It’s September? What happened?! Where did August go?!
Since my last post all the way back in July, I’ve been quite busy.
On August 12, I finished my internship at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Muskegon, MI. That day, the church threw a party for me which included lots of good food, a slideshow of entertaining and embarrassing pictures (thanks, Mom), a box of gifts (including Taco Bell gift cards, a Pickleball, duct-tape, and a piece of cardboard so I’d always have a place to live), a letter from my mother, and a still-unbelievable financial gift to help pay for beginning-of-the-year expenses, without which I would have seriously struggled to get everything together.
There were a lot of tears, a lot of laughs, and a lot of hugs. I almost broke down when the youngest son of the church administrator quickly hugged me and ran so I wouldn’t see him cry (I did anyway), and I did break down when a little girl gave me a hug and read me my favorite Psalm, Psalm 121, out of her Bible–she had paid attention all year and wrote down every passage I mentioned as one of my favorites. She gave me a prayer cross and candle on which she had written all of my favorite verses.
The very next day, I hit the road for Columbus, OH, to return to Trinity Lutheran Seminary for my final year as an Master of Divinity student. I left in Muskegon a lot of good memories of places I came to love–and not just the church and its people, but the city itself, the lakeshore, the trails, and the culture.
I moved into my apartment at the seminary campus and immediately set up my utilities. Gas? Check. Electric? Check. Cable?
Time Warner Cable is giving the United States Congress a run for its money in the inept department. Everything should have been set up on August 15. It is now September 7, and my third (replacement) cable box is in the mail. At least I got the internet working again and fixed my billing fiasco. All that’s left is the cable box. I have no idea why this is so complicated, but it seems to be universal among cable companies. My intern supervisor switched to Comcast, and for weeks they went ’round in circles because they had written his address incorrectly and no one had the authority to correct it.
Assuming everything arrives promptly and correctly, this should all finally be fixed.
Then I started another full semester of classes. When the seminary introduced degree concentrations a year into my education, I was determined that I would put in the extra effort required to earn one, even though I didn’t have the first year anymore to work on it. This has meant that every academic year has been packed. I am taking 15 credit hours this semester (a maximum load is considered 16 credit hours):
BL3138 – The Bible and the Qur’an
BL3146 – Romans
HTS3031 – Being Lutheran in America
HTS3034 – Pastor as Theologian
MN3003 – Pastor as Leader
MN3192 – Christian Spirituality and Prayer
All in all, that’s two exegetical papers, a few projects, and a few more final papers to be ready for. I am particularly excited for The Bible and the Qur’an because I have read exactly 0% of the Qur’an. What a fascinating book.
I am also looking forward to what develops in Christian Spirituality and Prayer. We’ve already joked that the class is so foreign to most of us because Lutheranism tends to be on the intellectual side. Many Lutherans don’t believe that spirituality (or what they understand it to be) doesn’t exit in Lutheranism. We are proving them wrong!
On the finances side, I started two work-study jobs. I am again the Computer Assistants coordinator, responsible for making the schedule and making sure things go alright. Aside from these past few weeks, which involved major changes to the computers (we moved the computer lab to a new location with brand new equipment) and the responsibilities of the Computer Assistants, this is actually a pretty stress-free job.
The one I am most excited about is being the Teaching Assistant for Systematic Theology. The professor and I are good friends, and neither of us have had TA work before. It’s like an adventure! I am looking forward to how this semester plays out in that regard.
Coming back to Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Bexley Hall Seminary has been a different transition for me. Because internship is our third year, when we return, we know very few people on campus. The class ahead of us is gone, and the class behind us in on internship, meaning the other two classes on campus are the class that came while we were on internship and the class that just came this year, neither of which we know. Aside from the Bexley Hall seniors (who are on a three-year, non-internship program), everyone is brand new to me.
I’ve had some trouble reintegrating, both with the Lutherans and the Episcopalians. I think my class is still exhausted and recovering from the transition from intern back to student. I dont’ see them outside of class very much. And now that I know very few of the Episcopalians, getting back into their worship services and trying to get to know them has been taxing. I’m sure that will change, though, once I get to know everyone at the two seminaries better.
Perhaps most stressful of all, I am coming up on the Approval phase of Candidacy. Candidacy is the process that runs alongside seminary in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In the first stage, Entrance, the Candidacy committee of the candidate’s synod decides whether the candidate can start seminary education. In the second stage, Endorsement, the committee decides whether the candidate can continue their education. in the last stage, Approval, the committee decides whether the candidate can be ordained and receive a call to a church. That’s the process I’m about to begin.
As I look forward to the rest of the year, what do I hope to experience and gain? Certainly, I am very much looking forward to the way my January Israel/Palestine trip will change me. But I also look forward to the ways in which I will grow in my understanding of ministry, of leadership, of the Gospel, and of the world.
Here’s to a final year full of grace, trials, panic, peace, papers, bonfires, food, friendship and love.