The first semester of my first year of seminary is almost half-way finished.
Where do I even begin? I am six weeks in and it has been the longest six weeks of my life. I’m not sure that over-stimulated would even begin to describe it all. Completely and utterly overwhelmed and bent to the point of snapping seems appropriate. Stranded in a desert with a dead iPhone. Duke means something totally different to me now that I’m here versus being a hopeful applicant.
I thought the first two weeks of grad school were the hardest. And then the next two. And here we are two weeks after that with a trend that has no desire to break itself. I’m always tired. Certain perspectives from my fellow students and professors sometimes make me angry. Sometimes I don’t like reading The Book of Common Prayer because liturgy doesn’t have a special resonating point for me (yet?). And we all know that Greek is stupid.
I often have to take a step back, eat a Krispy Kreme donut (read as: “donuts”), vent to my new friends, pray, call other friends who also remind me to pray, and eventually all is well. Each time I do this, I find the strength to brave another lecture. At orientation, one of the ministerial formation coordinators emphasized the importance of community while in the Div school. He wasn’t wrong. I love my people.
Seminary has not been what I thought it was going to be. At all! I know I’ve said that before but it is still true. Many things I thought I knew about the Bible have totally new meanings now that I’ve learned their context. Some of the things I thought were true turned out to be “story teller” views passed down generationally rather than views rooted in scripture. Part of me likes it because it challenges me to grow in my faith. Part of me hates it because I feel lied to. It’s no one’s fault by my own for not fact checking.
In the Div school, it is no different. Each of us have our own views and we try to mesh them together in a nice, homogeneous way. Surely you know that a group of wannabe pastors and professors stands no chance at that working. Some students don’t hold the Bible as authoritative as others, some think “contemporary” worship is watered down Christianity, and some loathe the idea of preaching. Even our professors are conflicting. Church history wants 1800 words and Old testament only wants 250. Do I expand or do I contract? Depends if your paper is due on Thursday or Friday! But if you take the hat off of any one of us, you’ll still find a person, identical to the one beside them, who has no idea what they’re doing, hoping for the best, struggling through the readings of an old dead guy. In that way, I feel like “one of them.”
My life is now full of contradictions. The Bible – not straightforward. Who is a heretic and who isn’t? Okay, but why? It’s largely frustrating coming from someone who is used to a correct answer being available to most questions asked. There aren’t a ton of “right” answers in seminary. It all depends on how you look at it and I have a fresh new lens. It’s a lens I hope to strengthen during my time here as I also challenge those around me. Will we all reach the same conclusion? Definitely not – but if we don’t talk about it, we will only perpetuate the Church’s division.
Seminary is super confusing but here I am in the divisiveness, moving full steam ahead, stranded in the desert with everyone else in Duke Divinity. I don’t have a background in theology, I don’t have a background in the liberal arts, and I don’t have a desire to get a PhD in ancient philosophical arguments on two specific versus of scripture written in another language, but I do have prayer and my people. I’m picking up more tools along the way.
Seminary Fun Facts:
- People in seminary don’t wake up for the sole purpose of being nice to each other
- Not all seminarians want to be pastors
- You can’t read everything…so don’t
- The Bible is not a history book (this one is super important…see the next point)
- The Bible is not a history book
- Some people are seemingly more concerned with their feelings than an authentic relationship with Christ…yep
- There is more than one creation story
- Minor characters in stories often have as much, if not more, to say than main characters
- You really shouldn’t take any line of scripture verbatim
- If you neglect the Trinity in your sermons, you’re basically committing idolatry
- Chances are you’re a Modalist and you don’t even realize it