STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 11/22/2010

The Gordon DNA: Kirsten Heacock Sanders '05

Love of Learning, Desire for God

As a Ph.D. student at Emory, I’m studying the writings of medieval contemplative women alongside the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. I am intrigued by how education transitioned from a monastic to a university setting during the Scholastic era, and by the way theology became mostly something that was taught as opposed to practiced. When the teaching of theology shifted away from the monastery (where the aim of such teaching was a closer union with God) to the university (where learning theology became more strictly an academic endeavor), there was also a change in the way theology was written. This shift in particular is of interest to me.

My Gordon education instilled in me a strong sense of “vocation,” though I admit I am still coming to terms with what that word means. The best definition I can muster has some monastic overtones. By focusing on community and growth in wisdom, I can serve those around me more faithfully. It has been made all the more complicated by the addition of our daughter to our family last winter. Now I struggle not only to trace historical and theological developments in my writing but also to translate and model them for her.

As Jean Leclercq has famously written, monastic spirituality was characterized by “love of learning and the desire for God.” My Gordon education was part of the reason I identify so strongly with this reading of monasticism. As I lecture to M.Div. students or spend time with my daughter, my goal is to communicate the significance of life with God for this life, and for the development of the virtues in our communities of learning and living. Gordon set me on my path to thinking carefully about the Christian tradition, and for this I am grateful.

Kirsten is interested in questions of theological hermeneutics and women’s theological writing. She hopes she can continue to allow the introduction to biblical studies she received at Gordon to inform her work in constructive theology.

NEXT: Rachel and Joshua Bell