Maja pastors Equippers Church Timaru with her husband. She completed a Dip Grad and a Postgrad Dip in Theology and is currently completing her PhD in Theology at the University of Otago.
Would you recommend the Theology Programme at Otago?
I would definitely recommend the Theology Programme at Otago. The staff offer a range of fascinating courses that not only teach you important ideas, but also teach you how to think. As a part-time student juggling multiple responsibilities while studying at a distance, I have found the programmess to be relevant and well-managed, the resources to be accessible, and the staff to be supportive of me as a whole person.
How does your academic study relate to your faith?
I've occasionally had people ask me whether I'm worried that studying theology won't “damage my faith”. My experience has been the exact opposite. I've discovered that God is more than OK with me asking difficult questions, and also that I am OK with not having every question answered in a neat and tidy way. Due to my study, my faith is broader and deeper and more robust than ever. I often think that to know God is to love him, and so the more I know, the more I love.
Have you been able to use what you've learned in your church context? If so, how?
My study feeds into my pastoral leadership in a number of ways. My preaching is more thoughtful and well-rounded, but I've also learnt how to make big theological ideas accessible to a non-academic audience. The papers I've done on congregational leadership, mental health, and disability have been particularly helpful in shaping how I conceive of our local expression of the body of Christ and in shaping my leadership in that context.
Is there anything else you would like to say to prospective Theology students?
Studying Theology adds value to your life in ways that the other subjects can never compete with. Even if you don't imagine yourself in full-time Christian ministry or as an academic theologian, I'd encourage you to fit a couple of Theology papers into your degree. It's an opportunity not to be missed.