Friday, March 31, 2023

A Cramped Labyrinth

A week ago, my sister came to my seminary apartment to pick me up to go to Williamsburg.  My mom was part of a planning team for the St. Stephens Lutheran Church women's retreat, and she invited us to attend.  She also invited me to offer a workshop on labyrinths.

St. Stephens doesn't have a labyrinth, so before the week-end, we brainstormed.  My mom reached out to nearby Episcopalians who have a canvas labyrinth.  It's 30 feet--30 feet--in diameter, so when we were together in February, we went around the church building measuring.  We determined that there was no indoor space for that canvas labyrinth.

Happily, I know how to lay out a labyrinth outline.  One could do this with rope or yarn, or even masking tape on a floor.  I got the labyrinth outline that we use for the Create in Me retreat:

My mom got some ropey nylon in two shades of pink at an after-Valentine's Day sale at the Dollar Store.  This labyrinth would be very hard for me to lay out without two shades of border, so I was glad to have it.

We spent about an hour on Friday laying out the labyrinth in a space off the narthex in the church.  We really could have used several more feet on the sides, but the space is bordered by a wall on one side and a window on another, so we had to work with what we had.  We scootched lines over and shifted, and soon enough, we were done:

The ropey nylon wanted to spring free of the tape, so we taped it more than we might have.  I didn't want to arrive on Saturday morning to have to lay it out again.

It wasn't a perfect labyrinth, but the people who came to my workshop were gracious about it.  They were grateful to have a way to try out this prayer practice (only 1/4 of the participants had ever walked one).

I did worry a bit that this experience, which was a bit too cramped and crowded to be truly meditative.  It wasn't the perfect first labyrinth walk, for those who had never tried it.  Happily, most people said that they saw the potential, and at the end of the workshop, they were strategizing about where to find a bigger labyrinth.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

March Goes Out with a Poetry Reading

Last night, I went to a poetry reading.  On its face, that's not too strange.  In fact, I had seen/heard one of the poets, Carolyn Forche, several times before.  But what made last night unique is how I came to be there.  

Last week, one of my classmates reached out to me to see if I was going and to suggest that if I was, we go together.  She also needed a ride, since she doesn't drive at night, so if I lived near her, could I drive and she'd pay for gas and parking?  

Although I live half an hour away, I offered to drive to her, pick her up, and we'd go together.  I was less worried about driving at night than I was about arriving at a crowded venue with nowhere to sit and no one I know.  I proposed that we go at a ridiculously early hour so that we left ourselves time for traffic.  I expected to get to Busboys and Poetes, the venue, at 5:30 for a 7:00 start time, but in the end, we did need the extra time--lots and lots of traffic.  We had good conversation in the car along the way.  

The poetry reading had a different format--it was a liturgically inflected reading.  That's fancy talk for the fact that it had some liturgical elements that you would usually find in a worship service.  The host and curator, Travis Helms, is a poet and an Episcopal priest, and when he was in Austin, he was trying to create something that felt less transactional when it came to poetry readings, something more participatory, a gathering that had something to offer to people yearning for something to connect them to the Divine but without having to go to a church building.

How that looked last night:  after a singing bowl centering, we opened and closed with poems read in a responsive format.  It could have been even more like worship; Helms has described gatherings with something that sounded like the Eucharist, although he never disclosed whether or not he saw the meal sharing as sacrament or whether he blessed the elements--the kind of details that fascinate a theology nerd like me.

Last night was more like a traditional poetry reading, but that was fine with me.  Carolyn Forche read poems that were new to me, poems about lighthouses and refugees and wreckage.  Richard Reeves was completely new to me, and I loved the talk between the poems, talk that illuminated his writing process.  I hope that some of that type of information and illumination is captured in his book of essays that's coming out in August.

At the end of the reading, we didn't linger.  We got a bit lost, but those who wander with smart phones are never really lost.  We drove around the downtown DC majesty, marble buildings and monuments, and made our way back towards Virginia with much less traffic than we had faced on our way to the reading.

I am so glad my classmate reached out to me.  I am so glad I said yes.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Preaching a Sermon in the Seminary Chapel

I have come to the week in seminary work that I knew would come--a variety of papers and projects due this week, a crunch time, but not impossible.  Last night I preached my sermon for Women and the Preaching Life class.  You might say, "Big deal.  Aren't you going to do this once a week in your new career?"  But it's the project that gives me the most relief when it's done.

Perhaps.  And yes, when giving a sermon once a week, I might not be as relieved to be done with it.  But it would be different on a Sunday morning than it was last night.

For this class, we have an exegesis that we have to do in advance:  we take a deep dive into the text, and we look at concordances and translations and what words mean in other languages.  We consult at least 3 commentaries.  We look at various angles from which we might consider the text:  social justice, literary elements, where the text is situated in the Bible and throughout history.  My exegesis project was 16 pages long.

We also have to turn in a written version of our sermon.  That wasn't an onerous burden, since I preach from a manuscript when a grade is on the line.  Does it say something about me that I preach from the written out sermon when it's for a grade, but I'm not as committed to that approach when I preach for a congregation?  You decide.

To tell the truth, I had been moving in this direction.  I had been preaching from an outline before we moved.  I preached from a manuscript in last semester's Foundations of Preaching class, and I was surprised by how much easier it was.  I may be preaching from a manuscript from now on, or at least a more complete outline.

Last night, we preached in the chapel, and it was a beautiful experience, even though it was just our class.  We gathered just before the class started at 6:30, and we noticed deer grazing on the hill outside the big windows.  The fading light was beautiful.  I told my classmates about seeing the deer this morning across the street on the American U soccer field.

And then we settled into our sermon giving rhythm.  I got to go first.  Unlike last semester's class, we each got to choose our own passage.  I decided to go with a selection from the Revised Common Lectionary that comes this summer, the second Sunday after Pentecost:  Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26.  I was pleased with what I wrote, and it was well received.

I got to go first, which made me happy.  And then I relaxed into the knowledge that I had preached, and it went well.  After class, I turned in my exegesis and my manuscript and tucked myself into bed.

Today I'll write and write and write some more, and then I'll drive to Vienna to pick up a classmate who doesn't drive at night.  We're going to a free poetry reading:   Carolyn Forché and Roger Reeves at Busboys and Poets in Northeast DC’s Brookland neighborhood on Wednesday, March 29, from 7–8:30 p.m.  It's free, so if you're in the DC area, come on over and join us!

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Deer at Sunrise

This morning I headed out early for my walk, not early in terms of my summer schedule, but early for these colder months.  The sky had started to turn interesting shades of pink and lavender, and I wanted to see the sunrise without a window between us.

