I’m a Seminarian! (Long-ish Overdue Post)

19 02 2015

I’m a seminarian and life is super crazy and chaotic because of it – but I’m loving it. I’m studying for a Masters in Divinity at Seattle Pacific Seminary (at Seattle Pacific University) because it is a requirement for ordination both within the PC-USA and ELCA (my heart is currently tied to both denominations). Generally, the program takes 4 years of full-time study. I’ve begun at 2/3rds time with 8 credits which feels like a lot more than full time. It will possibly take me 6-8 years to complete, hopefully earlier rather than later, we’ll see where God leads me.

In June my ministry position at Lake City Presbyterian was reduced to half-time (salary and time), I was re-offered the position which is focused on children’s, youth and family ministry as well as LCPC Social Media and other bits of Christian Education. So I”m working half-time, mom and wife full-time and seminarian 2/3rds time. Woot!

In the middle of my second quarter of my first year. Studying is a complete firehose of information – LOTS of reading, pondering, writing, and praying but I”m loving it. SPS has three core lines and a Practicum required for every student (even 2 yrs – Master of Theology students). The cores are: Theological Interpretation of Scripture, Theology and Ethics of Triune God, and Global Christian History. I am “only” taking two of the lines this year and will take the third (GCH) next year. Each core line involves three quarters of classes. Scripture was general interpretation introduction last quarter, Old Testament this quarter, and New Testament next quarter. Theology and Ethics was God and the Environment (Creation) last quarter, Jesus – Christology and Discipleship this quarter, and a focus on the Holy Spirit next quarter.

Additionally every first year is required to participate in a Practicum class for a year – most other programs define this as field work and reflection and it is a bit different and time consuming at SPS, but I really like it. Practicum involves four components: A typed weekly reflection connecting our studies with life outside of school (ministry, family, work, etc); Meeting with an assigned mentor three times each quarter; Meeting weekly for an hour with a class meeting small group facilitated by a student who is a few years into the program, and a 30 hour project of our choice connecting our current studies with our life/ministry.

I love my practicum mentor – I was connected with a woman Presbyterian pastor of a church in Seattle who ironically was mentored by the pastor I work with at LCPC when she was a seminarian!

This quarter we had the option of choosing to read a book and use it in our reflections each week. Crazy to choose more reading, but I did and I’m glad. If you are a ministry leader of any kind (professional, volunteer, church, non-church, lay leader, etc) check out “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership” by Ruth Haley Barton. The author uses the life of Moses to focus on the ups and downs of ministry and the difficulty yet necessity of caring for your own soul while caring for other’s souls.

I am learning a lot and gaining new fresh perspectives and tools for studying scripture and thinking about God that are definitely applicable to my ministry now and practical pieces I can share with others in my congregation and life in general.

Two things I’ve realized this quarter:

* Sometimes I can be creative to finish my reading, sometimes I can’t. Not a single book from any of my classes are on Kindle this quarter – ALL of them were last quarter and I was extremely spoiled by the ability to switch my iPhone/iPad to the Voice Over accessibility feature (thank you Aaron Willett for turning me on to this tip!!) and it turned my texts into audio books for my 45-60 minute drives between home and school – or even while I’m in the shower or doing dishes (TMI?). Also with the Kindle app I could highlight and then copy/paste portions of the book into a document to be able to form my thoughts for papers or insert quotes. Not an option when all of your books are hard copy! I’m thankful for the YouVersion Bible App though – helps me listen through all the scripture reading necessary for my OT class (especially the Looooooong chunks we are asked to ‘skim’).

* Seminary requires a different kind of writing and thinking than coordinating childrens/youth ministry. So much of my time in ministry has been spent working to make theological information more concise and to the point to engage volunteers, teachers, children and teens, etc. I still have a hard time wanting to share too much and a tendency to provide too much information. In seminary, professors ask for “the deeper main points” of a theologian’s writings or two to three paragraphs on observations in scripture. It is a definitely a learning process, when my papers are returned I’m asked to give more information and expound upon my thoughts/observations. So my challenge now is to train/allow my brain to go the other direction for grad school while keeping it moderately condensed in my ministry.

All this said, I love my professors, I love my cohort and classmates, and my family is surviving with me (that’s another blog post in itself!) and it is all crazy hard, but I love it.

Ok, now that I’ve finally updated my blog, time to carry on and work on some more reading and writing!

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