Friday, April 5, 2013

What to Read and Research when One Spends Holy Week Contemplating Seminary

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.


Wendy said...

I bought the book. There was not an e-reader version (others of hers have them, but not practicing resurrection, so I have to wait for the physical book to arrive. I'm looking forward to it.

Wendy said...

The Presbyterian seminary in California closed their southern California campus. We have Fuller Seminary in driving distance, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. I am considering dipping my toe in in this program at Austin Theological seminary, but it's pretty Presbyterian specific as far as usefulness of the certificate.

Kristin said...

I'll look forward to hearing how you like the book.

The possible program sounds neat. I wonder if Lutheran seminaries have similar certificate programs and if having such a certificate would open any doors that are now closed. Hmm. Much to ponder.

We did an arts meditation with clay which we made into pinch pots with our eyes closed. The pinch pot was used to hold a tea light candle, and we were encouraged to write a word on it. I wrote the word "discern" on mine.

I look forward to continuing to hear more about your journey. I've taken comfort in thinking of you as a fellow traveler (even though you're on a different coast)!

Wendy said...

I finished the book. I haven't read a physical book like that in a long time, and I found myself reaching for my pencil to underline often. I was not surprised at the end when Gallagher decided not to pursue ordained ministry. I think there is a different kind of gap between lay and ordained in the Episcopal tradition than the presbyterian one, but there is a freedom in lay ministry in my chosen tradition that may not be as easily accessible in word and sacrament ordained ministry (and constraints of other kinds).

On the other hand, I spent a week weeping because as we were planning "intern Sunday" the seminary intern made an offhand comment about possibly getting to be behind the table for the communion celebration. (In the end, he and I both served at stations, but a retired pastor was behind the table with the pastor.)

I'm not sure where that leaves me, but I continue this discernment process. I, too, have take comfort in thinking of you as a fellow traveler. I will pray for your continued discernment.

Kristin said...

Wendy,I'll keep praying for your continued discernment too.

I've found some other possibilities which I'll blog about in more detail soon. But in short, Luther Seminary seems to have a distance learning MDiv in the spirit of a low-residency MFA. And I found a fairly affordable program that trains one to be a spiritual director by way of 1 week-end retreat a month for 9 months for 2 years.

The more I work towards discernment, the more discerning I discover that I must do--I wonder if this feeling is a normal part of the process?