I thought the sunrise would provide the morning enchantment, but instead, it was 3 young deer frolicking on the American University soccer field.  They had longer tails than I'm used to seeing, white, bushy tails.  They seemed young because of lack of antlers, which might mean they were female.  But they also weren't as big as some deer I've seen.

They stood at the fence, looking at the street just beyond the chain link fence with the soccer field behind them.  As I approached on the other side of the street, they looked at me, and if I was an anthropomorphizing type of person, I'd say they were happy to see me.  I walked toward them, hoping they'd run away from the fence, away from the road that was quickly filling with traffic.

They did run away, but with every car that drove by, they turned.  I whistled to them and said, "Turn away from the traffic.  It's a good life skill for you to have."  And then I laughed at myself, talking to deer as if they could hear me.

I didn't hear any collision noises as I walked away, so I'm assuming they went back into the vacant, overgrown field nearby.  And I walked off, into the spring morning, cherry trees blooming profusely, the yards full of spring flowers.

Do I have any pictures?  No, I've stopped carrying my phone with me.  It's big and heavy and it's rare these days that I wish I could take a photo.

There are many aspects of these neighborhood walks that I will miss when I move; it's astonishing to me that we have so many huge swaths of undeveloped land, land that is often protected, here in a densely populated city.  It's amazing to take a morning walk and see deer, knowing that just a few miles away, the leader of the U.S. sleeps in the White House.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Dem Bones and Sunday Percussion

On Friday night at the Women's Retreat at St. Stephens Lutheran Church in Williamsburg, we worked on the offertory anthem for Sunday morning.  The Old Testament reading was from Ezekias--time to get out the songs about bones!  We did not do "Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again"; we did "Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones."  It had opportunities for 3 percussion instruments:  the guiro, the sticks, and a shaker.  

The people playing the instruments on Friday night weren't going to be at the 8:30 service.  I thought my mom planned to go, so I volunteered to play the instruments.  Even though it made for a long Sunday morning, I was glad I did.

When we did the quick rehearsal Sunday morning before the 8:30 service, I learned I had mixed up the instruments, but I regrouped.  I spent much of church looking at the music and visualizing myself doing it correctly.  And I did!

Someone commented afterward that I looked like I was concentrating on getting those instruments right.  Indeed I was.  I was playing with 2 of the best musicians I know, my mom and Karen Ives, and I didn't want to let them down, even though it's a volunteer choir.

The song has been in my head for days now, and if you'd like it to be in yours, the early service was recorded.  You can see me playing to the far right of the screen.  My mom stands beside me, and Karen is at the piano.  Go here and go to minute 53.40.

Or watch the whole service--it's worth your time.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Women's Retreat: an Overview

At some point, I'll write a post with photos from the women's retreat at St. Stephens Lutheran Church in Williamsburg.  This morning, time is short--I need to get ready for church, both early and late service today.  Let me write a quick blog post to serve as an overview and a wrap up.

We started on Friday.  We had pizza and wine (or non-alcoholic drinks).  We did some singing together, a good range of hymns across the century and only the first verse.  We did a getting to know you game, a card with squares that had items like:  I own more than 5 cookbooks, I've got towels that only guests use.  My mom was in charge of the retreat, and she asked me for ideas, so I sent her this photo from an earlier Create in Me retreat.  Happily, it didn't need much tweaking.

On Saturday, we got an early start.  People could arrive by 8:30 for some breakfast, and Bible Study started at 9.  Our Bible study was one verse, the one about putting new wine in old wineskins, and we used it as a jumping off point to talk about this moment in history as a hinge moment for the church.  We need to be doing something new, but what do we do if we don't know what to do?

I had lots of thoughts, but I tried to be quiet.  We talked a lot about technology, but is that really a new wineskin?  If we're streaming the worship service that we've always had, are we sending out our old wine with a new delivery system?  I mentioned that once, and let it go.  But it's a thought I'll be coming back to.  

We had this discussion in the morning, and for afternoon Bible study, we ended with brainstorming about what we might try to accomplish in our church.  We had tried to divide ourselves into groups that would have people who have a mix of ways of responding to change.

There were workshops throughout the day:  prayer beads, labyrinths, and the Enneagram, plus a Q and A with our Bible leader.  Publix did a great job with the box lunch; in fact, it was one of the best veggie sandwiches I've ever had from a box lunch.  Usually the veggie option can be rather thin and pitiful.

We finished around 4 and went home, a tired but satisfied group of women.  Our Bible study leader is leading worship this morning, and we're singing in the choir--the retreat spirit continues!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Poem for the Feast Day of the Annunciation

 It is the Feast Day of the Annunciation, the day when we celebrate the arrival of the angel Gabriel to Mary.  He greets her and tells her that God has need of her.  She says yes to God's surprising ideas.

Anyone who reads my work or listens to my sermons knows that I don't think this is the only time that God has appeared with an interesting proposal to an individual human.  I believe that God does this all the time, and that all too often, we're too busy or distracted or depressed or done in by grief to even notice that God is there saying, "Hail, oh blessed one.  The Lord is with you."

Years ago I thought about the angel Gabriel and how the mission would change in our current day.  And then I wrote this poem (for more process notes, see this blog post), which was included in the book Annunciation (if you'd like a signed copy of the book, let me know, and we can negotiate a price):

A Girl More Worthy

The angel Gabriel rolls his eyes
at his latest assignment:
a virgin in Miami?
Can such a creature exist?

He goes to the beaches, the design
districts, the glittering buildings
at every boundary.
Just to cover all bases, he checks
the churches but finds no
vessels for the holy inside.

He thinks he’s found her in the developer’s
office, when she offers him coffee, a kind
smile, and a square of cake. But then she instructs
him in how to trick the regulatory
authorities, how to make his income and assets
seem bigger so that he can qualify
for a huge mortgage that he can never repay.

On his way out of town, he thinks he spies
John the Baptist under the Interstate
flyway that takes tourists
to the shore. But so many mutter
about broods of vipers and lost
generations that it’s hard to tell
the prophet from the grump,
the lunatic from the T.V. commentator.

Finally, at the commuter college,
that cradle of the community,
he finds her. He no longer hails
moderns with the standard angel
greetings. Unlike the ancients,
they are not afraid, or perhaps, their fears
are just so different now.

The angel Gabriel says a silent benediction
and then outlines God’s plan.
Mary wonders why Gabriel didn’t go
to Harvard where he might find
a girl more worthy. What has she done
to find God’s favor?

