The first phase of Andover Newton Theological School’s partnership with Yale Divinity School began this fall, with three Andover faculty members and one administrator relocating their offices to the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle.
The partnership, which was announced earlier this May, came as a result of Andover Newton’s decision to close its current campus in Boston by spring 2017 due to financial restraints. According to the partnership, Andover Newton — the nation’s oldest theological school — would send visiting faculty and support staff to the Divinity School in the fall of 2016. If their adaptation and the two school’s negotiation goes well, Andover Newton and Yale Divinity will enter the second phase of the partnership, where Andover Newton will permanently move to New Haven and be officially affiliated with the Divinity School.
Andover Newton members who already moved to the Divinity School praised the hospitality they have received so far.
“Faculty and staff from Andover Newton have been warmly welcomed here, and they have already made contributions to [the Yale Divinity School’s] programs and culture,” said Dean of the Divinity School Gregory Sterling. “We are all committed to reaching a phase two agreement and making their presence here a long-lasting reality.”
The classes taught by Andover Newton’s visiting professors are well-received, said Sarah Drummond ’93, dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs at Andover Newton and one of the school’s members who moved to the Divinity School this fall.
This was aided in part by student volunteers at the Divinity School, who established a student steering committee to help their peers from Andover Newton adapt to the new environment.
Jordan Rebholz DIV ’18 said in an email that she was motivated to serve on the committee because the collaboration will bring out a place surrounded by “incredibly talented visionaries and loving spirits,” at a time when tales of the “dying church and empty pews” prevail.
Another member of the committee, Katrina Manzi DIV ’17, said she is excited to be part of the drive for the partnership, adding that she hoped this partnership will make the church stronger.
Although Andover Newton has sold its Boston campus, it would not be able to vacate the campus until spring 2017, due to the grand scale of the operation, Drummond said. Before it moves to New Haven, Andover Newton will hold its classes at a to-be-determined location near its current campus and grant Andover Newton degrees to all students currently enrolled. The last class to receive degrees from Andover Newton will graduate in spring 2018.
Still, the physical relocation of Andover Newton poses a challenge, Sterling said, because the project involves migrating an established institution with a large number of assets, such as the library. He added that a phase two agreement has not been reached and that he cannot comment on specifics, citing confidentiality.
The Rev. Martin Copenhaver, president of Andover Newton, echoed Sterling’s concern about the complexity of the relocation.
“Moving a 200-year-old school with deep roots in the Boston area is not a single challenge, but a constellation of challenges,” Copenhaver told the News. “Nevertheless, in its long history, Andover Newton has been in three different locations and has affiliated with other schools, as well.”
Even after its affiliation of Yale, Drummond said she hopes the name of Andover Newton will continue to remind people of leadership of locally governed churches, which is what its students have been traditionally trained to become.
“The significance of this affiliation for Andover Newton is that we can form a symbiotic relationship in which both schools benefit,” Copenhaver said. “There is an old hymn that says, ‘new occasions teach new duties.’ Andover Newton — the oldest theological school in the country— is doing a new thing to respond to the challenges of this new day.”
Andover Newton was founded in 1807.
Correction, Oct. 17: A previous version of the article misstated that the phrase “dying church and empty pews” was said by Katrina Manzi DIV ’17. In fact, it was Jordan Rebholz DIV ’18 who used the phrase in an email to the News.