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Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning Virtual Launch, November 1

REGISTER HERE to attend our virtual launch on Nov 1 at 6:30pm!

Our Mission

We believe theological education is for everyone, especially for religious professionals, people of faith, divinity school graduates, and the spiritually curious. Lifelong Learning provides non-degree courses led by Divinity School faculty and designed to be accessible, applicable, and enlightening. Our courses are for those who consider themselves life-long learners and who find the study of religion wildly important. 

Want to be a more informed worshiper? Would you like to deepen your faith journey? Thinking about Divinity School? Already attended seminary/divinity school and want to hear about recent developments in the field? 

Explore what we offer and contact us with any questions you may have!

About Lifelong Learning

Welcome to Lifelong Learning (LLL) at Vanderbilt Divinity School.  The Purposes and Commitments  at the heart of the school’s mission emphasize the points at which theology and practice meet. Two of the guiding questions for LLL are about the what and the how of life: “What can we glean from our traditions, methods, and practices?” “How are we to live in light of what we know to be just?”   

VDS holds the commitment to train leaders, including congregational leaders, chaplains, nonprofit leaders, for social justice leadership is at its core. Embedded in a larger university, the interdisciplinary connections and conversations it has across campus supports the school’s legacy of theological innovation and leadership.   

Life-long learning programs are created out of the distinctive character of Vanderbilt Divinity and in conversation with its many alumni, students, faculty, staff, and interested constituents.  Here, people who are curious and committed may join a learning community that  cultivates and nurtures nontraditional students to become more thoughtful leaders, helps students better understand the changing contexts in which they live, and help them lead others more effectively.   

Here, we hope to work with those who seek:  

  • to become more thoughtful leaders,
  • to better understand the changing contexts in which we live,
  • to learn new perspectives,
  • to widen existing network,
  • to feel more capable,
  • to help others more effectively.



Amy Steele Assistant Dean of Students Affairs and Community Life      Amy Steele, Program Director

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture Director of the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements      Phillis Isabella Sheppard

Laine Walters Young Assistant Director of the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership       Laine Walters Young

Aaron Stauffer, Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow, Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice       Aaron Stauffer

Winter 2022 Courses (12/1/21-2/28/22)


Enrollment begins October 25, 2021, and continues through November 22, 2021. Classes begin December 1, 2021. There is no deadline by which the course must be completed, but we recommend completion by mid-February. Upon completion, you will receive a certifcate via email.

Early Bird Price: $45 (until November 12) | Regular Price: $60

Womanist Spirituality
Instructor: Phillis Isabella Sheppard

Join us as we deepen our understanding of spirituality. Drawing on the works womanist scholars and practitioners, we will explore the variety of ways Black women embody and express their spirituality. We begin with Alice Walker’s definition of womanist and the way Black women have embraced womanist as an identify and as specific approach to life, social engagement, and scholarship. Next, we spend time with emilie m. towne’s understanding of womanist spirituality as “the deep kneading of humanity and divinity into one breath, one hope, one vision…a way of living,…style of witness” for the world. Townes and Layli Maparyan lead us to explore womanist spirituality as formation for, and of, the individual and the community. Its aim is transformation of the whole community through individual and collective womanist inspired spiritual practices. Finally, we take up womanist spirituality as a deep pulse through which our interior life and social involvement intertwine to move us toward wholeness.

Moral Leadership: What is it, and How are you a Moral Leader?
Instructor: Laine Walters Young 

This course will tour learners through the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership’s approach to moral leadership as applied, relational, experiential, interdependent, justice-focused, public, and communicative using Robert Franklin Jr.’s Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, and Imagination as a core text. Learners will leave the course with concrete practices for building and restoring trust, how to make their integrity known to those around them, and what courage and imagination looks like and can be applied in the everyday work of ministerial, social service, business, and nonprofit fields.  

Black Womanist Consciousness and American Public Life  
Instructor: Amy E. Steele 

Building upon the work of early womanist scholars and the emergence of their groundbreaking work, students will explore the rise of Black Women’s political and social participation in American public life from Reconstruction to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The course will examine how an idea of the “public” has shifted over time, the hurdles to participation in public life, and the democratic dilemmas in religion and public life that have prompted Black women’s political struggles for justice in the U.S. South.

Organizing Church: Lessons from Community Organizing to Strengthen the Church  
Instructor: Aaron Stauffer

Why are some institutions strong and others not? Why do some churches thrive and others wither? For faith leaders, pastors and perhaps some regular church attendees, the pitch of these questions around church growth and perseverance in the face of declining membership numbers seems to increase daily. This course will explore the claim that broad-based community organizing provides a unique way of building strong churches and is one way that the church can live more deeply into its mission and vocation.  


For questions, please contact Amy Steele at

Open Courses for Winter 2022