Faith Works 8-1-15
What comes out of an education
Through the recent general church meeting I was part of last month, you could often hear "they didn't cover [blank] in seminary!"
And that was usually true. You can't cover everything, and the point of a seminary education is to give you the tools of ministry and some proficiency in using them, not to talk you through every possible usage of them. That's an entirely different column.
But it did get me to thinking about what I did learn, earning a "master of divinity" degree, an M.Div., at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. I have some vivid recollections spurred by seeing and talking to many of my former professors in Columbus, which started me recalling the things they taught me that have been "sticky."
These may not be what they want to be remembered for, and I guarantee it's not all I recall, but these are what first come to mind a quarter-century later, largely because they're the learnings that have most often come back to mind in the years since (and the ones I've most quoted to others, as well). The names may not mean much to most of you, but I've added their "field" after each name.
Brian Grant (counseling and pastoral care): If you are going into ministry to resolve your family-of-origin issues, if you're looking to the church to be your ideal father figure or to resolve your mother's emotional absence, then run away, run away! And go work on those issues for yourself first.
Clark Williamson (theology): If you don't like how I'm asking these theological questions of you now, in a nice sunny classroom in the middle of a weekday, wait until you get asked the same ones by a grieving parent in an ER waiting room at 3 am.
Ed Towne (theology): Would you say that from the pulpit, I wonder? And if not, why not?
Michael Kinnamon (theology and ecumenism): Always engage with the best of your dialogue partner's viewpoint, don't home in on their weak points. They're used to defending those weaknesses, defensively; dialogue grows when strength meets strength . . . you'll get to your own weaknesses soon enough.
Newell Williams (church history): In regarding a religious tradition, ask in their framework three questions -- what is sin, what is salvation, and how do you get from one to the other?
Bernie Lyon (pastoral care and counseling): If your witness is not disciplined, it will be an uncertain, unclear, unhelpful witness to your time and place. Find the disciplines of thought, study, prayer, and praise that will allow you to have a witness that will bless your world.
Sue Kidwell (also pastoral care): That's very interesting. Tell me more!
Keith Watkins (worship): Worship is an approach to Almighty God. If you move any distance at all, God will close the rest of that gap, even if all you can do is turn in God's direction.
Gayle Sarber (music and sacred arts): Oh, for pity's sake, just sing out! We'll get it pretty with practice, but just sing out!
Rufus Burrow (Christian ethics): If your analysis of a time or place or person does not take into account the viewpoint of the minority, the perspective from below the level of power and authority, you see nothing but what you expect to see. If you say, historically or personally "there's no minority viewpoint involved", I suspect you simply do not see them.
Les Galbraith (librarian): I do not understand how people can graduate with an M.Div., and when I see them cross the stage at commencement, I think "I don't recall ever seeing them once in the library!" The librarians should get a veto on final graduation.
Al Edyvean (dramatic arts): If it is not in you, I can't make it come out of you. But it's all there in you, I promise you that. We shall look together into our depths.
Charles Ashanin (church history): That reminds me of something an angel told me once . . .
Gerald Janzen (Hebrew and Bible): That reminds me of a Robert Frost poem . . .
(Okay, and "Take from your storehouse what is old, and what is new, and find in that combination the wisdom your moment is seeking.")
Marti Steussy (Biblical interpretation): There's always a story. Always. Find it, and *listen*.
Ron Allen (preaching): JEFF, DON'T HOLD BACK!!!
Well, there you go. Is that what I got out of four years at CTS? It has always felt like I got at least as much out of it as I put into it, which was never as much as the community deserved, but it was a blessed season.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about what you remember from your own education in life and spirit at email@example.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.