A seminary is a specialised university-like institution for the purpose of training candidates for positions within a religious context. This usually, though not always, applies to Christian education. Roman Catholic seminaries usually have their degrees conferred by a Pontifical University.
Although the primary purpose of a seminary is to prepare and equip candidates for religious service in the church, nowadays many people not intending to become involved in church leadership may study in seminaries. Qualifications may be obtained majoring in pastoral work and similar fields, as well as in the more academic disciplines. Many monks, nuns and church workers attend a seminary to enhance their qualifications. It is also quite common for lay people to study in a seminary to enhance their spiritual life, or purely to pursue an interest.
Some seminaries include:
The word seminary also applies to a school of religious education for children that accompanies normal secular education. A prominent example of this is the seminary education system of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which provides extended study of theology and religious text throughout the school week, in addition to normal Sunday classes. These types of seminaries schedule classes before or after regular school time, or negotiate agreed "release time" permits with the nearest public school districts to allow students to voluntarily leave school grounds for an allotted amount of time (usually one class period) to receive seminary education. In predominantly LDS communities, LDS seminary facilities are commonly built on Church-owned properties that immediately neighbor the grounds of state-owned public schools, allowing individual students to simply walk between school and seminary during their scheduled release time. These arrangements work to ease the integration of secular and religious study into a child's school day without inappropriately (or illegally) violating the separation of church and state in secular society.
In many countries, especially in middle and Northern Europe, the word seminary was also used of secular, mostly state-owned, schools training teachers for the [Primary school|primary schools]]. This practice is similar to the use of several Catholic terms in relation to the education as their actual uses were abolished (e.g. Dean). The teacher seminaries of the 19th century also employed quite strigent discipline and required impeccable behaviour which eased the use of the name. In the Nordic countries with the Lutheran state church, there was little ambiguity as the training of Lutheran priests was the duty of Faculties of Theology of the state universities.
When founded in the 19th century, teacher seminaries enrolled primary school graduates, but gradually the requirements were increased. In the middle of the 20th century, the requirement was raised to high school diploma. At the same time, most teacher seminaries in the Nordic countries were incorporated into universities as teacher training institutes of Faculties of Education. Some, most notably the Seminary of Jyväskylä, Finland, formed the basis of entire universities.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04