Jan
22

State of the Seminary Address

Seminary

OK, so maybe the title is not terribly accurate nor is this, you know, an address at all. But I was at a loss. I just wanted to give everyone an update at my progress thus far for Seminary, so here we go.

For previous post, go here.

 

Update
Basically, the last semester was a bear in regards to workload. I had two exegetical courses in two different languages (Greek and Hebrew), both of which I struggle in (though Hebrew is far and away my greatest enemy right now) and both of which I achieved about the same overall grade in. My other course, Apologetics, was a bunch of work as well, but it is far more in my sphere of expertise and frankly I only had to deal with English with a smattering of Latin phrases so, that’s good.

Further, I had been out of the classroom for enough time to make the transition back to dealing with the grind of readings, translations, assignments, projects, presentations and papers quite a learning curve. I started to figure it out again, but it did pile up on me from time to time and I made some rookie mistakes like completely neglecting to attend a class one time and forgetting to do a translation or readings a couple of times.

It was also hard to find the discipline to get back into the groove, to use my every waking hour as efficiently and effectively as I could while holding down the other aspects of my life, that is particular is something that I have taken steps to correct for this semester.

During the last semester I cut my Crossfit workouts down to about three a week, which allowed for some progress on my fitness goals and allowed me to (mostly) maintain what I had achieved before without cutting too much into the other areas of my life. I have, however, taken the opportunity during the break to work my butt off six nights a week before going back.

I continued to see my Pastor, who is also now my Field Work Supervisor, for regular Confession and Absolution, and receive from him forgiveness for my many sins, and also partook of private Holy Communion during these visits. He has been a fantastic help, supportive in every single way through all of this, and I could not ask for any more than he has given me. I am incredibly blessed to have such a model of the Christian faith and the Office of the Holy Ministry to learn from.

I also regularly saw my psychologist for therapy, and this has provided me with some insights and tools that, I think, have provided for a lot of transformation in my life, though she credits God alone with this healing in my life as it continues.

My family have been nothing but supportive in this endeavour and have done everything they can to make things easier for me. My beautiful daughter has even set up a little desk of her own in my study so that she can “Study my Greek too, daddy!” when I am working. My wondrous and majestic bride has been magnificent in reminding me of things I missed, helping with my bibliographies (she has become quite able with the SBL Handbook of Style) and even helping to hold me accountable when I cut down first, and then quit, smoking cigars this semester. I do miss them, though….the cigars, I mean.

I have also been helped by sudden and unexpected influxes of cash that came from absolutely nowhere, not to mention help looking after my beautiful girl and other major “favours” along the way. When I began this last semester, I was unsure how we would make it financially. Now starting this semester my last semester’s tuition, all last semester’s books, all of this semester’s books, and a small amount of money towards this semester’s tuition has all been paid purely our of the kindness of people who wanted to see me succeed. Amazing.

My work has been great! I have an incredibly understanding couple of bosses, who when I pitched the idea of working full time and going to Seminary to them were fully supportive, and only asked that we meet after the first semester and review how things were going. We did, and both my boss and his boss were in agreement that my work has not suffered and has continued to be of a high caliber during this time and they were completely supportive in my continuing on. My boss has even moved the weekly staff meeting – a massive imposition on the whole staff – to accommodate my class schedule…twice.

Speaking of my workmates; they are the most eclectic and amazing group of yahoos anyone could hope for. We have our share of disagreements and differences of opinion, but they have always treated me with respect and bent over backwards to pray for me and support me in any way that they can while I have been attending Seminary. I simply have grown to love them all, from my bosses down, and am constantly in awe at the character and integrity they bring to the very difficult work that we do. We have a tonne of fun, we share a lot of heartache and loss, we constantly tease each other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks guys, without all of you, this semester would not have been possible.

And finally, all of my Seminary brothers – wow. I can’t even begin to thank you all for all you have done to help and support me in every possible way while I have been at Seminary. From encouraging e-mails and notes, to help when I maybe completely blanked on a translation that was due, to letting me get out of acolyting duties, to working extra hard in order to include me in as much of the Seminary life as possible, I have never seen such kindness and welcoming in all my days. No matter what my fate, to know that the future of my beloved synod is in the hands of men such as these makes me beam with pride and confidence. Which is probably a sin. But soon, some of y’all can absolve me, so there’s that.

Challenge

I did meet with the Ministerial program Committee (MPC), the group who evaluates my progress and decides whether or not to make a recommendation to the Faculty as to whether I should be admitted to the Pastoral Track, and in the short term at least, put me one step closer to a Vicarage appointment for next year. The meeting was very positive, which is a change from past meetings, and in the main went very well. They explained to me that they were very happy with the progress that I had made thus far and were very optimistic as to how things were going for me.

They did express concern that I seemed unable to explain to their satisfaction exactly what had changed in me and how that change manifests in my day-to-day activities. I see their point. The conversation was complex (and I am taking liberties with the paraphrase here) but it basically revolved around my inability to explain exactly what was going on internally in various situations wherein conflict or authority figures are present in my life. That is, when faced with these issues in the past, I would angrily yell down my “opponent” out of some sense of need to retain control of the situation, to retain power. This, I think, stemmed from instances in my life where I felt quite powerless and was left with some trauma due to the circumstances of that powerlessness. Out of some sense of survival, I needed to do that.

In the interview I tried to express my current reality, that when those situations arise now, and that time comes when the survival mechanism used to flare to angry life, now, it just doesn’t. Where a ball of rage would surface at those times and “deal with the threat” of whatever I was facing, now it simply doesn’t happen. It was, and is, difficult to explain an absence of what once was, I guess.

So, I am scheduled to meet with the MPC again in February, and in the meantime I am going to work with my psychologist on how to recognize the processes that used to deliver me to these unhealthy responses and how to articulate that process for others. She is also going to write a couple of letters to the MPC about my progress on these issues, the first of which, I think, has been sent to the Seminary.

I’m not sure what else to say about that part of things, except that I want to get better, and if there is any lack in me that they think that I can or should work on to be the best Pastor that I can possibly be, or frankly, the best and most healthy man that I can be, I am quite happy to work on anything that they wish me to, because it is all stuff that I want to get better at anyways.

What Now?

So, I work another semester. I work full time on my job and full time on my academics and full time on my family life. I pray that God can preserve and strengthen me through this process. I pray that He will continue to help me to become better and healthier as this process continues, and that He will continue to allow all of my friends, Seminary Brothers, Seminary Faculty, family and co-workers to rally around me and help me through this.

I pray that all of you will pray. It is that which I desire the most. I need the help. Thank you, and God bless you.

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