Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Everything I needed to know for Seminary…

Kwame Pitts is one of our newest bloggers--look for her photo and introduction, coming soon! But for now...here is a first word from Kwame Pitts, Assistant to the Director of Advanced Studies & Registrar
“The Beauty of LOMC” Picture by R. Pitts copyright 2009 @ all rights reserved

Surrounded by darkness
Illuminated by your Light
My soul touched by your Voice
As the stars fall

Loneliness I felt
But cradled by your Creation
Welcomed through waves of green
As the stars fall

Awakening my spirit
Travelin’ through this journey
Surrounded by your Wonder
As the stars fall

Knowing how far I’ve come
And knowing where I will go
Confirmation that I am Home
Watching the stars fall.
Original by K.L.P.

As I was assisting a group of pastors out for a day of relaxation from the Northern Illinois Synod with a canoe trip on the Rock River, one of the pastors who is retired joined me as I tied a canoe down on the rack. He smiled and joked “Did you ever think that you’d be doing this? Hauling canoes and whatnot, like that would help you prepare for seminary?” I laughed and replied “Well, that’s true! Everything I need to know I learned…”

Sounds like a “What I did this summer” essay, right? Yet when we come to Seminary Sampler that is a question that is asked of us-what made us hear the call? What events caused us to make that decision and why LSTC?

One word I can equate with LSTC is community. Will you pick up on that during the Sampler? Perhaps yes and perhaps no. Yet dear readers, if nothing else through all of our cheerful ramblings through our blogs no matter where you are in the world, you will still be embraced by the community spirit that flows through every portion of our being and throughout these buildings. For it is in this community that encourages, enriches and excites us about answering that call-whether the open doors before us lead to becoming ordained, or modeling our professors and finally donning those beautiful hoods and colors of an advanced studies student. It also includes those charged with guiding, teaching and counseling all of us as well as those on the front lines, making sure this body of Christ runs smoothly. Every one of us is an important factor to the ministry and the mission of LSTC.

It is one part of that call that I have answered: being able to assist those students who are knee-deep in the trenches of the libraries working on research, fretting about exams and panicking about that all-important dissertation, along with supporting Dr. Esther Menn and the wonderful faculty with our Th.M and PhD students. It is truly a pleasure for me. Most students welcome a calming presence and I hope that my office will always be a warm place for them to lay their burdens, share in laughter and of course, have brownies. Often, graduate and doctoral students are tossed aside at other institutions because well, the administration perhaps feel that they are so mature they don’t need a human voice or one-on-one conversations. Yes, many of our faculty proudly wears the colors of LSTC in formal ceremonies and during graduations and this place nurtures future professors and leaders regardless of wherever their spiritual path leads them in this life!

It is a place that I too, am proud to be a part of and become a part of, for I too have listened to His voice and answered His call still even questioning it all the way. With His presence, love and mercy as well as the blessing of my Synod, I will proudly be able to count myself among those who call themselves, seminarians.

Regardless of where you are along your journey I pray that you think of LSTC as a home away from home, and that I am one of many that can show you, beloved through our eyes, the simple yet profound beauty of LSTC--what it means to us, and what it can be for you.

May God’s peace be upon you, until next time-

For more information or to check out a green space right here in the great state of Illinois, please visit www.lomc.org

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Beginning a Year of Earth Bloggin'

As Pastor Joy mentioned previously, “Earth Year” has begun here at LSTC. “Earth Year” is a year in which the LSTC community will focus on greater theological engagement with ecological concerns. Throughout the year there will be many opportunities in our communal life to consider how we are being called to care for God’s creation and how the life of the seminary can further that mission. On the line, you can keep tabs on earth year with twitter (EarthYearLSTC) and a facebook group (Earth Year at LSTC). On the Seminarian’s Sojourn blog, we too will engage in this green year with some earthy blogging. Throughout the year we will wrestle and blog our way through ecological questions raised and insights gained.

