The Graduate School of Theology Welcomes
Dr. Mason Lee
As New Director of the Contextual Education Program
Dr. Mason Lee was chosen to lead the Graduate School of Theology’s Contextual Education Program as Assistant Professor of Practical Theology. Mason was gracious enough to provide a short interview to introduce himself. You can get to know a little more about Mason below!
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in High Island, Texas. A small town on the gulf coast, a few miles from Galveston. After finishing high school, I went to York College in York, NE on a basketball scholarship. But it soon became clear to me that to play basketball at the collegiate level meant you had to be good- a revelation that did not bode well for my future prospects! However, I did meet my wife during that time; so it more than evened out.
Kelci and I have been married for almost nine years, and we have a two-year old daughter, Addison Constance, who keeps us on our toes. We also have two dogs- a miniature dachshund named Hazel and a basset hound named Lindbeck. We got both our dogs while we were living in Abilene, so they’re equally thrilled to be returning to their native Texas!
When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with Kelci and Addison. I also love learning to cook new things. This has meant I’ve also had to acquire a love for exercise (against my wishes!). I enjoy reading (particularly the southern gothic style), and I’m currently working my way through the writings of Graham Green. Although since Addison’s arrival I’ve also become something of an authority on Eric Carle and Fancy Nancy.
Kelci and I are thrilled to be back in Abilene, be a part of the incredible community, and raise Addison here.
What is your primary field of study and what brought you there?
My primary field of study is Practical Theology, and within that my dissertation focused on homiletics. From early on in my academic career I felt a draw to the discipline of Practical Theology and its import for the practice of ministry. What I’ve found most energizing in this field is its intrinsic inter-disciplinary quality. We practical theologians are always looking at the concrete practices and realities of faith communities and thinking about them in the light of Jesus Christ. And this requires that we engage any number of fields – biblical studies, systematic or dogmatic theology, sociology, church history, and countless others – for the purpose of assessing what is going on in a given situation and casting a vision for what should or could be happening. I have found this orientation to be one that is life-giving and speaks to the wide range of interests and passions I’ve developed throughout my life.
What has been one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
I would have to say my favorite project so far has been my doctoral dissertation. There, I made a specific argument for the virtue of patience and its role within the practice of preaching. Completing that project took the majority of my PhD program at Princeton Seminary, and I loved every second. One of the things undertaking this project has shown me is that we’re never really done with those questions that matter most to us; its more that we have tentative resting points along the way before we begin the journey again.
How do you feel that theological education and ministry are connected?
I believe that the purpose of theological education is to participate in the formation of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength; shaping us into those who come to know, love, and enjoy God and the things of God, so that the communities in which we live may flourish. And because I believe this, I also believe that ministry (it all its forms) and theological education are inextricably linked. The kind of learning, reflection, and formation that occurs within the theological school, always occurs with particular ends in mind- the flourishing of those communities and projects in which our students are currently serving and will serve in the future. I don’t think this means that theological education must always think in terms of the “application” of some concept or idea. But it does mean that the end of theological education (becoming beautiful to God so that our communities may flourish) should provide a framework for how we engage across the theological school.
This also means that faith communities, themselves, can be centers of theological education in which this kind of becoming beautiful to God occurs. And this, to me, is where exciting conversations are already taking place, both here at ACU and across theological education. What might it mean, for example, that congregations are not merely places we send students once trained, but are themselves a kind of theological school? And how might this help rescue theological education from having to operate as a kind of “total institution”? This is part of the reason I’m so thrilled to be here at ACU. This is a place that’s already thinking deeply and faithfully about just these kinds of questions; and I’m truly grateful and excited to a able to join that discussion.
What do you hope to bring to the table as you move into your new position at the GST?
The GST already has such a strong community in place, that in many ways I feel like I’m going to end up receiving much more than I ever give. By the grace of God I have received some incredible opportunities to study and undertake my academic work at some of the best programs in the country while also staying engaged within some truly remarkable ministry settings across a number of different places. And I hope that this combination can be a resource here in the GST as we reflect on the challenges and changes facing all those who engage in ministry in the name of Christ, and that together we might see what incredibly good work God has given us to do.
About the Author:
Mason Lee is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Contextual Education in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University. A native Texan, Mason holds degrees from York College (BA), Abilene Christian University (MDiv), Boston University (STM), and Princeton Theological Seminary (PhD). He has also been blessed with the opportunity to work with a number of congregations across the country and ministry resource initiatives that focused on continuing education programs for ministers. When he isn’t writing or thinking about ministry, Mason enjoys spending time with his wife Kelci, their daughter Addison, and their two dogs.