will take for the current generation is not evident. While today’s students are not dismissive of the charismatic and Evangelical renewal movements of their parents’ generation, many come to seminary with what is perhaps more of a concern for spiritual and theological depth. Some of our students come to us after doing undergraduate work at such Evangelical strongholds as Moody Bible Institute or Wheaton College, and they are looking for a liturgical church more rooted in the church’s tradition. Students express keen interest in biblical languages and theological exegesis. They write theses on the church fathers. They enthusiastically participate in the seminary’s liturgical life, and they pray for one another on campus and in each other’s homes. They willingly join in the worship and community of local churches, and take courses in church planting. Trinity’s students form deep friendships with fellow students and faculty that continue after they graduate. I have every reason to believe that this current generation of students will be the leaders of a new renewal movement in the church that may look somewhat different from the renewal movements of my own generation, but I pray will be the needed missional response in the presence of a now increasingly secular and post-Christian culture.
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