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Entries in Seminary Notes (140)


When you know you're in the right place

I had my first class yesterday. On Thursday mornings, I have Greek Exegesis. My prof said a very true thing: our class is like a mini cohort. We all began together a year ago with Baby Greek, and yesterday, there we were, hopefully a little wiser than last year. We have a lot of fun together. Yesterday, one of the college students played a song he wrote in honour of taking biblical Greek. I wish I'd recorded it. It was funny.

One of us was missing. A beautiful, funny, energetic young woman who was the third female in the class died in a car accident in August. Her absence was noticeable as we began. I'm thankful for a prof who prays so sensitively at the beginning of every class.

It was great to re-connect with other students. I'm pretty sure I'm the oldest person in the room. Despite the difference in age and circumstance, I enjoy having conversations about the content of the course and hearing about their lives and what they're doing. One of the young guys and I, when we first arrived, talked about our experience doing the summer maintenance project, which was translating Philippians. I love talking about what we're learning and getting someone else's perspective. I was also thankful to have my seat companion back: the other woman in the class. I enjoy talking to her and getting to know her more. I am glad we sit beside each other. 

It's a good feeling to sit in a room and think, "This is where I am supposed to be." More often than not, I will wonder "What am I doing in here?" But school is the one thing I know I can do. I may not always do it well, but I know how to go about it. I know it requires discipline and effort. I know it involves sacrificing something else in order to get the work done. I know I'm going to have a lot of frustrating moments over the next number of weeks. But I love it, anyway, because I don't feel like a freak of nature when I'm in school. Other women may look at me like I have three heads when I say I'm taking Greek Exegesis, but no one in my class does . . . I think.

On Tuesday, my class is Synoptic Gospels, and I'm excited about that one, although it, too, looks like I will be very busy. Busy can be good. It's good to feel like I'm accomplishing something that will ultimately be beneficial for me. And as always, it's great to meet other students who know a whole lot more than I do. Knowing that I have much to learn is always a good lesson.


It's New Year's Eve!

When one has been a homeschool mom, the new year revolves around school; unless of course your school is running all year long. Ours never did, so when I think of the new year, I don't think of January. I think of September 1st. Although it's technically still summer, my schedule is about to change. Next week, I have my first Greek Exegesis class, and the following week, my Synoptic Gospels class starts. 

I've known for a long time that I need to get rid of some things in order to keep myself focused on what's important. And that means my internet time. It's one of those situations that I know I have to do, but I'm procrastinating; sort of like cleaning out the refrigerator. There is always something to get my hackles up or generate my indignation online, and it's a symptom of a distracted mind. These seminary years are important to me, and I know in my head that I need to focus on that, not on the latest crisis, controversy, or charge against the powers that be. As much as I know many (though not all) of those issues are important, I also know that learning to think better, do theology better, and communicate better is more important to me.

Being online, scanning social media and blogs expends a different kind of mental energy; one that isn't entirely helpful for school. It triggers my pride. It tempts me to self-exaltation. It's something that is less work than doing homework. I do it because I'm lazy. I can't be lazy.

I've got both syllabi from my classes, and I'm going to be busy. I want to do more than "okay." I know something's got to give.


Let your ordinary bloom

In the book Expressing Theology the reader is encouraged to write engaged theology. Engaged theology is not detached from every day life, but gives feet to our faith. Even an unbeliever can know theology in her head, but the one who seeks for theology to shape her life and change it is putting theology to work.

The sources for engaged theology are Scripture, tradition, experience, and research. Now, before someone gets nervous, by tradition the authors do not mean embracing tradition as equal with Scripture. We all observe tradition in our religious lives. The fact that a child grows up in the tradition of going to a youth group is something that will influence him. After my conversion at the age of 20, my faith grew churches which while not Baptist in name, may as well have been. The traditions which were observed there contributed to my theology.

When we write about theology, we should give voice to the ordinary:

Experience as a source for theology encompasses both our personal experiences and our experiences of the wider culture. Ordinary acts like eating, shopping, cleaning, driving, and working become realities with which to grasp the ultimate principles if we reflect on them with the help of Scripture, tradition, and research. Everything is both ordinary and extraordinary. Write about the ordinary: the extraordinary often blooms from it.

Everyone lives an ordinary life, even those with exceptional circumstances. Everyone has regular, typical, routine days. How we bring theology to bear on our everyday life is important. Being an ordinary Christian is not something we should apologize for.

