Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's that time of year again!!

As of typing this sentence, I will begin my third and final year of study for my Master or Divinity at Boston University School of Theology in 1 day, 7 hours, 55 minutes, 25 seconds.
It seems a bit surreal that two years have come and gone and my final year is upon me.  I could tell you about all that I've learned.  I could share about my continued questions.  Instead, I'll share some experiences from my day.

For the second year in a row, I went today and helped to orient incoming School of Theology students to Boston University and this, Our Fair City (Thanks Click and Clack for that one being stuck in my head).  The program was a bit different this year as we didn't hold the typical Day of Service, but I can sense, nonetheless, anxious and joyful anticipation.  After a community lunch, I assisted in leading a group of about ten students around some of the more well-known (and some lesser-known) spots of Boston.  I couldn't help but think back to my time as an incoming student during orientation and the anxieties I felt about meeting new people.  "Would I fit in and be accepted?  Will I be smart enough?  Will I handle the pressures? What in the hell am I doing here at seminary?!" Some of these questions have been answered.  Some remain.  I'm wise enough (read: experienced enough) to know now that all of those first years in my year felt that way, just as the first years last year did, and the first years this year did.  I guess it's part of the process when you make that giant leap to trusting in the calling of ministry and relocate to another part of the country, or town, or zip code.  Even if you don't really move geographically, seminary is a culture shock which requires movement and change. 

As we walked the streets of Boston (with my good friend and fellow third-year Lambert co-piloting with me) we answered questions of quite a variety.  As we gathered around drinks at a local bar, we shouted over the music and other voices to be heard as we shared our fears and dreams, our expectations for seminary and answering our callings from God, and what brought us to the point in time in which our paths intersected.  As the gathering moved from the bar to couches in Theo House, bonds were built and memories emblazoned forever in the minds of some.  It's a miraculous time, one I am honored to be a part of. 

I'm looking forward to my final year of seminary with joy and trepidation.  I don't want these experiences to end, yet at that same time, I recognize that I am being groomed for something beyond the bounds of seminary education.  I'm enjoying learning and am thriving upon it, and yet I recognize a yearning deep in my core, a yearning to begin ministering full-time to God's ministry and God's people in this world.  It is a delicate balance. 
In my first semester of my final year, I will undertake courses which will further challenge me and form me.

Below are the course descriptions for each of the courses, copied and pasted from the respective university's course catalogue.  I believe after you read a few you will understand why I am quite excited to be a part of these amazing courses!

The Spirit and the Art of Conflict Transformation: Creating a Culture of Just Peace
This course is a response to the experience of destructive conflict in the church and in the world, as well as the experience of religion as a source of conflict. More importantly, it is a response to the call to every Christian to be ministers of reconciliation and peace builders. The course will introduce students to the theology, theory and practice of faith-based conflict transformation, preparing students to become religious leaders equipped with fundamental tools and skills for engaging conflict and transforming conflict in a way that advances God's goal of shalom, a culture of just peace.

UCC History, Theology and Polity
An exploration of the history, theological understandings, structures, and practice of ministry in the United Church of Christ. This course is recommended for those seeking ordination or commissioning in the UCC, or for those seeking privilege of call; but is open to all. Generally, this course is to be taken in the last half of one’s seminary studies; exceptions, however, are possible.

and Trauma 
 This course aims to bring the recent studies in the interdisciplinary study of trauma to bear on the field of theology. What unique challenges does the phenomenon of trauma pose to contemporary theology? The first part of the course explores recent studies in trauma, focusing on three areas of research: 1) neurobiology of trauma, 2) clinical/therapeutic studies, and 3) literary approaches to trauma. The second part of the course examines theological engagements with issues of radical suffering. The third part brings together the insights from the first two and focuses on the question of what it means to witness theologically to individual, societal, and global trauma. We will look at issues and contexts such as the criminal justice system, war, poverty, and racism. In this final part, students will be working towards constructive theological engagements with issues of trauma through interaction with a variety of mediums: art, literature, spiritual practices, and film. The course is not a counseling course. It aims to provide rich theological reflection around issues of suffering, violence, and trauma, both individual and global. 

CPE Equivalency Program
This course will be fulfilled in a community placement over the entirety of my academic year.  I have hopes of splitting my time between a nursing home/rehabilitation facility and a hospital location (I say this with the knowledge that my original placement in a hospital fell through last week and we are now seeking for a new location - but have no fear, we have opportunities and there is much to be determined).  The course will encompass 400 hours over two semesters (12 weeks in each semester equating to roughly 16 hours each week), weekly group meetings and a weekly supervision meeting, weekly (or bi-weekly) verbatims and weekly (or bi-weekly) written reflections, and roughly 12 hours each week is spent interacting with patients.

Coupled with all of these great courses is the realization that I will be traveling to India in January to engage closely with the practices of conflict transformation in multicultural and pluralistic societies of South India!  We'll spend two weeks traveling from city to city engaging in conversation and learning a bit of the Tamil language, and I am thrilled for this opportunity!  Life is good.  It's about to be very busy again, but life is good.