Seminary: The First Year
First, I want to say that my seminary journey has been full of twists, turns, delays and failures. The order of my headings is the order in which my classes were intended to be taken. However, you will see of the dates attached to each heading, they are all out of sorts. I began my seminary journey two classes late, jumping in on the third class in my cohort. In addition, I’ve experienced two dropped classes because of work conflicts and a failure due to work demands. In all, I am finishing my education a full year past the other members of my cohort. I feel like I’ve missed out on some of the value of my education by not being able to take my classes in the order that they were intended. None the less, my seminary journey has born much more fruit than imagined and firmly planted the roots of my faith. I feel blessed to be at the end of this journey and able to see the culmination of a faith journey wrought with tribulation. It has deepened my faith in ways unforeseen.
Spiritual Life & Leadership
Completed Thursday, December 26, 2019
This course focused on helping us understand ourselves spiritually and how that translates into servant leadership. We focused on the adverse effects of “hurry,” discovered our spiritual pathways and learned about the concept of servant leadership and how we apply these understandings and concepts to our ministry.
Integration: Our integration paper focused on how we apply the concepts learned in this course in our own ministry. My largest take away from this course as a whole was my spiritual pathway as an Activist. I have always been a fierce defender of what is just and right. It was incredibly affirming to learn and understand that this is the way I love God and my conflict was not all just oppositional and defiant behavior as some have attacked me for it.
At the time it was difficult for me to mesh this course with my ministry application. At the time I finished this paper, I was working at a Christian Nonprofit in a social work capacity. While this directly played to my spiritual pathway as an Activist, however, the nature of my work and ethical boundaries prevented me from creating deep relationships with my clients that would lend to developing them spiritually.
I was most influenced by the readings done in relation to our spiritual pathways. Discovering that I am an activist, and how this nature also reflects the worst of me when I am in an unhealthy state, gave me perspective on how to invest in my spiritual disciplines and pathways to love others as God intended. The pitfalls of each pathway were vital for my development. It allowed me to identify my behaviors that were unbecoming and provided me with instruction on how to develop these disciplines and pathways into healthy Fruits of the Spirit.
The Discipline of Guidance: My biggest take away from this exercise was my need for a mentor that challenges me. I deeply love my mentor; however, she is very affirming. She made observations and identified weakness; however, she focuses on positives and encouragement. I don’t feel that I had a lot of growth during this exercise, which led me to believe that in order for me to grow, I need a mentor that challenges and convicts me of my shortfalls and provides insight and direction on growth. Engaging in this exercise was difficult for my life situation and my ministry. My ministry demanded SO much time from me that I often struggled to get my appointments with my mentor in our schedules.
This course taught me so much about myself. It really defined the type of servant leader I wanted to be and establish how I best serve others. It provided clear steps to strengthening my spiritual pathways and deepening my spiritual disciplines. It has continued to impact my seminary and spiritual journeys. Especially in terms of my remarriage, dating, and helping my husband establish healthy disciplines that we can engage in individually and as a couple.
Global Christian History
Completed Friday, August 24, 2018
Global Christian history focused on how Christianity developed from the time of the disciples through the modern age. Each period focused on the major events and major influencers in the series of events that lead to the current state of affairs through the modern period. The course ended with a project that defined the history and development of divine providence throughout history.
My major takeaways from this course was, obviously, the history itself. While I had a general understanding of historical events, it was fascinating to spend five days immersed in the history of our faith. The most influential part of this course was understanding how God intervened throughout history in every time period. While this course didn’t particularly mesh with my current ministry, I always find history fascinating. It gives me a sense of understanding and immense gratification to understand where we have come from.
By far, the most influential aspect of this course was understanding how Christ’s “one church” has been broken by human sin throughout history. It began to trigger my Restorer and Relator strengths. How do we take this understanding of our history and an understanding of our inherent sin and bring our church back together?
Completed Wednesday, July 18, 2018
This course focused on all major theologies and how to articulate what we believe, why we believe it, and how to defend that belief. My biggest take away from this course was my complete lack of original thought. It really challenged my understanding of how my faith developed. I was able to articulate that I simply believed what I believe because I was taught to believe. Furthermore, I’ve never felt the reason to investigate or challenge it. I’ve always been trusting of whatever I was told.
This course challenged that and showed me that many of the ideologies that I believed were incomplete or warped in a way. This course allowed me to reframe my beliefs and align them with the major theologies of our faith. The biggest influence was the struggle to form original thought. I wrestled with it, felt inadequate for it, but finally accepted that this is the steppingstone toward a deeper faith and a deeper understanding. It is a journey to develop faith and articulate our theology. It is not a failure or a weakness to start at the beginning. Even if you are thirty years into your faith.
The Bible as Christian Scripture
Completed Thursday, May 15, 2018
This course taught us how to read and interpret Scripture. Most importantly it distinguished the difference between a text and Scripture. The biggest take away for me was the utter authority of Scripture. Having been raised in the faith, surprisingly, obedience to Scripture was never something that was taught to me. Scripture was a reference.
The quote, “The aim of Scripture…is to shape persons’ identities so decisively as to transform them” (Green, 2007, p. 5), by far had the most impact on me. This put everything that I had known of my faith and lifestyle into perspective. It reoriented me and my desires for my faith life. Although this course was intended to be taken after Spiritual Life and Leadership, I’m so grateful that Spiritual Life and Leadership was delayed because this course established the importance of Scripture and its authority. So that, when I took Spiritual Life and Leadership, I left with a reverence and commitment to Scripture’s authority over my life that I am not sure would have been established had the courses been taken in the intended order.
Cultural Contexts of Ministry
Completed Thursday, May 14, 2020
This course focused on the differences between cultures all around the world and their interactions with Christianity. It helped us understand the context in which these cultures came in contact with Christianity, some of their history, and important contextual understandings for interacting with those cultures. It also emphasized the importance of multi-cultural ministry environments and helped us develop an approach to ministry geared around including multiple cultures.
My largest take away from this course was how absolutely sheltered I am. I live in a community that is 99% white. You have to drive 40 minutes to find diversity and even then, it is still 86% white. I was challenged by one of my classmates for my lack of ability to understand how the Black American playing field is so slanted against them. I was challenged by one Black classmate, “when you walk into a workplace and see all white people, don’t you see what’s going on there? It’s the same with those white churches.” This stunk. It struck me as reverse racism. I responded with a summary of my ministry context and a genuine expression that there was nothing “going on” in my context, it was simply the way it had always been. It’s just the way it is.
The overall impact of this course was very frustrating for me. It was impossible for formulate a plan for a multi-cultural ministry in a 99% white population. The only biggest thing that I took away from this course in the way of a ministry approach is how to challenge my context mind set. How to challenge the “all lives matter” mentality in a way that was thought provoking and encouraged my context to think more intricately about the differences and the problems that create such race relations in our country today.
(Green & Watson. (2012). Wesley, Wesleyans, and Reading Bible as Scripture. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press).