Our terrestrial year kicked off this past Wednesday with a lecture introducing the theme from LSTC Professor of New Testament, David Rhoads. It was a powerful lecture. There were profound insights as Dr Rhoads articulated a theology of the earth, a theology grounded in our understanding of creation, justification, vocation, the cross, and the Holy Spirit. It was a lecture filled with beautiful imagery, in particular as Dr Rhoads described a vision of all of creation gathered around the table at the Eucharist. And it was a lecture filled with emotion. This topic is clearly a passion for Dr Rhoads, but the emotion in the room provided support to his assertion that “the signal issue has changed.” From the time of Luther and anthropocentric or human focused salvation, the signal issue in our current context has moved to a focus on the survival of humanity and creation. This issue and this year of green focus clearly resonates with our current context in the world. It was an inspirational lecture; those in attendance were filled with energy and excitement to begin this themed year. To borrow a phrase from my favorite college football coach, it seemed that everyone was “All In” with earth year. And to borrow an addictive theme song from one of the most memorable cartoons of my childhood, everyone was ready to sign up to be an official Planeteer.

As we walked out of the lecture, it seemed that we were of one mind and heart. And so it occurred to me,
what’s next? If in response to God’s call to care for creation we all shout “Amen!”, then what is the goal for earth year? What do we hope to get out of this themed year? What’s next?

For me, what’s next is some sort of green Lutheran ethic. For me, in this year I hope that our community will wrestle with how God is calling us to respond in action to God’s love of all of creation. If there’s anything that really bothers me about the environmental movement, it’s in this ethics department where we figure out exactly what to do. A popular green ethic seems to place most responsibility and power of ecological justice on the individual. It’s even at the end of the seemingly innocuous and catchy outro from Captain Planet above. It ends as Captain Planet tells us all, “The power is yours!!!”

Especially from a Lutheran perspective, when we speak of creation in a theological frame work this focus on th
e individual makes me a little leery. Because if the signal issue of our time is an understanding salvation not on just an anthropocentric level but in a way that embraces the salvation of all of creation; then I think the basic Lutheran insight still applies. It’s not me or I or we that have the power to bring about the salvation of creation, but Christ and the cross.

I can almost hear echoes of Captain Planet’s call of “The power is yours!” in the theology of our more evangelical brothers and sisters. If we are to reject this kind of semipelagianism in regards to anthropocentric salvation, then I think we must do so in regards to a salvation embracing all of creation.

I’m not trying to say that we are called to sit back and relax in our SUV’s while rockin’ CFC laden hairspray an
d let Christ and the cross take care of ecological justice and concern. Rather, I think our ethic must be connected to our theology. We must also beware of that great western heresy that locates all power in hands of the individual consumer, and tempts us to think that ecological justice comes when the individual consumer makes a single green choice. My undergraduate degree was earned in environmental engineering, and I spent several semesters co-oping as an environmental engineer. From this past life, I have retained enough knowledge of environmental science, to know that I don’t know enough. I must humbly confess that despite what Captain Planet says, I don’t have the power. I don’t have the knowledge or power or perhaps even the will to make choices to bring about ecological justice. But that doesn’t mean I’m not called to act and move for it.

Perhaps the most memorable part of Dr. Rhoads lecture for me was some of his remarks on community and salvation. He said that in the New Testament, “there is no salvation outside of community, and no community without creation.” I find these remarks instructive on how God is calling us to respond to God’s care of creation. It is a place where our theology can inform our ethic. I hope that this year at LSTC we are able to wrestle, as a community, with how we can respond to God’s call as a community. I find hope, that even as individuals without “the power,” perhaps as gathered together as a community listening to God’s call together we can find ways to respond together to help bring about ecological justice.

Again, this is not easy; especially for a community like LSTC. As we begin the year, we are reminded of how our community is diverse and dynamic. We are reminded that at least 2/3 of the folks on campus this year, weren’t here last year. We are reminded that a major part of our community is scattered across the world on internship. We are reminded that our community at LSTC is continually being reshaped and remolded. This diversity and dynamic nature certainly enriches our communal discernment of how God is calling us to ecological justice, but it also makes it more difficult. It is my hope and prayer that during this earth year our community engages in the difficult but necessary task of asking the hard questions and engaging in communal discernment of how to respond to God’s grace.

So, I guess my question for you other bloggers, commenters, and community members is, “What’s next in Earth Year for you?”


PS - I finally have a post that rivals Matt in word count.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Earth Year at LSTC

Students are back! We're almost through Orientation week and have welcomed many people back to campus. Yesterday, we heard an inspired Inaugural lecture from Dr. David Rhoads and celebrated Eucharist with thanksgiving for God present in Word and Sacrament and the whole web of creation.

Thanks be to God!
Pastor Joy