She has submitted
to many a will greater than her own.
Despite a lifetime’s experience
of closed doors and the word no,
she says yes.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Beginning My Day with Poetry

Wednesday I started my day with poetry.  I wish I could say that I do this every day, but sadly, I do not.  I try hard to be intentional on at least 3 days a week, so that I'm not starting my day with scrolling through Twitter or Facebook.  

One way I have done this in the past has been to stay away from the computer.  But that's not what I did on Wednesday.  I decided to try to write a rough draft on the computer, which isn't usual for me.  Lately, though, when I'm feeling like a dried out husk with no poetry ideas, I open my Word doc of evocative lines, choose one or two, and see what comes up.  It's amazingly effective.

I wrote a few lines, then turned back to Facebook, where Dave Bonta had posted photos from his daily hike, along with a poem.  I was taken by these lines:  "i go off looking for / my lost winter glove."  I decided to open another Word document to see where that line took me.

Those evocative lines led to a poem of my own.  Once this process wouldn't have been unusual enough to take note of, but these days, it feels more rare that I write a poem that eventually ends up finished.  I sent it to Dave, who posted it on his Via Negativa site.  You can read it here.

I wandered over to Facebook, where I saw a post by Daisy Fried, who introduced her students to Robert Hayden's "Middle Passage."  Along with reading the poem, they listened to this podcast that contains a discussion of the poem--great stuff!  After the podcast, I read this article that talks about the history of how this poem has been received by larger communities (the poetry community, the black community, new generations of activists).

Eventually, I shifted to seminary writing.  I like to think that my seminary writing was deeper and richer because I began my morning with poetry.  I know that my life is richer each day when I begin my day with poetry.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Shifting Agricultural Zones

I do not have much time for writing this morning, not the non-academic kind at least.

No time for gallivanting among the cherry blossoms today.  Seminary writing summons me.

But here's a cherry blossom fact that I found sobering:  "Washington’s Yoshino cherry trees aren’t going anywhere, of course. But in garden stores and landscape architecture, the Japanese species isn’t among the varieties being planted in the D.C. region and other parts of the country, he said. Instead, popular cherry trees nowadays are descended from species native to Taiwan, at a latitude hundreds of miles south of Japan’s."  (from this article in The Washington Post)

We are changing our planet in ways that we can scarcely comprehend.  I have hopes that we'll continue to find ways to adapt, like shifting plants to latitudes that are better for them.  

I have fainter hope that we'll manage to stop our accelerated warming so that we don't have to shift plants.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Museums after the Cherry Blossoms

When I thought about moving to DC, I assumed I would go to the museums every day.  Back then, I thought the seminary was within walking distance of the Mall, and even when I realized it wasn't, I thought the Metro stop was closer.

All of this to say:  I don't go to museums every day, or even as often as I had planned to when I first moved to DC.  I only feel occasional guilt about that.  It takes time to go down to the Mall to see the big museums.  On Monday, I realized it takes money too:  my round trip Metro fare was somewhere between 6 and 8.  It's money that's already loaded on my Metro card, so I don't feel it viscerally.  

But because it takes time and money, I want to make the most of trips downtown.  So I knew that after the cherry blossoms, I wanted to go to a museum or two.  I chose the Renwick because I've been doing a lot of work with fabric, and I knew that my best chance of seeing a quilt would be there.  

But it was not to be--lots of fiber art, like this one strung from the grand hall ceiling with lights that changed to mimic the sunset, and the whole process of the changing of the light took the same amount of time as an average sunset.

It wasn't what I had in mind, but there was much to love in this museum.  More than the fiber art, I was drawn to assemblages, like this one, with keepsakes and found objects combined with clay and embellished with glitter and gold leaf:

This one is supposed to be a bracelet composed of trash taken off the beaches washed up from the sea:

Up close:

After spending time in the Renwick, I decided I still had time, so I would go to the American Art Museum.  But I got a bit lost, turning right when I should have turned left.  So I was a bit grumpy and out of sorts when I arrived.  But I still wandered around, taking in the work, letting my grumpiness fade away.  I saw this work by an artist, Thornton Dial, whose works I saw in a different Smithsonian back in January (read more about the artist here):

I didn't see much in the way of quilts, and I didn't expect to.  But I was delighted that this assemblage is still here, where I saw it first, decades ago.  It's James Hampton's, "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly," and you can read more about it here :

I love these works, but I do wonder how artists without a shed or studio do this kind of work.  Where do they store these pieces when it's done?  As always, I wonder what type of art I might do, if time, space, money, and materials didn't matter.

Happily my mediums of choice, words and my fabric and colored markers, don't take much room.  And I can dip in and out, the way I wouldn't be able to do if I worked in clay or resins.  I can do something creative, even if I only have 15 minutes.

These kinds of exhibits do make me think about all that I throw away--the scraps of foil, the trinkets, all the materials that could be art.  I'm glad that I have other options.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Quest to See the Cherry Blossoms

I have been keeping an eye on the progress of the cherry blossoms.  For as long as my family lived in Northern Virginia and Maryland, I've never been here when the cherry trees were blooming, so I knew I wanted to see them.  Plus, I haven't been to the MLK Memorial, so I could take care of two goals at once.  But it was hard to know the precise moment to go.  So, I chose yesterday, the last good day in terms of my schedule.

It's still a few days before peak bloom, but it was still a beautiful (but cold!) morning.  I headed over to the Metro at 7:15, and I was emerging from the Metro Center station as a clock chimed 8 a.m.  I was further away, but walking from Metro Center instead of changing to a line that would get me closer made me happy.  I headed down to the Tidal Basin.

I was surprised by how many coffee shops were closed for the morning, and I did wonder if there was something going on I should know about.  But throughout the day, the streets and sidewalks were emptier than I would expect in the capital of the U.S.  I've been hearing about this phenomenon, offices that haven't resumed a 5 day work week schedule, which means that there's no one there to shop or eat out.  There's certainly not a lot of apartment space downtown.

There were a few folks at the Tidal Basin when I got there, including one woman in a long, bright pink, satin gown.  I took pictures as I headed towards the Jefferson Memorial.  I haven't mastered the art of selfies yet, but I liked this one from early in the morning:

And here's a touristy kind of shot:

There would be many touristy shots throughout the day.  Here's the Washington Monument:

I didn't take pictures of the people wearing interesting varieties of cherry hats and headpieces.  I didn't take pictures of the busloads of students, the busloads of tourists.  I was glad I came early.

