10 Unusual Lessons I Learned in Seminary

As the day of commencement approaches, I feel it is appropriate to take some time to reflect on the many lessons seminary teaches. You’d be surprised by what you learn living with people studying to be religious leaders.

  1. Everybody has vices. The first time my friend Sarah heard her fellow students curse, she joyfully exclaimed, “Thank God, I’m not the only one!” Seminarians curse, drink, smoke, spend entirely too much time on TVTropes.org, and engage in many of the same vices as everyone else. It’s what keeps us from falling into really bad habits.
  2. You need to stand up for yourself.  In one class, I had to stand up to a classmate who, in my opinion, was bullying another. In another, the class had to stand up to the professor when he refused to allow discussion on an important topic and who was not really teaching the class. There’s a good story from the early days when an entire class walked out and, for weeks, refused to enter the classroom in order to protest the treatment of one of their classmates. People need to stick up for each other.
  3. Good company solves most problems. I’m sure the copious amounts of wine and beer helped, but at the end of the day, it’s important to connect with the people who give you life. We would gather for food, for drink, around a fire, around worship, and around significant life events. None of us would have survived without the others.
  4. Disagreeing doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. Opinions and beliefs are fairly well set by the time you reach seminary, and tempers often flare. But that doesn’t mean that a person has no value or worth. Recognizing that our differences are not enough to separate us as human beings goes a long way towards fostering meaningful, vulnerable dialogue.
  5. Leggings are not pants. Even if you are doing a “liturgical dance” as part of a talent show. You know who you are.
  6. Shoes are completely optional. Seriously, who needs shoes? Kick them off and feel the cold, hard rock beneath your feet; the flat, but functional carpet; and, every once in a while, the cool, soft grass.
  7. Shirts, however, are NOT optional. Nobody wants to see that. Put it away, put it away! Insert religious “No shoes, no shirt, no service” joke here.
  8. Six liters of pop are more than enough to get you through an exegetical (or similar length) paper. It’s also enough to make you start to see things that aren’t there, like purple kangaroos, a monkey of barrels, or a passing grade.
  9. Be irreverent. Don’t be so damn serious all the time! The threat of lightning bolts from the sky enhances life, so go out there and make the most of it. Do you know how many jokes you can make about the church? I do: not enough. We bring it on ourselves, so we might as well accept it.
  10. Finally, and most importantly, it may not be interesting, but it’s true–especially if it’s written in Latin.

6 thoughts on “10 Unusual Lessons I Learned in Seminary

  1. OK, so, I don’t want to be egotistical – but that Sarah mentioned in the vices paragraph…is that me? I’m pretty sure I said that way back in 2009. :p


  2. Ken – good stuff, this made me laugh out loud at points! I feel especially gratified by number 10 (the second half – props to Dr. Childs for the first), and I am dying to buy you a beer and hear some of the stories behind the other numbers. Hope you’re well and enjoying summer (and sampler).


    1. My summer is going pretty well so far, thanks! And I’ll pass on the beer, but a good hot chocolate or pop is just as good. I’d love to hear about your exciting summer, too.


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