Hello everyone. I have big news. I graduated from Seminary! Four years later, I have a “Master Specialization,” which means I have completed 27 hours (9 classes) of Masters-level seminary training. I learned quite a lot along the way, and most of it can’t be found in textbooks.
1. Working full-time, plus adding a part-time job, and going to school….not a good idea.
Yeah, that was me. Working a full time job, plus 10 hours or so at the seminary library, and then adding graduate coursework on top of that. In my head I needed the extra money to pay for school (taking one class at a time meant I did not qualify for aid). Some people may be able to manage, even thrive, in that kind of schedule. I am not one of those people. I learned I need to pace myself. I will take that knowledge into my future adventures.
2. Light bulb is not required headgear.
I went in to seminary with a vague sense of calling. I came out with a vague sense of calling. The difference is, now I’m OK with that. I gained knowledge and skills and maturity that I use everyday. So, maybe, for me, the only calling that really matters is the calling to be a disciple of Jesus. One day that means dropping everything to visit a friend who is in the hospital again. On another I have a conversation about who wrote the Pentateuch. I recently spent an entire week volunteering with my church’s outreach blitz. I made baby blankets for the crisis pregnancy center and then set up and served dinner to my fellow volunteers. I realized I enjoy being ready, willing, and available to say “Yes” whenever and wherever God calls me to do something.
3. It’s not about me.
When I started out, it was about my journey, my career, my calling. Kind of self absorbed. I thought I would just breeze through, taking a class here or there, and voila! Done. During student orientation, we were warned that Seminary would turn a lot of things upside-down, but I did not take those words to heart. Then my life did get turned upside down, and I learned something about what it means to be the body. I have this little nucleus of friends who I’ve been “doing life” with for a while. Then God plunked me into this eclectic, scrappy, 100+ year-old church where I made new friends. I was embraced, and I embraced them. I was able to wrestle with some of the stuff that came up during school and get input from them. Sometimes I wonder if I started to sound like a broken record at any point during those four years. But no one ever said, “Moses and the Pentateuch again?” followed by an eye roll. We all just kind of learned and grew together. Kind of like, you know, a family. And I grew up a bit.
Having said all that, I would like to share the text of my “biographical statement” from the graduation program:
When I began my studies at Northern Seminary, I thought I would be receiving training to be a writer and teacher of Bible studies for women. I saw myself as a locally-focused, nerdy, introverted Beth Moore with less hair and a Chicago “accent.” Then I joined a Presbyterian church on the near east side of Aurora, Illinois in the heart of a lower income, non-caucasian community. Like me, the church is passionate about growing and impacting where God has planted them. They are learning how to be “missional.” Early in my studies, I also developed some physical challenges that affected how I view disability. As a result of the overlapping themes in my experiences at church, Northern, and my personal life, I am asking questions I didn’t ask before. How do we make the church accessible and welcoming to those on the fringes, both believers and not, without watering down the truth? What are the barriers that keep people on the fringes? I believe my training at Northern helped me know what questions to ask and a direction to go for the answers. I would like to thank everyone at Northern Seminary, including professors, staff, and fellow students, for all the encouragement and guidance and challenges they offered me during my time there. I would also like to thank my church family and friends for participating in the conversation and supporting me as I wrestled. My prayer is that God will be pleased with the fruit that results from the seeds that were sown while I was a student at Northern.
So, thank you, all of you, who supported me the last four years, and thank you for your continuing support going forward.