Along the way I stopped at all the Memorials.  Some were deeply familiar, like the Jefferson Memorial:

Some I had visited exactly once, like the FDR Memorial.  I was glad the Eleanor Roosevelt got a prominent place all to herself:

And some were brand new, like the MLK Memorial:

I walked the entire length of the Tidal Basin, which was lined with cherry trees the whole way.  At the other end, I came across this memorial to the process that brought these trees to us:

Then I headed back up to the museum district to go to the Renwick and maybe some others.  This post is getting long, so I'll write about the museums later.

By the time I got back to my seminary apartment, I had walked 8.4 miles, and my arthritic feet felt that distance.  But it was a wonderful day, worth every ache.

Monday, March 20, 2023


Today is the day that winter gives way to spring:  happy equinox!  I didn't plan it this way, but I am headed down to the Tidal Basin this morning in the hopes of seeing glorious cherry blossoms.  We've had some nights with temperatures below freezing, which isn't good for these blooms, but I have hopes that it will still be beautiful.  The cherry trees around my seminary campus seem to be holding up OK.  This tree bloomed earliest, and it's gone on to its next phase, but here it is back in early February:

I do wonder if the trees are cherry trees or something else that has pink flowers.  I am also noticing the absence of azalea plants around seminary.  I'll keep my eyes open today.

We are starting off today in a wintry place with temperatures in the 20s, but by the end of the week, the temperatures are forecast to be closer to 70.  It seems a metaphor for something, but I don't feel like puzzling out.  Some days, I just want to let the spring weather be the changeable thing that it is.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sunday Snippets

I am not sure I have enough for a coherent, multi-paragraph blog post this morning, so let me collect some snippets.

--Three years ago, I went to the public library, which turned out to be the last day citizens were allowed in the physical building for months and months.  Covid shutdowns were barreling towards us, and I knew I didn't have much longer to get some books and DVDs.  Why do I remember the date?  It's my mother's birthday, and I was waiting in line with my arms full of books, thinking about how she would check out armloads of books for me when we would go to the library, when I had checked out the limit on my child's library card.

--I spent yesterday afternoon with my spouse, in a virtual way.  We watched The Chosen on our individual computers, by way of Amazon's Watch Party feature.  I am so impressed with this series.  I am rarely impressed with anything, much less an adaptation of a book that has significance.

--I am also in the process of watching the film Mary Magdalene, and there was a moment or two yesterday afternoon when I couldn't remember which plotline went with which movie.  It's strange, in a way--shouldn't the plotlines be the same?  Yes and no.

--It has been a hard week for exercise for me with lots of windy days.  I thought I would have problems with cold weather and exercise, but it's actually wind and cold that hinders me.

--Because of the wind that is forecast for today, I decided to wait to go to see the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms until tomorrow.  Tomorrow was my original plan, after I decided not to go on Friday.  But when I heard about tonight's projected low temps, I wondered if I should try to go today.  I decided that I would enjoy it more tomorrow, so I'll wait and hope that the temperatures don't dip low enough for long enough to harm the cherry blossoms.  It's an outing that will involve lots of walking, so tomorrow will be better.

--So, if I'm going to be downtown tomorrow for a chunk of the day, let me turn my attention to what needs to be done today.  Seminary writing of course--but there is also time for bread baking.  I'll finish watching Mary Magdalene and do some sewing.  And maybe, if the wind dies down a bit, I'll go for a walk.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Writing Process with Quilt Squares

Yesterday I planned to go downtown to the Tidal Basin to see the early blooming cherry blossoms.  But the weather had turned, with rain expected.  So I changed my mind, and I'm still changing it.  I thought I would go down, wander the Tidal Basin, and then go to a museum.  Later in the day I thought about trying to get down there for sunrise--but the museums don't open until 10.  Hmm.  I'm also a bit worried about the overnight temperatures, which could damage the blooms that are only just now reaching peak bloom.  Should I go tomorrow?  I'm not going today, because I have too many seminary projects due today, including an extra credit midterm for Church History II.  Let me keep thinking.

I had a lot of writing to do, but from now until early May, I will always have a lot of writing to do.  I am enjoying my writing process.  I move between assignments, so when I get stuck on one, I have something else to do.  I've always been that way.  This term, I also take a walk when I need to clear my head, and I don't require that it be a long walk.

And this term, I'm also working on a variety of quilt squares.  So I take stitching breaks too.  Here's a view from my desk:

I also worked on a different project that took less time.  At some point last semester, the seminary installed lights that lit up the parking lot at night.  Unfortunately, they also flood my windows with light.  When I was back in North Carolina, I slept so much better in a darker room.  So I had been wondering how I could replicate that in my seminary apartment.  I don't want to spend the money on new drapes for a place I'm leaving in 2 months.  Yesterday, I tried attaching pieces of fleece to the drapes with clothes pins:

I slept really well last night.  Was it exhaustion or did the darkened room really help?  I will try it again tonight to find out!

But in the meantime, here's what my day looks like, which makes me happy:

Friday, March 17, 2023

Slavery and Saint Patrick

Here we are at the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, perhaps even more popular with non-Christians than the Feast Day of St. Valentine.  I think of people eating corned beef and cabbage, or perhaps some sort of potato dish, with green beer to wash it all down.  Do those people think about Saint Patrick's years of slavery in Ireland before he became a missionary to Ireland before he became a patron saint of Ireland?

It's strange to think of Saint Patrick in this year when we've been censoring books that mention slavery, when we've been banning curriculum that talks about the more recent history of slavery.  Hmmm.

We like slaves who are safe in centuries we can scarcely remember.  Patrick was born to a high ranking Roman family in England, but when he was approximately 16, he was kidnapped and spent 6 or 7 years as a slave in Ireland. While there, he learned the language and the non-Christian customs of the land.

This knowledge would come in handy when he was sent back to Ireland in the 5th century to solidify the Christianity of the country. There are many stories about Patrick's vanquishing force, complete with Druid spells and Christian counterspells. I suspect the real story was perhaps more tame.

Later scholars have suggested that Patrick and his compatriots were sent to minister to the Christians who were already there, not to conquer the natives. Other scholars have speculated that one of the reasons that Christianity was so successful in Ireland was because Patrick took the parts of pagan religions that appealed most to its followers and showed how those elements were also present in Christianity--or perhaps incorporated them into Christianity as practiced in Ireland.

These days, I am thinking of Church History more than the more recent history that has so enraged the governor of Florida.  I am thinking about all the decisions made in the earliest centuries of Christianity, about roads not taken, about the ways we could have had a more vibrant religion.

This morning, on the Feast Day of Saint Patrick, I'm realizing that we do have it.  

