I had two goals in coming to seminary: I was planning to become a chaplain and I wanted my Bible back from narrow-minded fundamentalists.
I can check both boxes. I now work part-time as a pastoral care associate at a large Chicago suburban hospital, and in September I will start a one-year paid residency at that hospital that will give me additional training that couldn’t be crammed into one clinical pastoral education unit and will also pay me to learn. (Unlike seminary.)
As to the Bible, I now generally know which part of the book to open when I am looking for something in it. It was actually fun to read the two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John by Craig Keener that was assigned by the instructor –six years in seminary have changed my idea of what is fun – and it was even more fun to read trashy novels about Jesus in the Reimagining the Gospels course and be able to spot the scriptural errors. I have learned enough about the Bible to not take it in vain or hit people over the head with it.
Here are some of the other things I learned.
- How to use soteriology correctly in a sentence: By contrast, post-scholastic theologians have shifted focus within Christology toward soteriology – doctrines of the work of Christ and, specifically, how salvation has been accomplished, a theological discussion that has animated post-Anselm Christology and especially post-Calvinist Christology. I wrote that sentence in 2011 in my introductory theology course. (Bonus point for using Christology correctly.)
- How to drive 85 miles an hour, which I did when my first residential intensive in spiritual formation in 2012 was disrupted by my husband’s having a car accident and I had to return home to Chicago. I did not miss a class because the instructor kindly worked out a Skype connection. An update: today my husband is hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain, where I will join him next month.
- How rich education can be when you do it later in life when everyone in the classroom is highly motivated and brings a lifetime of experience into the room, making for deeply satisfying and stimulating discussions. I often describe the Earlham School of Religion to people who don’t know it as a place where you can learn as much from your fellow students as you can from the instructor, and I did.
- How to make spiritual friends. This has been precious and sustaining to me.
- How to be still and know God.
And finally. How to discern and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I do wish the apostle Paul had added gratitude – a lot of us wish Paul had said a few things differently – and as a trained exegete I am prepared to argue that’s surely what he meant.
Thanks to you all, faculty, staff, fellow students.