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Master of Divinity Offered as Hybrid Program at Emmanuel College

Mar. 15, 2024


Emmanuel College students Peter MacGowan and Hannah Athanasiadis are combining virtual and in-person learning as they pursue their MDivs. (Supplied/Minh Truong)

By Joe Howell 
Emmanuel College led the Toronto School of Theology in the creation of a flexible new option for students considering a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree. The hybrid MDiv, developed by a specialist in online learning, allows students to take up to two-thirds of their courses virtually. It had a successful soft launch at Emmanuel this year, with positive feedback from students and faculty. 
“The hybrid MDiv was created to support commuting students and those living at a distance from campus who are interested in pursuing ministry education,” says Vice-Principal Pam McCarroll. “We seek to make the program doable remotely, while also providing opportunities for students to meet in person and to develop the deep relationships so central to ministry formation. We are keen to be in dialogue with potential students to hear how we can respond to their needs while also offering an outstanding educational experience in a pluralistic context.” 
Emmanuel student Peter MacGowan began the hybrid MDiv program in September after retiring as a lawyer and moving to Grey County, “a beautiful part of the world” two hours north of Toronto. “I used to work on farms when I was a teenager and I always had a dream of becoming a farmer,” he says. MacGowan is delighted to be raising sheep at last—while also pursuing ministry in the United Church, another long-standing ambition. “I saw an opportunity to meet a need here in terms of ministry, in order to help build and strengthen the rural community that I live in.” 
MacGowan says Emmanuel’s hybrid MDiv gives him the flexibility to follow both dreams simultaneously. “The option of doing things online is great. If I couldn’t do at least a portion of the program online, I wouldn’t be able to do the program at all,” he says. “Going back and forth to Toronto on a daily basis would be a real grind.” 
Instead, he drives to Toronto every Tuesday. “Learning online makes things possible for me, but I am still super keen to be at Emmanuel as much as I can,” says MacGowan. “I want to participate in campus life. I want to have that community—ecumenical, academic and social. It’s a big part of the learning process, and life’s all about learning!” He notes it was his interest in justice that led him to become a lawyer, and he’s discovering “the parallels between the study of divinity and the study of law.” 
Hannah Athanasiadis also started hybrid studies at Emmanuel in September, where she’s doing a combined Master of Divinity and Master of Pastoral Studies (MPS) degree with the long-term goal of “opening up my own integrative spiritual centre combining interfaith work with psychotherapy and healing modalities.” She did two classes remotely last semester and is taking one course online this term. 
“My experience with the hybrid has been really good,” says Athanasiadis. “I love the flexibility of having some days online. Emmanuel is keeping the MDiv’s required in-person classes to Tuesdays and Wednesdays—they also hold community events on those days. They try to make it so that if you are on campus for one or two days a week you can still get the full experience.” 
While Athanasiadis doesn’t think online education should—or even could—fully replace the physical classroom, “There are a million reasons I can think of why somebody might want to have a flexible schedule: they have kids, they have a part-time job, they live out of the city. Hybrid means they need childcare or transportation less often.” It also makes the time spent on campus forming in-person connections all the more valuable, she says. “I think if I were studying 100 per cent online, I’d go a little bit crazy.” 

Interested in learning more about hybrid Master of Divinity studies at Emmanuel College or applying for the fall term? Please write admissions counsellor Andrew Aitchison at for more information.

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