I'm thinking of Celtic Christianity and all the ways it can enrich our daily lives.  I realize we could argue about whether or not Celtic Christianity really existed in the way we might think about it now, this many centuries later.

Even if modern versions of Celtic Christianity aren't historically accurate, these ideas have much to offer us in the twenty-first century.  I like the idea of living in community.  I like the idea of taking care of creation.  I like the way that spirituality can infuse every element of our lives, if we're being aware and intentional.  In an article from the Northumbria community, Trevor Miller says, "Esther De Waal puts it well; ‘The Celtic approach to God opens up a world in which nothing is too common to be exalted and nothing is so exalted that it cannot be made common.’ They believed that the presence of God infused daily life and thus transforms it, so that at any moment, any object, any job of work, can become a place for encounter with God. In everyday happenings and ordinary ways, so that we have prayers for getting up, lighting the fire, getting dressed, milking the cow etc."

The entire article is well worth your time, especially if you're looking for ways to revitalize your own spiritual life.  What a great way to celebrate Saint Patrick--much more nourishing than corned beef and green beer!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Biblical Inerrancy and A Different Sort of Evangelism

In various seminary classes, we've talked about Biblical truth/inerrancy and how we came to have these books in the Bible and not others.  I found myself wishing, not for the first time, that we had a way to add books.  The Christian New Testament is much too heavy with the works of Paul and the fact that they are all letters to specific communities wrestling with particular problems makes them only somewhat useful to me.

How might our faith have developed in more vibrant ways if we had included more through the years, not limited ourselves to the ones that the earliest communities chose to preserve?  By now we'd have a huge book, if we had kept everything.  

Of course, I have bookshelves which serve a similar function.  I look through some of them and think about how, when I've needed inspiration or consolation or wisdom, much more often I've turned to Kathleen Norris or Madeleine L'Engle than the letters of Paul.

And like any good evangelist, I've sung the praises of women theologians too often overlooked.  Recently, in the minutes before class started, I heard a classmate tell another one about Dakota, by Kathleen Norris.  I chimed in to talk about the other work she's written.  After class, I apologized for crashing into their conversation, and they were gracious--and then we went on to talk about Norris some more.  What a treat.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Seminary Snippets: Return from Reading Week

I got back to seminary, and I feel like I dove right in, with a few hours to settle in after the drive back from North Carolina, and then a great class on the Gospel of Luke, followed by two classes yesterday, Queer Theology and Women and the Preaching Life.  We had a chapel service yesterday that felt more like a convocation or an awards ceremony, but that was O.K.  I won't have many more of these chapel services to attend in person, so I'm trying to savor each one.

Similarly, I'm savoring taking classes in a physical classroom surrounded by students.  We've had such good classes, and yesterday's classes were spectacular.  In later years, let me remember how lucky I was to be able to experience this.

I was happy to hear about the selection of our new academic dean at Wesley Theological Seminary:  Dr. Carla Swafford Works.  I have not had a class with her, but I know how beloved she is by students who have taken classes with her.  More important to me:  she's been a faculty member here for years, and so she's likely to have the best interests of Wesley at heart.  Bring in a new person, and we would run the risk of having someone who wants to destroy the seminary to save it, a new sheriff in town mentality that can be so corrosive.

I know, I know:  you're saying how could someone like that be hired?  I have been part of many a hiring process, including 3 searches for an academic dean of an undergraduate institution.  People are so different in a job interview than they are in day to day life.  It's easy to present a false self, a best self, in a job interview.  At least with a hire from within the institution, we've seen the candidate in action over the years.  We have a good sense of personality and values and capabilities.  

So, the promotion of Dr. Works to academic dean makes me feel hopeful and relieved about the future of this seminary.  We've been told that the seminary is working on a 3 year schedule of classes, so that we can know which classes will be offered when and with which modality (online, hybrid, synchronous, in person).  Once I see that schedule, I'll feel a bit better about my own plan.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Clouds of Snow, Clouds of Petals

Decades ago, I walked with friends along the beach at Sullivan's Island.  One of those friends gestured towards a row of beach cottages and said, "That's the inspiration for a thousand bad water color paintings."  He wasn't wrong.  

But of course, it's also the inspiration for the kind of paintings that people want to hang on their walls, for better or worse.  It's the view so many of us wish we had as we stare out at our surly suburbs.  It's no wonder that so many painters try their hand at capturing it.

As I drove back to my seminary apartment yesterday, I looked out over mountain vistas and had similar thoughts about poetry.  I thought, I'm viewing the inspiration for thousands of bad poems.  But it does seem worth capturing in some format.  So let me write a quick blog post before turning back to seminary writing.

I worried a bit about the weather.  I knew that a system was forming off the coastline of both Carolinas, and I worried that it might form and move more quickly than anticipated.  I knew that it had been raining on Sunday, and the overnight temperatures were right at freezing.  So I left a bit later than my usual hours before sunrise departure time.  If there was any frozen stuff on the highways, the big trucks could deal with it better than I could.

As I got to the higher mountain passes (3700 feet above sea level), I looked out and wasn't sure whether I was seeing snow or the trees that had blossomed into white puffs over the last two weeks or clouds hanging low.  Maybe it was fog?  And then snow started falling along with the rain.

It didn't last long.  I suppose it's more accurate to say that I drove out of it quickly.  But I continued to watch the clouds my whole way back to DC.  Was I seeing the swirls from the system forming off the coast?  Leftover clouds from the week-end storm?  Normal cloud cover?

Every so often, the clouds cleared, and I saw the brilliant blue sky.  Off to the distance, snow had fallen on mountain tops.  Closer, the land had that green fizz look of the first growth of spring.  I saw bunches of jonquils off in forest land, which made me wonder who planted those bulbs.

I got back to campus and looked around in amazement.  Just over a week ago, the trees were bare and budless.  Now every tree has buds, and one has burst into bloom.  I took a short walk through the expensive neighborhood next to my seminary to see the trees.

I hope the flowers survive the winds we're expecting today and tomorrow as the storm system roars north.  While I don't love spring flowers in the same way I love autumnal leaves, I don't want them to be swept away early.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

When Weather Turns

This morning, I'm listening to the soft patter of rain as I write.  I thought, as I often do when I hear rain, how nice it is to no longer own a house that's in a flood zone.  Of course, my thoughts also run this way because yesterday I read this article in The Washington Post about how insurers are altering adjusters' reports on hurricane Ian damage, likely to avoid paying. 

