Greetings from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago! This is my first Blog entry to "The Seminarian's Sojourn," so how about an introduction...
My name is Josh, and I am a second year (middler) Master of Divinity student. I am originally from Davenport, Iowa, and graduated with an Education degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Two of my years there were spent working as a Resident Assistant. I spent four summers leading church service trips for Youthworks in Juarez, Mexico, and subsequently spent a year doing an internship with them, working with churches in Juarez. This experience had a huge impact on my call to ministry. After this I came to seminary here at LSTC.
My time at LSTC thus far has been enlightening and challenging. I have grown academically as my mind continues to expand from the diversity of thought, wisdom, and teaching. From my classes I have had opportunities to dig deeper into scripture, and I have learned new and innovative approaches to and interpretations of scripture. My theological understanding has also been stretched. I have gained a deeper understanding and appreciation for the history of the church. Classes such as Worship and Pastoral Care have broadened my vocational understanding of pastoral ministry. All of my classes have given me tools to take into the parish.
One class that was particularly formative for me was my January Term class: “Exploring the Northern Latino Border in Chicago.” It had an opportunity to hear from people that do ministry in a Mexican neighborhood in the Pilsen area of Chicago. My eyes were further opened to the realities of the lives of Mexican immigrants who are socially marginalized.
The education I have received is not only from textbooks and class lectures, but from a dialogue that transcends the classroom walls and even into daily chapel, the sidewalks and laundry rooms. This dialogue is possible because this seminary community encourages and challenges one another in our collective pursuit of the Gospel. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit I continue to grow in God’s grace and continue to be shaped and equipped for ministry.
I completed CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) this past summer at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center on the north side of Chicago. I was able to sincerely open myself to the people for whom I cared for, and foster my compassion for people’s struggling into a ministry that demonstrates God’s presence and love for them. The pastoral care I provided ranged from time with prophets in the Psych Unit (one of my assigned units), to providing grief care to family and friends of teenagers shot in acts of gang violence. CPE helped me in my pastoral formation, and has made me more in tune with issues that effect people and cause people to suffer.
I am excited to have embarked on my second year of seminary at LSTC. I am taking the following courses this Fall semester: Hebrew, Preaching, Systematic Theology I, and Historia de la Iglesia Hispana en los E.E.U.U. (History of the Hispanic Church in the U.S.A.- taught in Spanish). I started my “Ministry In Context,” a field education requirement in which I will be actively involved in a parish weekly for the entire academic year. I along with Lara, another second year MDiv student have been assigned to St. Andrew Lutheran Church in West Chicago, IL (a western suburb of Chicago). I have been learning and participating in their Hispanic Ministry, in which they have services in Spanish. I will have the opportunity to play guitar in worship, preach (in Spanish and English), lead a weekly Catechesis class for elementary school children, and to learn from the pastors by joining them in various pastoral activities. Their church building burnt down last year, and so now they worship at a school. It is remarkable the faith of the congregation in spite of this, and they were quick to point out that the church isn’t a building, but the people.
I also continue to work weekly at the church-based “Union Avenue Community Outreach” youth center with inner-city youth, providing homework help and building relationships. The hospital where I completed CPE hired me as a “Pastoral Care Associate,” (serving as a chaplain) working on-call shifts on a fill-in basis for the year.
My classes, the seminary community and my practical ministry experience are dynamically working together in my pastoral formation. Thanks for reading, tune in again next week!
God's grace and peace,