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The Non-Interview Interview

11 August 2009
Discernment

Discernment

That’s what I’m calling my visit to LTS last week (credit: Emma, thank you for that).  It was illuminating, to say the least.  There’s a lot to talk about, but mostly, it gave me a very good picture of what seminary life will be like.  The Masters of Divinity program there is a three-year program that is really one of immersion.  In my second and third year I will be doing a lot of field education–ministry, etc.–because, as a chaplain, I’d be out there!  The question of whether I want to be ordained came up… and was left open because I haven’t decided yet.  Ordination would allow me to perform marriage ceremonies, funerals, etc. which would actually be pretty cool, so it’s something to think about.

In fact, many questions came up for the first time to which I had no definitive answers because, as I made clear to each person I interviewed with, I’m very early in my seminary search.  Ultimately, it’s not just about which seminary will accept me and which one I “want” to go to, it’s about which seminary is the “right fit” for me and which one I am the right fit for.

After 3 hours of talking with different people, I am much more clear on what it means to be a seminarian (yep, that word was new to me, too).  It’s about the whole person, not just the part of the person who wants to be a minister, chaplain, pastoral counselor, lay leader, etc.  It was made clear that my ideas about spiritual and religious issues will be challenged–and early on, too.  I will be asked why I believe what I believe.  They effectively take you apart piece by piece… so that when you come out of there you are a more complete person.  That’s integral, I think, to the seminary experience.  When I consider the situations I will be confronted with, the questions, the experiences I will have as a chaplain–everything they were saying to me makes a lot of sense.  After all of this was told to me, I think the word “intense” doesn’t begin to describe it.

My time at seminary will be filled with not only education from books and history, but will be informed and shaped by my own theological reflection and what sounds like a great deal of time spent talking and interacting with both my peers, faculty, and the community as a whole.  It will be a very different experience than I have had here in my little bubble of a hometown (not to put it down, of course, I have great affection for this sleepy little town!).  In the January term in the midst of my second year, I will be required to go on a two week International Cross Cultural Trip to gain a better understanding of what’s happening outside of our country.  Last year was Egypt.  This year will likely be Israel/Palestine (assuming it’s safe, they made that clear). This both exhilarates and terrifies me.  I’ve never been on a trip outside of the country without family.  And, even then I’ve never been very far (Canada, Jamaica, Mexico–not exactly THAT foreign, are they?).  But what an experience, yes?  Imagine the possibilities for enlightenment and enrichment!

Throughout my time there (should my discernment lead me to LTS), I will be in what they call a cohort group.  These are the people with whom I will share my experiences as a seminarian most closely.  The spirit of open communication and diversity of cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and political background are very important at LTS.  I like to think of myself as an open-minded person–I am able to talk with open people of diverse faiths, political opinions, backgrounds, etc. successfully.  Do I have strong opinions?  Yes.  Who among us, after having given anything a great deal of thought, does not?  But as I think about it, I have probably learned as much, if not more, from people with whom I don’t agree as I have from people with whom I do.  In this way, attending seminary where I would be encouraged not only to listen, but to share my thoughts and opinions, very much stimulates both my spirit and mind.

Both the admissions director and Dean of Students recommended, as a way of comparrison, that I visit at least one other seminary.  Gettysburg, which is very different from LTS in many ways, was mentioned (I think as the next closest to me), as were Meyerstown and Wesleyan (in D.C.).  The admissions director says she felt that, in talking with me, LTS would be a great place for me, but it’s important to have seen at least one other seminary in order to be able to make an informed choice.  I agree.

At the moment, there’s not much else I want to discuss.  The tour of the small, but amazing campus was nice.  The chapel, specifically, held a brilliance and simple grandeur that I’m still reeling from.  Perhaps that’s one of the side-effects of attending a church without a building and history of its own (yet).  I enjoyed the whole tour and the chance to talk with 3rd year student and get her perspective.  She was really cool and very kind and she knew EVERYONE!  They kept asking me if I had any questions–I did prior to the interviews, but I ended up having most all of them answered (and more).  It’s possible to live on campus.  Encouraged, actually.  They have one and two bedroom apartments as well as row houses for families.  Depending on where Aaron and I are as far as our little family goes at that time will determine whether I end up on campus or not.  Would be convenient, though, and probably best given the limitations I sometimes face with the lupus and fibromyalgia that I struggle with.  Being right there would certainly be great.  The campus is so small that it would be very easy for me to get to and from each of my classes and seminary activities (of which there will be SO very many)!  Speaking of which, that part of my life did come up by way of explaining what had led me to this career choice in the first place.  Everyone was very encouraging and impressed with how far I’ve come and how I’ve made the best and even grown because of these hurdles.  In talking about how I came to Jesus, Annie came up–I talked about how she was the first person I remember ever even talking to me about Jesus.  She was, I think, four years-old at the time.  I was seven.  Wow!  Her strength in faith while battling the ravages of leukemia taught me as much about grace, peace, and God’s love as everything I have experienced since.  The admissions director and Dean of Students also said it is important that they know about all of my illness stuff up front.  We’ll have things documented right off the bat, so to speak. Most of the time I feel judged or I feel pitied about my illness–which I abhor.  Not so at LTS.  I felt very welcomed and accepted even in the brief three hours spent there.   A good feeling, to be sure.

Okay, yes.  I am done prattling on about this for the moment.  I’ll have more to say on the subject in the coming months as I move along on my discernment.  For now, I have some work to do today before I head out to the movie theater with my husband to see (500) Days of Summer.  If it’s as good as I’m hoping, you’ll see another blog from me in the next day or so reviewing it 🙂

Till then, ASAP.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Emma permalink
    11 August 2009 3:20 pm

    Wow, sounds like an amazing visit! I’m so glad that it seems like a place you can really see yourself. Oh, and if you’re planning on visiting other places just for comparison, philadelphia biblical university is about 10 minutes from our house. just fyi 🙂 could be a good excuse to come out this way!

    let me know how the movie is, zooey deschanel is my newest actress crush (i’ve moved on from kirsten, lol) so I’ve been wanting to see that one!

    anyway, glad your non-interview interview went so well!

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