I also read the comments, where some people are aghast at how much people paid for that insurance and about how high the deductibles are, why would anyone buy insurance that has a $20,000 deductible?  Because someone who needs a mortgage will need insurance, and in Florida, one has very few options.

And again, I'm grateful that I'm here in the North Carolina mountains, in my very solid little house.  I am struck by how few of the houses we've bought have seemed this sturdy.  My spouse commented that it's the only house we've ever had where we're the first people to have done any updating.  We're not having to fix the problems caused by former owners and their visions for what the house could/should be.

I'm also watching the rain and the temperatures--once again, I have a travel day tomorrow, and I'm watching the weather.  Will the rain turn to snow?  So far, I think I'll avoid snow impacting my travel one more time, and by the next time I make my way to the mountains, it will be early April, and perhaps the snow chances will be done for this winter.

I know that I've been lucky:  we've had a very mild winter so far.  Some part of me expects to be punished in a future year.  It's both familiar and different from the way that I felt in South Florida, where the punishment of weather and warming could have easily meant that our house would be destroyed or unsalvageable.  With luck, we won't be punished that way in our mountain house.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Last Kitchen Remodel

Yesterday we went to the local big box home repair/remodel store for our noon appointment about the kitchen remodel.  We sat with the very patient consultant and she entered possibilities into the computer.  In the end, it took us less time than we anticipated to make decisions.

First, here's a picture of the "before" kitchen:

With every kitchen remodel, there's some part of us that says/hopes, "This is the last kitchen remodel we will ever do."  We try to make choices that will have some chance of aging well.  Thus, we thought about gray cabinets (yes, we're late to this party), but in the end we went with a natural wood color.  We thought about a lighter shade, but we went with the color we always choose, a cinnamon.

It's the color I always choose.  I have loved cinnamon as both a color and a spice for decades longer than I've been choosing kitchen cabinets.  So we could think of that choice as a failure of imagination or as knowing what will delight me every day--or both.  The style will be a simple Shaker, a box within a box.  We have vaulted ceilings, so we'll go with taller cabinets, 42 inches instead of 36; we'll get a lot more storage for not much more money.  We will wait and choose pulls and handles later.

Usually, we've made these decisions well in advance.  We've often spent hours in the big box home repair/remodel stores, looking at cabinets, dreaming of countertops.  This time, we did not, apart from a brief moment back in the summer, during our quest for a refrigerator, when we looked at countertop possibilities.  My spouse thought that the one we wanted had been discontinued, but yesterday, it was there (or something close to what we remembered, quartz, white as a background, shot through with grays, blacks, and blues, and a bit of tan roundness here and there--the color is mountain river or maybe river rock).

As we've been working through kitchen remodel decisions, my thoughts occasionally turn back to our last kitchen remodel, which at times felt hard for so many reasons.  We were trying to do repairs after Hurricane Irma in 2017, which meant everything was delayed.  But a deeper reason for my exhaustion was the certainty that we'd be needing to do another repair and remodel after some future storm, if our house was left standing.

It's very different this time.  We're taking out the first kitchen that this house had, back when it was built in 1975.  It's a solid house built in a place that will be sheltered from much of the coming climate catastrophe.

If we make good decisions, this kitchen remodel may very well be the last one that we ever do.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Shifting Employment

In this time of great resignations and remodelings of our lives, I've been informally collecting/noticing stories of people who have made a shift or are in the process of moving towards a shift.

I have tended to focus on people going back to school.  More specifically, I've been amazed at how many women my age have decided to go to seminary in the past few years.  Often these are women who were already deeply involved in church, although perhaps not in a paid capacity.  Often these are women who have hit some sort of ceiling in their current church jobs and need a different kind of theology degree to get to where they need to go.

Most of the people I know are in caring professions, like pastoring, teaching, and medical fields.  Many women who are undergoing career shifts are moving from one caring area to another.  And some are doing something adjacent.

I heard from a woman who went to college when I did, and her job sounded so cool that I had to ask her about it.  She works in a museum that tells about the history of the county she lives in, and she said this about her job:

"I cannot believe I get paid to teach some amazing school children and dress historically on occasion, plant and maintain an antebellum garden, give tours to people from all over the US, research history and genealogy, work with an amazing group of intelligent , respectful co-workers AND get paid to do it!"

I'm recording it here because I want to remember that there's a wide range of jobs out there.  I've been having some anxiety when I think about the future, both the near future and the further away future.  There are all kinds of jobs out there that don't require more education, jobs that can be fulfilling, jobs that don't involve spreadsheets and downsizing, jobs that help preserve the best of what humanity has been and can be.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Mid-Point of Reading Week

In some ways, Reading Week is like any other week, except I haven't had classes to attend.  I've finished a paper on Buddhism, done a less formal journal entry on the lecture for Church History II, done a lot of reading, done some work on an exegesis paper due Monday for my Luke class.  

But unlike the Reading Week back in October, I will spend the entire week here at my house in North Carolina.  I drove down here on Friday with a car load of stuff and got settled in.  The house is under construction, so it's hard to settle in, in some ways.  It's been years since I had a dresser (that will need to change this summer), and the closet that I could use is fairly inaccessible right now--the door is blocked by packages of flooring.

On Friday, we'll go to Lowe's and try to make some kitchen decisions.  Since we suspect that it will take some time to get cabinets delivered, we hope to place an order.  We have spent a lot of time measuring, measuring, measuring.  It's going to be a smaller kitchen than most of the remodeled kitchens we've had, but there will be plenty of work spaces and a dishwasher--and a working stove.

Yesterday I went to church for Bible study.  It was led by a woman who recently retired from the Lutheran seminary in Columbia, SC.  She has an ambitious goal, to lead people through the New Testament.  Obviously, it's more a survey than a deep dive.  Yesterday was the book of Acts, which is not one of my favorites.  The leader began by asking what questions we have about the earliest church, that first century after the Resurrection.  

It was interesting to hear the questions, to know the answers, and to see how the leader handled them.  It's the kind of situation I expect to face often when I'm done with seminary.  It also made me appreciate my seminary classes with the opportunity for wide-ranging exploration of these questions.

It's been interesting to be back here, where I will do the next phases of seminary studies.  I will need better lighting, along with a place for my stuff.  At least I have a solid internet connection.  

Today, in addition to a walk or two to enjoy the lovely weather, we'll do a dump run--time to start getting rid of some of this cardboard that comes as part of doing home renovations.  And later, we'll think about getting rid of some of the heavier stuff, like wood from the staircase demolition.

