A few days before I gathered my thoughts to write this post about an interesting new program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, I discovered the program by way of its website. I wanted to know more, but I couldn't find some of the basic information on the website.
I came home Tuesday night last week feeling scattered. I wanted to read about people who faced similar times of discernment, but most of my books about seminarians focus on the young. No, I wanted a narrative about midlife.
Happily I remembered Nora Gallagher's Practicing Resurrection: A Memoir of Work, Doubt, Discernment, and Moments of Grace. I'd read it before, at least two other times, but it was perfect for last week. The book deals with Gallagher's loss of her brother to cancer, and her journey towards the possibility of ordination in the Episcopal church.
She wrestles with the role of a priest and the role of the layperson. She explores the idea of vocation, including the possibility that her writing might function as a priestly vocation. Some of her struggles seemed familiar, and some don't seem quite as central in my thoughts. I was most touched by her exploration of what her choices would mean for her husband, who didn't share her faith commitments.
She has many moments of discouragement, and in one passage, she remembers hiking near the mountain goats after she's been reading the book of Habukkuk. She concludes the chapter by saying, "I will find small passages just wide enough for my feet" (p. 173).
It's a compelling book, even if the reader isn't thinking of seminary. I highly recommend it.
Later, on Easter Saturday, I decided to do some online research. Perhaps some of the other programs that had interested me long ago (Emory, Yale) might have developed online components.
No such luck. And I researched local schools. If there's an M.Div. program within an easy driving distance of my house, I'm not finding it--although I do need to investigate St. Thomas U. further (not an easy drive, but within the tri-county area). As far as I can tell, they're the only school with an M.Div. program down here in southeast Florida. It doesn't seem like it could be true, down here where there are so many schools, but I think it is.
Next I must think about whether or not getting the M.Div. from a Lutheran institution trumps distance. More on that in later months. Right now, I'm not sure.
Holy Week seemed to be a week when many people I met were thinking about alternative or additional careers. I talked about retreats with a colleague at work, and we wondered about having science retreats at church camps. One set of friends has become enthralled with the idea of food trucks--it's a much cheaper, lower risk way to fulfill one's restaurant/chef dreams. One of them only needs 3 more grad level Culinary classes to be able to teach, and he can take them for free through our school, which he plans to do. I also had a lunch with friends who agree that the future of higher ed is quite shaky, at least as a way to a full-time job, and they're in the early stages of exploration. Another friend has just come back from an education and technology conference, and she's convinced there's a future in being a content developer in those areas. She's convinced that the technology changes are upon us, a wave crashing that will drown us, if we don't learn how to launch our surfboards.
It will be an interesting year or two as we all explore the possibilities.
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