YDS is one of twelve schools within Yale University. Yale began in 1701. The original charter provided for instruction “in the Arts and Sciences” and stipulated that students, formed “through the blessing of Almighty God, may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State.” We are still doing this. Our students serve as leaders in ministry, the academy, and society. We have produced more presidents and deans of colleges, universities, and seminaries, as well as heads of denominations, than any other divinity school or seminary in the U.S.
The Divinity School became a separate entity in 1822 when Nathanael Taylor was appointed to a separate faculty position in theology. We are now in our third location at Yale: the first was just north of Connecticut Hall, the oldest building at Yale, the second where Calhoun College now stands, and the third here on the highest point between East and West Rocks in New Haven.
Our setting reveals something about our nature. We are on the former site of the mansion that belonged to Oliver Winchester, the president of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. I like to say that we exemplify the prophetic vision of beating swords into plowshares. We work to bring the kingdom of God into reality by promoting social justice.
We do more than this. The Sterling Quad was modeled on the University of Virginia. If you look at our Quad you will see Marquand Chapel standing in the center as the focal point; Mr. Jefferson’s campus has the library as its focal point. However, the main entrance to our library is directly beneath the entrance to Marquand Chapel. The architecture captures our motto of faith and intellect. We have intellect on the ground floor and faith above it.
As part of Yale University, we are a place of intellectual rigor. We believe that it is imperative that ministers be the intellectual leaders of their congregations and parishes. Similarly, we believe that those who will lead in society must be able to win the respect of others. Those who go on to the academy will do so with first-rate preparation.
We are also a community of faith. We do not wear our faith on our sleeves, but neither are we ashamed of it. We are Christian in ethos and tradition, but open to others and welcome the opportunity to have dialogues and learn from other faith traditions. As an ecumenical Christian institution, we are without ties to any ecclesiastical body: we attempt to serve a wide cross section including mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Evangelicals.
If you are looking for a place where faith is valued and unafraid of intellectual inquiry, where community is cherished and cultivated, where the knowledge of God and service to humanity are seen as two sides of a single coin, this may be your community.
I invite you to visit us in person. I would be pleased to meet you and speak with you face to face about this School set on a hill.
Gregory E. Sterling