I took a really big step last week, I thought you all should know. I signed up for my first seminary class. I decided a while back, upon the encouragement and advice of my minister and close friend, Cari, to sign up for summer language at PTS in order to get ahead on my denominational requirements. What are denominational requirements, you might ask? They are as they sound – the requirements of my denomination. Basically, if you want to be a legitimate ordained minister of a legitimate denominationally-supported church, you have to go to seminary, and in the meantime, fulfill certain requirements so that I can be a properly trained minister. That probably made no sense. Ok, in layman’s terms, throughout my three years at PTS, I have to take certain classes to fulfill my master’s degree requirements, and then I have a set of other requirements that my church wants me to fulfill. Those are my denominational requirements. What they are, specifically, I have no idea.
But all I do know is that Biblical Greek could potentially be one. So here I am, on a Friday night, signing up for Biblical Greek in the living room of Morris House on Green Street in Northampton, Massachusetts. I expected the experience to be something out of a movie. Picture it: A girl opens her email, and all of a sudden, THERE IT IS. The email she had been waiting for, telling her that she could sign up for whatever it is that she needs to (or rather has dreamed about, and wants to) register for. She opens up the email, and all of a sudden, there is a spotlight, and wind (inside her room, obviously…), and as she clicks on the email, 2001: A Space Odyssey’s theme song begins to play. NOPE. That’s not my experience. It all happened in the matter of moments, very anti-climactic. No epic music, no indoor wind, no bright lights. Just a few clicks, and a few clicks of the refresh button (because I totally fail at the internet sometimes), and it was all over. Just like that.
I don’t know, I guess I expected that it would be epic, or at least mark the beginning of my life – the beginning of the life I have always wanted for myself. But no. It was over and done with in a matter of moments. I was waiting for something to hit me, for something to change. But I’m the same old me as I was before I registered for Greek on that Friday a few weeks ago. But at the same time, I am a little bit different. Each step I take toward seminary, I become a little bit different, or rather, I begin to see the world a little differently; or rather, I see the world through the lens of who I wish to become, or rather someone I hope to become. As I can’t predict who I will be in three years when I graduate from seminary, nor can I necessarily change the passage of time itself, I can make some predictions as to who I will become based upon my fundamental likes and dislikes.
But all that aside, I cannot believe that I have crossed that first milestone already. I start seminary on the 11th of July. WOW. Something about this milestone proves especially striking for me. While I will be there, chapel will be an everyday part of my existence. Each day, 5 days a week, PTS holds a chapel service on campus, and time on campus stands still during this period of our days. On my visit to PTS back in October, the importance of chapel in the lives of the PTS students was extremely evident. In the morning, students filed in from everywhere on campus, leaving their “worldly possessions” on the front steps. I thought this to be a strange custom – not only that chapel happened, and that many of the students attended, but also that they all left their bags outside for the world to see. My guide, who was such a blessing on that day for countless reasons, told me quietly that the purpose behind this act was to symbolize leaving our burdens and worldly possessions outside the house of the Lord while we worshipped. WOW. What a thought. I never thought about it all this way. How I had brought in my worldly baggage with me to church for countless years. But forget that idea, it was just interesting that for so many of the seminary students on campus, the act of going to chapel daily shaped their schedules. In fact, the seminary doesn’t schedule anything – classes, meetings, meals, ANYTHING – during chapel so that students don’t feel as though they have to skip their worship time with God.
For me, this whole concept is mind blowing, as never in my life has chapel been a daily presence. I wonder. Am I going to embrace this daily opportunity to praise God for all the blessings in my life, or am I, as time goes by and my time at seminary draws slowly to a close, going to abandon this daily ritual in favor of, say, sleep, writing a paper, or my seemingly endless CPE requirements? I have so many times adopted these more rigorous religious plans with the hopes that it will become a part of my daily devotional life, only to give up a few days later out of complete frustration or pure exhaustion. Will this be the same thing as my Lenten project for this year? (BTW, I tried to do twice daily devotions and listen to a sermon in order to glean something sophisticated about my faith. After 4 days, I totally gave up. Can’t tell you why, but I just did.) Will chapel go the same way that my devotions did? (And so many devotions before?) I hope not, and part of me knows that it probably won’t, as it will be a part of my education, not simply something I’m trying to do without much motivation. And also, this time, I won’t be going at my devotional life alone. There are approximately 125 people in my incoming seminary class, and most of them will be joining me in the pews of PTS’s chapel at least once a week. And knowing that I won’t have to be going at it completely alone makes it far more sustainable. It also makes it far more fun! I will be able to express my faith and how much I love God with people who feel much the same way.
But who knows how it will all end up. Right now, it is just speculation. But as I like to say, it all begins with a simple click of the mouse – when I registered for Biblical Greek on a Friday evening in the month of April.