Exploring the Vanguard Advent Seminar at HoneyRock

January 7, 2021

Blake Rittgers is a current Vanguard Gap Year student at HoneyRock. 

What happens when a New Testament professor, a Director of Music (and professional organist!), and an Art History professor gather at HoneyRock?

In the words of one Vanguard, "One of the most memorable experiences of the first semester, the Advent Seminar."

vanguard writing in a journal

From December 3rd to the 5th, Vanguards participated in an Advent Seminar entitled "How God Became Human, Mary in Scripture, Art & Music." For three days, Dr. Amy Peeler, Dr. Lance Peeler, and Dr. Matt Milliner taught Vanguards about all things Mary and Advent.

Dr. Lance Peeler broke down different compositions of the Magnificat found in the Gospel of Luke. The harmonized biblical canticle included renditions from J.S. Bach, Herbert Howells, and Thomas Morley. This studying of music extended to learning about the liturgical importance of the three other canticles found in Luke: the Benedictus, the Gloria, and the Nunc Dimittis. Dr. L. Peeler also led students in early Christian hymns, canticles, and carols, introducing them to pre-modern musical notation and understanding key signatures. 

matthew milliner teaching at honeyrockDr. Matt Milliner introduced and reviewed the history of Mary's portrayal, or lack thereof, in Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions and highlighted the Theotokos' denominational nuances. Vanguards were able to view paintings like Rogier van der Weyden's Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin, as well as beautiful constructions like the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome. Throughout this, Dr. Milliner touched on broader Christian theology, especially regarding Mary's role in Christology and Christian apologetics. He also started every class session with prayer and a singing bowl for meditation and mental clarity, which all of the Vanguards adored.

Rev. Dr. Amy Peeler walked Vanguards through scriptural references and interpretations of Mary. Starting in Luke and ending with John, she led students in large and small group discussions on the presentation of Mary in all four Gospels. Dr. Peeler spent significant time highlighting women in the Bible and engaging students on how women influenced the biblical story, especially in an over-masculinized understanding of that narrative. Vanguards were especially intrigued in looking into the women in Jesus' genealogy found in Matthew. 

All professors held times at the end of class for Vanguards to ask questions, whether that be about the seminar or questions of personal inquiry. This time created long discussions and some of the most insightful bits of information throughout the seminar. Questions like "What about the claims of other religions?" and "How should certain bible passages affect my soteriological views?" prompted meaningful replies from the professors and thoughtful comments from Vanguards.

Another fun aspect of the seminar? Every professor led an optional morning (6:00 am!) workout. Dr. Milliner led an intense exercise up Ski Hill, Dr. Amy Peeler guided a run around camp, and Dr. Lance Peeler ran a weight lifting session.

amy peeler teaching at honeyrock

Charlie Goeke, School Year Program Director at HoneyRock, shares this about the role and importance of seminars at Vanguard:

"First, the seminars are a critical component in that it models collegiate-level thinking, ideas, and a learning process. Vanguards engage with college professors who stretch them to think beyond a single discipline. 

Second, we ask big questions and introduce inquiries meaningful for faith development in this transition from high school to college. The conversations that emerge from these questions are led by multiple experts across common disciplines: biology, art history, astronomy, English, New Testament, Old Testament, and more. The idea is that we ask a question and approach it from a couple of different avenues to explore it.

Finally, the seminars introduce Vanguards to professors from Wheaton College and, occasionally, sister schools. These interactions show how the learning environment shifts from high school to college and provides an immersive collegiate-level learning experience."

Currently, Vanguards are in a seminar with Dr. Tiffany Kriner titled "Global Literature" It's been a fantastic way to start the semester! Blake Rittgers, Vanguard '21

group of vanguards stand and smile in three lakes, wi

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I absolutely loved the sessions on scripture and identifying the differences in texts between Zechariah and Mary's interactions with the angel Gabriel, as well as the intricacies and attention to detail that we were able to dive into and analyze in Luke. — Henry Xuan, Vanguard '21
I never experienced art, music, and scripture together in high school, so being able to learn about these subjects makes me excited to be able to study interesting topics in college. — Meg Wolfe, Vanguard '21
I really liked going through a timeline of church history using art. It was interesting to see how doctrinal and exegetical differences pop up in various paintings and iconography. — Bode Guthrie, Vanguard '21
Things like Advent and liturgical practices aren't as emphasized within my home church, so I've been helped by this seminar to get more into those rhythms of reflecting upon that which my faith is based on. Getting to go back to the starting point of Christianity itself is a very special thing. — Jamin Sinclair-Lee, Vanguard '21