"I want my students to leave class with a sense of competence, a sense that they can read Scripture by themselves and with others in ministry settings."
Mary Hinkle Shore has always cared about the relationship between people and big ideas — ideas like "what is God up to in the world?" or "what helps us make sense of our lives?" That concern, plus a desire to know people at important times in their lives, led her to ordained ministry.
After receiving the master of divinity degree from Luther in 1986, Shore accepted a call as pastor to three small congregations in rural North Dakota. "The congregations of Woodworth, Pingree and Pettibone were a great extension of the seminary for me," she says. "I learned things about being a pastor there that we can't teach in a seminary classroom." During her six years in North Dakota, Shore also served as associate pastor of Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo.
Preaching regularly during those years got her interested in studying the scriptures more intensely; in 1992 Shore entered a Ph.D. program at Duke University. As a teaching assistant at Duke Divinity School, she enjoyed teaching and was drawn back to the work of preparing leaders for service in the church. She was called to Luther Seminary as a faculty member after completing the doctorate in 1997.
Shore wants her students "to leave class with a sense of competence, a sense that they can read Scripture by themselves and with others in ministry settings." She also wants them to know that their reading of Scripture will shape their imagination for all their work, whether it's administration, preaching, teaching or pastoral care.
The Internet allows Shore to reach students from across the country and around the world. She teaches an online course nearly every semester, and her classes have included students in North Carolina and Arizona as well as Germany and Korea. "The students are creating a sense of community across boundaries of space and time," she says. She also believes that these "learners at a distance" have a unique perspective because their context shapes the way they hear the Scriptures.
But whether in the classroom or online, Shore is not just a teacher — she's a learner, too. "Every time I read with students, I learn from them," she says. "My students will often see things in the Scriptures that I haven't seen. And it's this sense of discovery that energizes me and keeps me in this work."