Master of Arts in Theopoetics and Writing

A degree in theopoetics and writing (MATW), the first of its kind at a seminary, enables you to focus study in ways that celebrate mystery, metaphor and meaning in texts and contexts for expansive reflection, critical engagement and various forms of writing. The MATW joins theology, poetry, narrative, spirituality and public conversations together in the pursuit of inquiry and understanding that result in creative production across multiple genres.

This program is offered jointly with Bethany Theological Seminary (students enter and complete the program either as an ESR or a BTS student). Although ESR and Bethany represent two distinct traditions—Quaker and Church of the Brethren—we share a common Peace Church tradition. While we have been partner schools since 1994, the theopoetics and writing degree represents a new level of collaboration.


The master of arts: theopoetics and writing program is designed to enhance your ability to write and think at the intersection of creativity, faith and meaning. Along with academic study, it trains you in various forms of written communication and other media that bring spirituality into public conversation with the whole of life.

As a graduate from the MATW program, you will be prepared to:

  • read, write and engage in linguistic creativity as formative spiritual practices, both for communities and for individual lives, including your own.
  • apply intellectual disciplines, skills and creative processes that empower you to practice your writing publicly in ways appropriate to specific genres, audiences and purposes.
  • demonstrate theopoetic understanding of method, meaning and value, with attention to their function in the public sphere and connections to the cultural context.
  • explore and articulate diverse, lived possibilities of theopoetics, such as literary craft, popular writing, justice advocacy, peacemaking and community building.

Take a Course When You Need It

We understand that not every student is able to commit to a full-time program of graduate study, but that shouldn’t be a constraint if you’re interested in taking seminary courses for professional or personal reasons. This is why we provide the option of applying for admission to our Occasional Student Program and registering for residential or Access classes.

As an Occasional Student, you may take any ESR 100 or 200 level course, or if you have the appropriate educational background, you may take 300 level courses with the permission of the instructor. Occasional students may take as many as two courses per semester.

Please note that students in this program are subject to the same academic performance requirements as M.Div., M.A. and Certificate students.

Program details

Drawing on the strengths of ESR’s Ministry of Writing Program and Bethany Theological Seminary’s theopoetics curriculum, the MATW degree was developed through a collaboration by both schools. The degree is offered independently by both ESR and Bethany and requires 36 credits (twelve 3-credit-hour courses) of course work directly connected to the study of theopoetics and writing. The 36 hours will include prerequisites for required courses.

At ESR it may be done residentially or through our distance education program, Access. There is no residency requirement for Access students; however, recipients of the Quaker Professional Scholarship must take one residential intensive course.

MA summative exercise (thesis/portfolio/project in final semester)

  • Theopoetics 1
  • Theopoetics 2
  • Two 200-level writing courses from list below
  • Three other courses from list below

These may come from the list below or may be any course offered by either ESR or Bethany.

  • Writing the Story
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Writing Public Theology
  • Writing for God and God’s People
  • Writing Mental Illness/Writing as Mindfulness
  • Writing Seminar
  • Applied Storytelling
  • Peace of the City and Quest for Public Theology
  • Narrative Theology
  • Science Fiction and Theology
  • Modernity, Postmodernity, and Belief
  • The Theological Imagination
  • Theology and Preaching
  • Preaching, Theopoetics, and Society
  • Preaching, Poetry, and Prophetic Imagination
  • Writing Midrash
  • Spirituality courses, ESR
  • Readings course, Bethany
  • Poetry
  • Digital Genres
  • Hebrew Bible Theopoetics
  • Poetics of Jesus
  • Survey of Christian Poetry

Our faculty

The MATW degree is led by ESR’s own Ben Brazil, assistant professor and director of the ministry of writing program and Bethany Theological Seminary’s Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Peace Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies.

Next steps

Ministry isn’t just a vocation or a calling—it’s a way of being in this world, seeking to make it whole. ESR is ready to support you in answering your own call to ministry, whatever shape it takes.