I saw a crocus the other day.
The sun is shining gloriously.
I’m on spring break. Praise the Lord.
I won’t be partying hard or laying out on a beach somewhere… I’ll be working, but it will be different work. I have a lecture to prep for and papers to prep for and other teaching to prep for… big projects that don’t seem to fit in the weekly grind.
It seems that a lot doesn’t fit in the weekly grind. I picked up my iPod for the first time in awhile yesterday and thought I’d listen to a podcast. All the podcasts waiting were from early January or before. This blog is not so different. A friend moved in around the block yesterday and I took advantage of the beautiful spring weather to walk over to her home and help out. I actually ended up walking over twice. The second time I had Caroline in tow. I remembered how many spring walks I took with her last year… and how few walks I’ve taken thus far this year. It seems I pressed the pause button on many aspects of my life upon pressing the start button for the semester.
Knitting Preacher visited us last weekend and we were reflecting on relative stress levels between ministry and school. Another friend of mine, who visited in the last two weeks of last semester, reflected that never once in the parish had be been as stressed as he regularly was in the last two weeks of any academic semester. I could not concur. Academic life is stressful, sometimes seriously stressful, but that stress seems time limited. Semesters always end. There’s always a stop button and essentially a restart button. In ministry… not so much… it just goes on and on my friend… There’s ALWAYS more work to be done. One is never finished… and that… ultimately, creates more stress, I think. What do you think? Anyone else out there with academic and ministry experience? Knitting Preacher shared that when asked by someone recently about her stress levels she said “According to normal people’s standards or pastor standards?” She was being asked by the husband of a pastor, and he got it.
I find breaks in the semesters to be like mini-restarts- I get ready for the intense push ahead on breaks. And so I hope it will be this week.
In the last few weeks I’ve come to some clarity about what will likely be my larger project here. Turns out it is DIRECTLY related to that work I did for my national church. Turns out it is a very concrete expression of the vague general idea with which I was working when I got here. Turns out it will allow me to put to good use all the historical research I’ve done so far. Should I share the idea here? Or wait? I’m not sure about these things. Again, I’d love your input.
In any case, it is a huge relief to feel like I know where I’m headed in the next few years and to be excited about it.
Perhaps not surprising is the fact that all sorts of deep wrestling started the week after I identified this focus. Not wrestling with the topic- wrestling with reflections on my teaching ministry in the parish I served and with the challenge of teaching theology effectively and meaningfully for ministry. I’m realizing some huge blind spots I had when I was in ministry, false assumptions from which I operated,unexamined pet beliefs which drove me. And that was me- the theology geek who soaked up as much theological study as possible in seminary. So… let’s say I actually get to teach at a seminary some day. And let’s say the majority of my students won’t take much more theology than my intro class. And yet… weekly… daily… upon graduation… they will be the working theologians in their communities… how on earth does one put together that syllabus? Wrestling…
Please don’t hear me saying that I think only theology matters. Further, please don’t hear me saying that the task of theologians in teaching seminarians is any harder than any other discipline. I think, in fact, that every discipline has similar challenges. My seminar on teaching for ministry made that abundantly clear. The fragmentation of theological education into various disciplines is in and of itself somewhat problematic. Further, the current economic conditions of most seminaries is hugely complicating. It is hard to imagine what seminaries will be left and what they will be like when I graduate. I leave open the possibility of serving a parish again when I graduate… for lots of reasons. But as the pause button is pressed on this semester for the week, and as I listen to podcasts and blog once more… I find myself in state of hopeful anxiety. I’m going somewhere. Let there be a there there.