Part of my developing theology comes from the resources I utilizie. Right now, attending seminary at  Heritage College and Seminary is one those resources. As I learn principles of theology through my classes, they affect how I interpret and understand my ordinary circumstances. One of the lessons I have learned at seminary is the value of community. Being with a group of students every week over a number of months means we learn together, support one another, and care about one another. That principle has reminded me of the importance of my local church and the reality that we are all learning and growing together in our faith.

To avoid writing about the ordinary is a lost opportunity to not only practice writing, but a lost opportunity to understand how the ordinary and the theoretical work together. I will continue to write about the ordinary, here on this quiet little place on the internet. Who knows when something extraordinary may start blooming?


Things about female seminary students you may not know

And perhaps it doesn't interest you. But I was thiniking about these.

We juggle school work and childcare

While I don't do it personally, I heard enough from one of my classmates to know. Hearing how often she had to miss out on study because of family matters made me feel guilty for the time I wasted watching British mystery shoes when I should have been studying.

We also care for our homes and families

My husband has a very demanding job which invades into his time at home. His way of helping out with domestic matters while I am in school centres around bringing home take-out when I ask, ignoring the dust bunnies all over the house, and being forgiving when there are no clean towels. And I am only a part-time student. I don't know how others take a full course load.

Not all of us are looking to be in pastoral ministry

Perhaps some are, and that is a separate issue. For me, though, I'm in it for the learning. I want to know more. I have no designs to dismantle male authority structures.

We don't think we're "better" than other women because we are in seminary

 Again, I can't speak for other women, but for myself, this is just who I am. I can't get this kind of learning on my own. I never could have been able to manage NT Greek on my own. We also love to share with others what we have learned. If we get excited about a point we're learning, excuse us if we talk about it. It's a joy to learn.

We have "seminary husbands," although no one ever writes an article comforting them

We have moments when our husbands come to us and say expectantly, "Are you still working?" For others, there are also children who ask that question. We sacrifice time with our families to study, just like male students.

We don't all consider ourselves "feminist" or "egalitarian"

Neither would I say I am anti-feminist or complementarian. I am not entirely sure how I feel about such terms. I don't know how helpful they are. As Scarlett O'Hara says, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

This isn't just a hobby for us

We mean to be useful in the kingdom of God. We understand that being a servant of God means being prepared. This is how we are preparing. We want to know how to think theologically.

I'm sure there are many more things about female seminary students that I myself don't know. I am representative of a particular kind of student: older, part-time, and in a conservative school. Somewhere out there, there are other female seminary students who have some good information to share. I hope I can find some of them.


Shut up and learn

I have 33 out of 60 credit hours toward my Master's of Theological Studies; more than half way there. There is still so much to learn, and with each class I take, I realize how little I know. I think we all could use a little dose of that feeling regularly.

I began my summer maintenance project, translating Philippians and parsing every verb. I never thought I'd find the parsing easier than the translation. Elementary Greek courses teach lots of vocabulary; so much that I'm sure our minds were not able to cram in another word by the end of March. But that is a drop in the bucket compared to what one needs to successfully read and understand the Greek New Testament. One of the translations I did last week sounded so awkward; as if English wasn't my mother tongue. There are syntactical issues I have yet to learn which will no doubt help in my faltering efforts. The purpose of this is not to provide a translation for the masses; we are, after all, only newbie Greek students. The aim is to keep us fresh in the language, and that has been the case for far. It will also introduce us to more vocabulary, which is good.

All of this Greek talk probably sounds dull and many may wonder why I would bother. We don't really need to know Greek when we have such great translations, do we? No, we don't have to, but aside from the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect Bible version, engaging with the original language increases my appreciation for the work that Bible translators do.

School is out, and there is more time to write and share my weak and wandering views. I thought I would be able to do that, but it appears that I am being encouraged to shut up and learn. After all, what do I know? And it couldn't come at a better time, because frankly, what I have seen online since I have had the time to pay more attention discourages me for many reasons. I'm at the point where I wonder how useful social media is to the Church when so many of its participants are boorish, arrogant, and self-serving. It is a distraction away from things we should probably be doing in our homes, neighbourhoods, churches, and workplaces. Perhaps I have more to learn on that issue, too, and in that case, I'd better shut up and learn.