Right now, let me get another part of my Luke paper done.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

International Women's Day 2023

Today is International Women's Day, so I did what I do on some holidays--I checked my blogs to see what I had written before.  Here's a snippet from 2016:  "Let us also take a minute to consider how amazing it is that the most qualified candidate in this campaign season, in terms of experience, is a woman. In the past, it wouldn't have been possible for a woman to accumulate enough years of service to make that claim."  At that point, I wasn't sure that Hillary Clinton would win, the way I was later in 2016.  Sigh.

Until this year, I'd have assumed that rights that had been awarded by the Supreme Court were ours forever.  That belief is gone forever.  Yet I also know that I'm living in a better place than many women across the globe.  Part of that reason is because of my race and age and class.  But part of that reason is that women across the globe face much more bleaker circumstances than women on the lowest rung of U.S. society.

So, it's a hard year to be thinking about the status of women and celebrating accomplishments.  But it's important to remember that there have been accomplishments.  This year, unlike other years, we're having hard conversations about what it means to be a woman.  I have hopes that these conversations about gender might help us get to a place where life is safer for all of us, wherever we fall on the gender spectrum.

And once life is safer for all of us, perhaps we can think about ways that life can be more satisfying for all of us.

It's also important to remember how bleak life has been in the past, in the not too distant past.  We have not slid all the way back to bleaker days, and it's important to remember that.  We do have rights, we do have opportunities, and we can move fairly freely in the world if we're careful.  Of course, even as I type those words, I think about all the people who don't have rights, who don't have opportunities, who cannot move freely--that's especially true in countries like Afghanistan and Iran.

Will we look back and remember this year as being the one where women were given more rights and more access and more freedom in Iran?  I don't have much hope for Afghanistan this year, but there is an interesting upswelling in Iran.  I also understand the power structures that will try to crush those of us who want something better, something more free, something more open.

In my Queer Theology class, we've done a lot of analysis of oppressive social structures, of what we might call Powers and Principalities if we used theological terms.  We've talked about how these structures are self-perpetuating, about how hard it is to defeat them because they have power and accrue power simply by existing and because they have existed for so long.

No one said defeating them would be easy.  But many people have seen the vision of a better life for us all, and they can assure us the struggle is worth it, even though it's hard.  Future generations will thank us, even if we leave them tasks to finish.

And let me end on a positive note, even if I'm not feeling particularly positive.  

We know that the world can change very quickly.  I have often thought about how my 1987 self would be astonished at the fact that Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and went on to be elected president of South Africa and how there is no longer an East and West Germany. We are called to be part of the movement to change the world in ways that are better for all--and particularly for the vulnerable and powerless. We have made great progress on that front. But there is still more to do.

So, today, let us continue.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Early Days of Reading Week

So far, it's been a lovely reading week.  We've had unseasonably warm weather; I'm beginning to wonder if that was it for the winter.  Here in the mountains of North Carolina, as in DC, I see bursts of jonquils and daffodils, and here in NC, I see them in places where I wouldn't have envisioned someone planting them.  Instead of Johnny Appleseed, I have a vision of Dora Daffodil.

We've gone on walks in this unseasonably warm weather--what a treat.  It's the kind of weather that makes us wish for a concert in the park, but what community events planner would plan for such a thing in early March?  So we will content ourselves with walks.

We've also done some planning.  Yesterday we spent several hours on the kitchen remodel.  We looked up widths and heights of potential cabinets.  We explored different counter tops.  We know what we like--we've designed several kitchens before.  We worry that we'll just repeat the same thing.  Actually, that idea doesn't worry me.  We know what we like, after all.

At some point, I need to turn my attention back to all the work that I need to do for seminary.  But I did try to work ahead, so I also want to feel free to relax and reconnect with my spouse.  I have two more online classes that I'm teaching, and they start on March 16.  Happily, I've already done the work of entering in all the dates and other information on the syllabi of each class.

I have been a bit worried about the last 6 weeks of the term--I'm taking 6 seminary classes and teaching 4 online classes at the height of the last 6 weeks.  But everything is not due all at once, so I have hope (and reasonable expectations) that it can all work out.

In short, I won't have much leisure time when I leave here.  Let me enjoy some now.

Monday, March 6, 2023

On Not Going to AWP and Other Moves

Many people I know are in some state of travel this week.  Lots of writers are headed to the big writing conference, the AWP conference.  I went to a few of them; Tampa was an easy drive from my South Florida house, and we had such a good time that I decided to go the following year.  Unfortunately by the time of the  Portland  conference in 2019, I had almost no travel money, and by the following year, I funded the whole thing myself, to San Antonio in early March 2020, where we watched conferences for later March being cancelled and wondered what precautions we might should have been taking.

I am not on my way to Seattle this year for the AWP.  It's too expensive, and I'm no longer earning the kind of money that lets me fund the whole thing, which is easily $1,000 for the hotel by itself, not to mention airfare, which could also approach the $1,000 per ticket price, or not, if one is good at getting deals or traveling light, which I am not.  The conference fare looks cheap by comparison.

Plus, given all the air travel woes of the past year, I just do not have the patience for that kind of trip.  I need to be back on the east coast to go to my seminary classes.

I had planned to be in England this week, a trip with one grad school friend to visit another grad school friend who lives there.  But when we got the announcement that the building where I have my seminary apartment will be bulldozed, I decided to cancel the trip so that I could get ready for an unexpected move.  I did some packing and took a car load of boxes back to my North Carolina house, where I will be moved by May 15.

If there had been no announcement about seminary housing, I wouldn't have revisited that decision to move to seminary housing.  A lot has happened since I made the original application for housing a year ago.  A year ago, we didn't have this Lutheridge house.  A year ago, moving to seminary made sense--it was cheaper than our South Florida housing.  But now it makes sense not to have two places to live.

I'll still be going to seminary.  Wesley is offering more and more classes in a hybrid model: there are 2 week-ends on campus, and online modules between the week-ends. I've taken one class this way, and I like the way it builds community, but it offers a lot of flexibility too. I've also enjoyed the classes I've continued to take by way of Zoom sessions. In many ways, for a class that's a lecture (and most of my remaining classes are lecture, not hands-on art, not experiential field trips), attending by way of Zoom is not that different than attending in the classroom.

I'm trying to stay flexible as we face the future.  These past few years have made me better at pivoting, but the need to pivot still takes me by surprise.  I can't decide whether or not it makes sense to make long term plans.  In the past few years, so many of my long term plans have been upended.  Usually it works out for the better, but it does make me question whether or not to plan at all.

