Adjacent to American University’s campus, Wesley Theological Seminary is a peaceful neighbor whose presence reminds AU of its heritage as a university founded by the United Methodist Church which is guided by the motto, “Open minds. Open doors. Open hearts.” This sense of welcoming characterizes AU’s campus, and is kept alive in large part thanks to the proximity of the seminary whose bell tower can be seen from the AU campus.
AU students studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution, or International Development may earn credit for their degrees at AU. With dual enrollment, student may receive an MA from AU and an MTS from Wesley.
Wesley enrolls about 500 students who graduate to serve in all 50 states and nearly two dozen nations around the world. Students may live on campus in either apartment or dorm-style housing. The academic and administrative buildings are arranged in a square, providing a quiet, enclosed area with walkways amidst trees and flowers for the campus community to enjoy at their leisure.
The seminary maintains an Artist in Resident program where an artist comes to the seminary to work with students on art. Many works of art by residents are found throughout the campus. One of the most prominent is the mural in the tunnel connecting the Trott Administrative Building and the Kresge Academic Building. This mural, covering the wall from floor to ceiling, depicts the theme of life conquering death.
The prominently placed Oxnam Chapel clearly defines the spiritual purpose of the campus. Directly across from the library, the architecture attempts to convey that faith and study complement one another, especially in the life of a seminarian. Architecture also teaches the values of Wesley through the juxtaposition of glass and bricks on opposite walls of the chapel. The brick wall reminds one of the monastic nature of the seminary community living together studying, while the glass wall visually reminds the seminarians of their call to go out to minister to the community beyond the walls of the seminary. In these ways, the architecture symbolizes the importance of a balanced life of prayer and study, and looking inside and outside to care for one’s immediate needs and the needs of others, all lessons that benefit seminarians preparing here for ministry.
Worship services are offered on Tuesdays at 11am and Wednesdays at 6:15pm. Inside the chapel is beautiful stained glass window encouraging the seminarians to put on the “whole armor of God.” Outside the chapel is a statue of Christ which was sculpted by Leo Freidlander, whose work can also be seen at the National Cathedral.
Art adorns the campus outside of the chapel too. Inside a pond stands the bell tower whose four bells fill the surrounding community with beautiful sound. It is constructed in the form of a cross, with the names of John Wesley’s family members on the bells. A statue of Moses striking a rock with water flowing out of it provides a peaceful sight that engages visitors seeking tranquility. An equestrian statue of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, stands at the base of a hill. Recalling Wesley’s part in the Methodist heritage which has its roots in Britain, this statue is an exact replica of one located in Wesley’s Chapel in Bristol, England. It was dedicated in 1964. This statue is of particular note because of all the statues of people on horseback in Washington DC, all face the White House except for two. This statue of John Wesley and another of Francis Asbury, one of the first Methodist bishops in America, are the only two facing in other directions.
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