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I Did Learn That in Seminary

April 15, 2011

Found on Fidelia's Sisters... a publication of the young clergy women project
By Laura Jean Torgerson, GM missionary to Nicaragua

I would like to think that I've always been a little uncomfortable with the refrain that passes among clergy: “Divinity school sure didn't prepare us for this.” Or sometimes, from seasoned laypeople to clergy with the ink still wet on their diplomas: “I bet you didn't learn that in seminary!” Maybe this has to do with my personality, my love of the academic study of religion, and a lifelong love of school in general. I did, after all, enter divinity school with more than half a mind to continue in PhD work, and my mind still wanders to going “back to school.” But my impatience with that refrain has also stemmed from a conviction that my divinity school did an excellent job of preparing me and my colleagues for ministry because it gave us the tools to think theologically about all aspects of Christian life and ministry. Such formation helps us to reflect on the implications of budgets, whether of governments or congregations, as moral documents. To think about and talk about stewardship as more than just another fund-raising drive, as an essential aspect of Christian faithfulness. To share with baptism and confirmation candidates the richness of the tradition they're considering claiming for their own. To realize that each of us is just one member of the body of Christ, and we can't do it all – so we need to call on the gifts of other members at times, whether it's when the boiler breaks or when someone needs more visiting than the pastor can provide, or when the church needs education that's beyond our areas of expertise (be it financial planning, or that Old Testament book we never did understand, even in Hebrew). To remember to think about the broader implications of the kind of coffee we brew in the church kitchen and the palms we wave in worship on Palm Sunday.

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