Monday, April 14, 2008

Seminary: A Life of Transition

As my first year in seminary is nearing an end I would describe seminary life with one word, TRANSITION. In the past few months I have experienced and observed life in transition. The seniors excitedly and nervously awaited first call assignments. First their region and then a few weeks later their synod assignment. This was an exciting time for the seminary community. We celebrated together God’s call and the journey of seminary life as our peers looked forward to continuing the journey in places throughout the U.S. The process of first call, I learned, is both joyful and nerve-wracking. The wait is hard but sweet. However, there is the occasional…”what could God possibly have for me in THERE! I didn’t want to go THERE!” But at the same time there is joy for the journey traveled and the knowledge of new possibilities ahead.

LSTC Interns have been keeping the seminary community posted about their experiences in the places where they are ministering and learning ministry. Their stories have been a witness to the joys and challenges of ministry life…a life of transition. Perhaps in this case the word BECOMING is fitting. Just last week a student wrote an article for the Door (LSTC student news publication) titled, “We’ve never done it that way before…” It seems that seminarians aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of transitional change but also congregations. Yet, I think openness to transition keeps us aware and discerning of the Holy Spirit...and that includes congregations too!

Recently many of the middlers (2nd yr. students) completed interviews for various possible internship sites. Now they are in the WAITING process…a time of anxiety and thinking about where God is calling…to the east coast, west coast, midwest, southwest, southeast, northwest?? Location, location, location is the big question on the minds and heart of middlers. They are set to find out about their placements in about 9 days. Also, middlers are currently working on carrying out ministry projects in their Ministry in Context sites. Soon they will begin the process of transitioning out of those places of ministry as they begin a new phase of ministry as interns in new places.

The first year students have not escaped seminary life as life in transition. For most juniors coming to seminary has been the greatest transition and now that the first year is coming to an end seminary feels more like home. Also the junior class has been seeking CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) sites for the summer where they will serve as chaplains in hospitals, hospice care facilities, social service agencies, and a variety of other placements. CPE tends to be an intense experience, emotionally and physically exhausting, working with persons/families facing physical and/or social crisis. Moreover the most recent transitions have occurred around scheduling for next year’s classes because LSTC has experienced several faculty changes due to retirements, resignation (on good terms), and vacancies.

As I reflect upon my first year of seminary and upon the process of becoming a rostered leader in the ELCA, I am convinced that seminary life is a life of transition. But, perhaps, a life in transition is good spiritual formation…creating an openness, awareness, and reliance on the Holy Spirit for guidance amidst transition. Perhaps transition (the process of ever-changing) is exactly what a life in ministry entails. PRAYER: God grant us the patience to embrace transition and the wisdom to discern your Holy Spirit moving in us, through us, and among us. Amen.

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