So, for those of you headed to AWP, good luck with the travel plans.  May you face no unexpected pivots.  For those of us with unexpected  moves, may they work out to be better plans than the original.  And of course, I'm me, so I wish for us all good discernment as we plan--or don't plan--for the future.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Sermon Slam

On Thursday, I went to a sermon slam.  I wasn't participating, although the thought intrigued me.  But the winner went on to a regional sermon slam, and I'll be at the Create in Me retreat when that happens--so it didn't seem fair to compete.  Plus, I thought I should observe one first.  I've never seen one, although I suspected it would be like a poetry slam.

As we waited for the sermon slam to start, we had dinner, which was a great opportunity for fellowship.  My fellow students at my table had never seen a sermon slam either.  I talked about poetry slams, which was a new concept to the students who ate dinner with me.  I realized I've never really been to many in-person poetry slam either, only one or two, back in the early years of this century, when it seemed like everyone wanted to compete.

The sermon slam on Thursday was less raucous than some of those early poetry slams.  We did clap, but we gave everyone the same amount of applause.  We did score the sermon presentations, but we filled out a paper slip which kept the results private.  Four women competed, and everyone won prizes.

For the first round, the participants had the Bible passage in advance: the transfiguration on the mountain story. Everyone gave a dynamic, compelling sermon.  They had a seven minute time limit, and everyone used the full time.  As with my Foundations of Preaching class, I was pleasantly surprised by how four people could have a passage--and not an obscure passage--and we could enjoy such different sermons.

For the second round, each participant got a passage from the Old Testament, all passages from the revised common lectionary, not something obscure.  One of the organizers had a bag of passages written out on paper, and the participant reached in to choose one.  They had the option to reject the first one and try again. 

Each participant had 3 minutes to work on a two minute sermon.  I found these sermons more dynamic.  Was it because they were truly more dynamic?  Did I just like them better because I knew that the prep time was shorter?  Did I like them better because the sermons themselves were shorter?

All too soon, it was time to go to class, my Church History II class, which didn't have the same energy level as a sermon slam.  However, it was the kind of afternoon that left me happy to be able to be part of it all, happy to have sampled some of what I hoped that life on campus would be.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Ninth Trip from DC to North Carolina

Yesterday was a travel day.  March 6-10 is our reading week, and I can do the school work that needs to be done from anywhere, so I planned to get up early and head down to our North Carolina house.

I'm usually up early, but the night before a travel day, I often have trouble sleeping.  I knew that the day might be stormy so I gave up on trying to sleep, and I was on the road by 3:45.

The first few hours of the trip were clear, no rain or fog, which is good, because the roads around DC can be hard to navigate in the rain and fog.  Once I was out of range of WAMU, I switched to a West Virginia station, where I heard about school closings and delays because of winter weather. Later, the station out of Harrisonburg, VA told me that there was a winter weather advisory for the Shenandoah Valley starting at 7 a.m., and the possibility of ice in the higher elevations.

I thought about the fact that I was in the Shenandoah Valley, and that I would be climbing in elevation.  I was expecting wind and rain, not snow and ice.  Happily, I didn't ever get snow or ice and not much wind or rain.  There were periods of not much rain, but lots of previous rain blowing up off the road, but from the 18 wheelers, not the wind.  The clouds were never far away as they obscured the mountains for the whole trip.

I was surprised by how many people drove through the gray, gloomy day with clouds descending on us, and they didn't have their headlights turned on.  Long ago, in the first college composition class I ever taught, a student argued that all cars should come with daytime running lights, a feature which then seemed futuristic and over the top.  Now I think that they should be a feature that can't be turned off manually.  Let the default be light.

I have now made this trip 9 times, and yesterday was one of the first times where I thought, I have been driving this car for hours and hours, and I'm still so far away!  Usually I'm thinking, this drive is so pretty, and I'm making such good time.

Still, it could have been worse.  As I left Harrisonburg, I noticed that the interstate was shut down on the northbound side.  I kept moving, and soon enough, I was pulling into my driveway.  We unloaded the car, and I went back out to get a few groceries.  I was still expecting storminess, but while we did get some rain, it wasn't as bad a storm as what people on the other side of the mountain experienced.  We ate a late lunch/early dinner, and settled in for some TV--the comforts of cozy domesticity, which neither one of us has experienced in awhile.

It's been a strange phenomenon that when I'm here, I have trouble remembering that seminary exists, and when I'm in my seminary apartment, this Lutheridge house seems like a hazy dream.  Let me do some work on the papers that are due before the end of the week-end:  the less formal weekly response for Church History II and the paper on Buddhism for World Religions (happily, I've written the more difficult part of this paper).  

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Texts in Context

Today's post will likely be short.  I have some seminary writing assignments that need my attention.  In fact, I've been working on those this morning.  For my Church History II class, I have a Text in Context paper due today.  I'm writing about Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle, situating it in its historical context.  I have reached that stage where I wonder if I achieved the goals of the assignment, so it is probably time to bring the paper to a close.  Yesterday I thought that I had, yesterday I had a paper that pleased me, and today I am doubting myself.  If I let myself tinker too much, I'll have a mess to turn in, not a paper.

I also had to write a creative writing response to this prompt:   "A Theologian, a pastor, a child, and an artist walk into a room…"  I created something that surprised me, but I don't want to say too much about it here--I don't want the plagiarism detecting software to find a blog post and accuse me of plagiarism.   I did have fun describing the room.

Later this morning, I need to start writing a rough draft of my Buddhism paper for my World History class.  That one is due on Sunday, so I have some time.  But tomorrow is a travel day.  I'm headed back to North Carolina tomorrow, where I'll spend reading week trying to make progress on bigger writing projects, along with catching up on my reading.

I had thought I would do some of this writing yesterday, but I spent a huge chunk of time trying to sort out various seminary requirements.  In some ways, I've made it difficult for myself by not going to a Lutheran seminary.  Unfortunately, no Lutheran seminary offers a track in Theology and the Arts as part of the MDiv program.  Happily, I have found someone at my affiliate seminary who could explain some elements to me, so I can figure out a way forward.  I will do my internship the way that Wesley, my current seminary, has us do it.  After I'm done with my MDiv here at Wesley, I'll have to do a year-long internship, working a 40-50 hour work week, to fulfill requirements of the ELCA.

That's a long way away, at least several years, before I've done what I'll need to do to even be eligible for the internship.  The church doesn't make any of this easy.  Many of these requirements are so clearly for a different time, a time when seminarians came straight out of undergraduate school, unencumbered with families and mortgages and life experience.

Let me turn my attention to the more pressing tasks at hand.  Time for another cup of tea and one last editing session.