The Certificate in Theology and the Arts (CTA) offers M.Div., M.T.S., and Th.M. students firm grounding in the key theological loci and practices relevant to a lifetime’s engagement with the arts in the church, the university, and beyond.
Our certificate students come from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds and contribute meaningfully to the theology and arts community at Duke Divinity School. We are excited to share more about our students in the Certificate Feature Series, where we interview our students and alumni and hear about their experiences in the Certificate program and how it is has impacted their visions for vocation beyond DITA and Duke Divinity School.
A Writer Learns to See New Creation
Certificate in Theology and the Arts
Hannah Anderson (Hybrid M.Div. ’26) is a writer, lay minister, and student. She is the author of several books of nonfiction, including All That’s Good: Discovering the Lost Art of Discernment (Moody, 2018) and Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (Moody, 2016) and is the co-host of Persuasion, a podcast where “fine ladies, rational minds, and the best kind of company” gather together to discuss pertinent ideas and issues. Her writing discusses faith in the context of daily, lived experience and also includes some cultural commentary and opinion. She is pursuing a Certificate in Theology and the Arts, and we are excited to share a little bit more about her time here at Duke Divinity and how the Certificate program has impacted her writing, faith, and intellectual formation. Learn more about her at sometimesalight.com.
What brought you to Duke Divinity and the Certificate in Theology and the Arts? Tell us a little bit about yourself prior to your time here at Duke Divinity.I came to Duke Divinity after two decades of lay ministry and a career as an author and essayist. Despite enjoying both, I felt a growing gap between my work in the church and my craft. This was particularly ironic because I write about faith, creativity, and spiritual formation. Theoretically, I believed that there was a way to reconcile my calling to ministry and my calling to write, but I did not have the infrastructure or education to support it.
Discovering the Certificate in Theology and the Arts at Duke Divinity felt like discovering a unicorn. Here was a rigorous, theological education that also took the arts and creativity seriously. Duke’s definition of Christian ministry was expansive enough to include the vagaries of my own calling while the option to pursue the M.Div. through a hybrid program meant that I could continue lay ministry and writing while growing in my ability to do both.
How has the Certificate coursework shaped both your academic thinking and your art? Tell us a bit about your time here at DITA so far.
From the first day of class, I knew DITA was going to play a central role in my educational and vocational development. Coming into the program as an established writer, I had a lot of experiential knowledge, but I lacked the categories I needed to understand and interpret my experience. Very quickly, things began to click into place. Whereas before I’d felt pulled between ministry and craft, DITA gave me a vision for my own flourishing as a writer as well as how I might love my neighbor through it. My first residential week also coincided with a DITA-sponsored concert which meant that I had an immediate opportunity to see what I was learning in the classroom practiced outside it.
Can you identify a critical moment thus far in the Certificate program that has clarified your academic thinking and theological affections? Perhaps a particular course or thinker has proved meaningful, or has there been a semester where your training has converged in a formative way?The most consequential thing I’ve gained through the program is learning to view my writing through the lens of New Creation. Coming from a tradition that focused on preserving certain ways of being in the world and resisting decay, I did not necessarily have a vision for the world that the Spirit is breathing into existence. While making art can be a necessary form of resistance, it does this by opening up new lines of inquiry and inviting us to imagine a world that does not yet exist. Doing this work as a Christian requires a rich, theological understanding of Christ’s own work of New Creation. As a writer, I felt like I had come to the end of my ability to say the same things in novel ways. What I really needed, however, was a model for saying new things in a way that aligns with God’s timeless work.
How has the interdisciplinary nature of the Certificate program affected your intellectual formation?For me, the unique strength of the Certificate program is its ability to bring theology and art into conversation as equal partners. Rather than having one discipline serve the other, there is a mutuality that unlocks questions and answers I’d never thought to consider. Each discipline furthers the other, and I find myself invited to harmonize both intellect and imagination.
Beyond this, the program allows for an embodied expression of the theology I’m studying. No longer is it enough for me to say that I believe or think something. Now, I feel compelled to express that belief through creativity. To me, this reflects a truth about God’s own work wherein the Logos is made flesh and dwells among us. Theology can take many forms—from justice work to mercy ministry—but I’ve discovered that my particular calling requires artistic expression. I’m not sure I would have understood or accepted this had I not met it in context of studying theology itself.
What do you hope to do beyond your time at the Divinity School? Has the Certificate program equipped you for that vocation? Has it changed how you view your vocational journey?Before this program, I had a very limited view of how my work might manifest in the world. I was content to simply write and in many ways, satisfied with whatever opportunities I was offered. But accepting whatever is offered is not the same as answering God’s call to participate in New Creation. Slowly, my horizons are broadening, and I’m learning to let the Spirit determine what my work will become.
For me, this has meant letting my dreams grow in ways that I’m not yet entirely comfortable with. But seeing my peers and the Duke faculty excited and animated by their own callings is giving me the encouragement I need to step into mine. I don’t know what form my vocation will take upon graduation. Even if I continue on as a writer, I know that my work will be transformed and enriched by my time at Duke. As I learn to understand writing as a call to ministry, I also find myself more willing to trust God for whatever the future entails.
At DITA, we strive to foster a supportive community of academics and artists from a variety of backgrounds and interests. What role have the arts played in helping you find community at the Divinity School? How has this community enriched your studies, sense of vocation, and formation?There’s something undeniable in watching people use their God-given gifts in community, especially when the gifts are as diverse and varied as those represented at DITA. While we all share this space, our vocational journeys are distinct in their origins, backgrounds, and goals. And yet, as I’ve listened to my peers define, express, and steward their own callings, it has helped me differentiate mine. In learning to value their unique contributions and perspectives, I find myself increasingly able to believe that mine are worth sharing as well. In a word, there are things that I could not know about myself if I were studying in a less diverse space. Not only am I objectively more informed and thus more able to love my neighbor more fully, I also find myself better attuned to the Spirit’s work in my own life.
Would you encourage prospective students to pursue the Certificate in Theology and the Arts? What word of advice and support would you offer incoming students?
I have already started recruiting. I’ve been so impressed by what this program offers that I can’t stop telling people about it. The nexus of church ministry, theological study, and creative engagement is unmatched, and I believe that DITA is part of a larger work the Spirit is doing in this moment. I’d encourage others to consider whether they are being called to be part of that work, to be part of the cadre of makers, artisans, and theologians who will serve the church in this coming season. If you are, Duke Divinity might be the next step in the journey.