Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Florida Musings

Although I am far from home and school, I'm thinking a lot about ministry, because I am preparing for the PC(USA) ordination exams, which are now less than four weeks away, and I'm preaching in my field ed church on Sunday.

I'm not happy with my sermon, but I find that I'm enjoying the studying. As I (try to) pull material together and read through a couple of theological overviews, I'm discovering a new appreciation for my seminary education. And I see that I have changed not a little. (Gulp of relief: for awhile I feared that I might emerge from seminary like a couple of other people I've heard about, who upon their graduations said," I haven't changed one bit from the moment I arrived!")

Of course, much of the change has come via another route. Today I am thinking about that in the context of two other things. For one, Quotidian Grace is highlighting blogs of ministers who are mothers. I imagine that someday that group will include me, albeit not as I had planned or expected. And secondly, last fall, two young men in my class preached sermons in which they referred, one explicitly and one by implication, to seminary as a "mountaintop experience."

Not exactly, I thought at the time.

I suppose that it will be many, many years before I will understand what it has meant to study for ministry while grieving the suicide of a child. To explore all those meaning-of-life-who-is-God questions in an academic environment while stuggling through them at the deepest personal levels. To be engaged in hopes and plans for middle-age changes while saying good-bye to a very young life measured mostly by possibility.

God, it has been so hard.

I have no idea what the future holds for me. (Given the past sixteen months, I have to conclude that only someone completely devoid of gray matter would attempt to predict even the next five minutes.) But I hope that my ministry will be marked by a deep respect for the experience of the absence of God, an enlarged capacity for listening in silence, and a vocabulary from which religious cliches have been banished.

(Of course, none of those abilities, such as they are, will be of much help on the ordination exams. And what does that say . . . ???)

Anyway ~ that's the report from the Florida Keys this morning.

9 comments:

Quotidian Grace said...

Time sure flies, doesn't it? You're preparing for the ord exams already! What a tough journey it has been for you in ways you didn't forsee but maybe God did and that is why you were led to seminary at that time.

Purple said...

Loved your last comment about the ordination exams...so true. If we can write an answer...then surely we will be able to sit with a family who has suffered a deep and life-altering tradegy. **tongue-in-cheek**

Continue to soak in some rest and relaxation.

RevDrKate said...

I have to say that a"ministry ...marked by a deep respect for the experience of the absence of God, an enlarged capacity for listening in silence, and a vocabulary from which religious cliches have been banished" is likely to be transformative for those whom you impact.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I always wondered how Zen masters or Tibetan monks could actually have any kind of wisdom without any kind of real life experience.

Now I understand that they are wisest of all. They chose ahead of time to let go of everything without having to be beat to s**t by it before letting it go.

Your ministry will be powerful, surprising and marked with grace and ease. I predict.

Carol said...

Out of respect for your listening in silence, I believe I'll begin reading in silence. I have no doubt that you'll excel on your exams and be an incredibly strong minister.
Word Verification: UNCHANT. I suppose that supports my new vow of silence!

Stratoz said...

something in here took me back to Christmas Eve, when M and I sat through a sermon which was all about how the purpose of life is having children. made us feel like...

your words did not make me feel that way, it just reminded me of last week and wishing that I wasn't in church.

Lisa :-] said...

I guess you could think of ordination as a means to an end...

And your unique experience of seminary will give you a perspective like no other... A terrible gift for which no one would ever ask, but could prove to be a mighty tool.

Karen said...

I don't know the future, but I do know that the people you pastor will be blessed to have you guide and comfort them through the shadows and sorrows of life. You won't make the mistakes that other clergy make, and you won't increase another's sense of isolation, and you won't give pat answers, and you won't hyper-spiritualize, and you will have the right words and comfort to share.

Jan said...

Your strength and faith shine through the pain. To us readers, time has gone by quickly, but probably not for you. Peace and Happy New Year.