For the past two years I've been engaged in a seminary program at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. When I finish this semester, I will officially be half way done with my Master of Divinity. Now that sounds wonderful, doesn't it? I will certainly be happy to have completed my masters program and be ready for a break from academia. . . at least on a formal basis. Why is it that I would subject myself to this when I have a family, full-time ministry and part-time production work? It's not like I need one more thing in my life. This is what I like and daresay love about my seminary experience. . .
I like that I have a minority voice. That's not to say that I'm not able to speak and share my thoughts and opinions but rather that they don't necessarily or even often represent the thoughts, opinions, and experiences with my fellow classmates. In a sense it humbles me and helps me to see that God is at work in ways that I am unaware of and not privy to in my world back home. In a very real way, I have a voice for this very reason. In a homogenous world where the majority speak so loudly, the minority and dare I say prophetic voices go unheard and unnoticed.
I like that our cohort (group of 20 or so students studying together) represent the gamut of Christian faith. Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Quakers, Pentecostals, and various other traditions are represented in our little microcosm of the country and the church. And in these various traditions, we have students that identify themselves as pacifists as well as a couple that have devoted their lives to serving in the armed forces. I even love that one of my pacifist friends declared, "Although I am a Quaker, I am glad that there is more firepower in my community than anywhere on the planet." Within this very special community there is respect and admiration for each other.
I like that we come from all walks of life and from places all over the country. Our cohort consists of friends from Hawaii and Alaska, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Virginia. We are pastors, counselors, pharmacists, social workers, writers, entertainment managers, teachers, military personnel, clerical workers, missionaries, and more. Many of us wear multiple hats and are processing why we're in seminary at all. But the processing is taking place and the beauty found in our diversity is formational.
I like that while my own tribe back home leans to the right politically, my educational tribe leans to the left politically. I have been exposed to and become passionate about so many justice issues that weren't even on my radar before seminary. One example of this is that we watched a documentary in one of my classes on Dumpster Diving as social action and a justice issue. Half of the food we produce gets thrown away every year in America. Much of this food is absolutely fine for human consumption and with a little creative effort could feed our homeless and hungry population with only a fraction of what we toss. I like this about seminary.
I like that through all of this I'm seeing a richer, fuller and more beautiful picture of the Bride of Christ. It's easy to think that the church is whatever you see and experience in a given context. Seminary is broadening my perspective and giving me hope that just maybe God is at work beyond my little world back home. Thank you George Fox for opening the eyes and heart of this seminarian.