Saturday, February 14, 2009

After this, I really will get back to studying for my Monday Pastoral Care test

My second UU Seminarian in Bibleland post, kind of a “throw away,” prompted some good comments. I started to respond in comments, but then thought it would be a good exercise for myself to ‘splain why they heck I’m at a seminary where the majority of professors are Southern Baptist.

(And first, let me send all of you a big hug. I love that my blog friends are concerned about my seminary experience. Makes me feel nurtured.)

My seminary is about 50 years old. It began as a Quaker seminary and has changed into the more conservative school it is today. It is officially “interdenominational,” evangelical Christian. I know of at least two other UUs who graduated from here – one is now a UU minister in the Heartland, and one is in process for fellowship. I also know one, who ran screaming after one week, to a UU seminary. And I know one who was taking classes there, but not pursuing ministry, who abruptly walked out of a class in the middle of the semester, never to return.

The vast majority of students here are second careerists, but not the kind who have had a “full” career and are now returning to school. I have no statistics, but I’d guess the median age is probably 35. They cater to this with evening classes, along with the day classes.

I am a minority here: religiously, as the majority of students are not just Christian, but conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians; gender-wise, I think; and racially.

And that is a huge part of why I chose to continue at this school. I am, as Kari mentioned, a cradle UU. Chances are, a substantial percentage of my future congregants grew up in Christian homes. I know that it will be beneficial to be immersed in a world that I was always a stranger in.

Even more important is the racial makeup. As longtime readers here know, the issue of race is a passionate one for me. I am with classmates who fight racism and oppression on a daily basis. Many of them are dedicating themselves for careers as ministers for which they may never be paid; they talk about working for little urban churches while keeping a day job. Far from the disciplined fellowship approach of more mainstream denominations, several are already pastors. These people are living it.

I forgot to mention economically and socially, didn’t I? Also an issue.

During orientation, the president of the school said, very clearly, “You are here with classmates from different denominations than you. Do not think that you were called here to convert them. You were not.”

I took comfort in that, but still and all, I choose very carefully what I speak out on. So far, I have headed into the fray on the subjects of marriage equality and capital punishment. My first theology class, I just treated as a “foreign language” course. I don’t have to believe Monsier Thibeux is really an engineer in order to say it in French.

I know myself, and I know there will come the time to stand, to argue, about theology. But even with the president’s admonition, at this point, I listen more than I speak.

And I am learning a powerful amount. Some of it in class, much of it outside of class. When Little Warrior relapsed last spring, I broke down after my Ethics class and told a friend about it. The next week, she explained that on the day of LW’s surgery, not only would she be praying, she would also be fasting. I knew that she meant it, and would.

Can you imagine? She went without food all day, so that she could send her energies up in prayer for my daughter. You think that didn’t teach me a few lessons about belief, about sacrifice?

The “other” minorities here (and by that, I specifically mean gay and lesbian) and I somehow find each other. And wow, talk about profound lessons. We all, to a certain extent, try to fly under the radar. But we also are very clear inside about who we are.

So, as for now, this school is worth it. I take online classes from Starr King. I plan on going to Meadville Lombard for some UU-specific intensives.

And every semester, as I turn in my registration, I think, “Will this be the semester that sends me screaming to another school?”

“The day ain’t over yet.” -- Curly, City Slickers


smijer said...

Just a word of encouragement. I don't post comments much, but I wanted to say that I am out here reading and I know a lot of others are. Your stories mean something to me & I know others get something out of them, too. Keep it up. :)

goodwolve said...

As another "cradle UU" I respect and am interested in this: I know that it will be beneficial to be immersed in a world that I was always a stranger in.

I know that moving to the South after living and growing up on the West Coast has made me appreciate America more - I just feel touched by the experiences that I see everyday her in the "heartland".

So that exposure to what we don't know seems like a wonderful way to grow compassion.

So, here's to cheering you!

ogre said...

I'll look forward to your being at ML sometime--and hope that I'm there at the same time.

(UU History there with Bumbaugh? Move now--he'll be there for it this coming January, but not after that.)

the change said...

I am a relatively new UU (just about to have my two year "anniversary") and while I am drawn to Unitarian Universalism for what it stands for/offers, I spent much of my life repelled by what fundamental Christianity taught. As part of my spiritual journey, I am trying to learn more about, and open myself to, Jesus' teachings (love, social activism, etc.) outside of the realm of biblical literalism. Thank you, LE, for this posting and for others that share and examine your experiences as a UU seminarian in Bibleland with openness, a healthy dose of questioning, and deep thoughtfulness.

Chalicechick said...

I felt similarly many times when I worked for a Mormon-owned and mostly Mormon-employing firm for two years, but out of a desire to let my bosses keep their privacy, I didn't write much about it on the Chaliceblog.

But this series is really bringing back some memories of what it was like to work with kind, loving, faithful people who were good friends and good bosses, yet any moment would calmly, rationally tell you that the biggest social problem America faces is pornography and they felt like bad people when they drank Diet Coke.

I learned so many lessons about seeing the good in people who behave in ways I don't understand at that job and I suspect they learned a few of the same ones.

Good luck. As always, people are rooting for you.