The last time I went to Glorieta–a Baptist conference center in the mountains of New Mexico–for college week, I think I had just finished my credential year. Since I had my degree and knew I would be a teacher (I must have even already had my job lined up), I was thinking about Master’s Degrees. Since I had always been interested in theology, I went to a presentation called “Is Seminary for You” put on by the seminary folks. I thought, I could go to seminary for my Master’s and learn as a lay person. I don’t have to get a Master’s in English. It might be fun and interesting and think how good it would be to have educated lay leaders.
I wasn’t thinking about full-time Christian ministry because I had no interest in being a children’s ministry director or women’s ministry director or missionary and, well, Southern Baptist. Those were the options. I never seriously considered becoming a preacher because, well, Southern Baptist. I’m a girl. Even beyond that, I’m an introvert and I’m not an evangelist, and that pretty much ruled out being a leader in the churches I knew.
So. I went to this presentation and almost the first thing the presenter said was “If you don’t plan to go into full-time Christian service then we don’t have a place for you at our seminary.” Alrighty then. And that was that. I started teaching high school English, got a Master’s in English Education, and that (along with a few other things) spurred me on to the Master’s and Ph.D. in English.
And then I found the Presbyterians and suddenly worship leadership looked different.
Worship in our church incorporates everything that drew me to English as a discipline (words, thematic choices, tone, atmosphere, creation), but, you know, with, in, through, and about the trinitarian God with Jesus at the center of it all. Liturgical pieces matched the scripture went with the hymns gave insight into the sermon and were echoed in the prayer. I was amazed and intrigued and wanted to do THAT. In fact, I’d wanted to do THAT most of my life but had never known it actually existed.
Eventually I asked if I could try it, and, among many other things, ended up working on pieces of liturgy and putting together the occasional bulletin. With the incredibly smart, thoughtful, and creative Pastor Sandy Tice (the RevDoc) as mentor and teacher, and a world of resources on the interwebz (I’m looking at you, RevGals and Pals), I began to learn in the doing. I did a lay internship, and then another one, and then got to create my own (minimally funded, minimal hours) staff position.
While I think I could learn most of what I will ever need to know from books and from Sandy and from reading blogs and from occasional interchanges with people like Kristin and Elizabeth, I never stopped wondering about seminary. I have a graduate degree. I have two small children. It wasn’t time to go off to seminary; however, checking options, I discovered that Austin Theological Seminary was offering an online Certificate in Ministry. It is comprised of the basic courses one needs to be a Presbyterian lay pastor (Commissioned Ruling Elder). I don’t know that that is a goal for me (though should the opportunity present itself…) but the classes looked like they were just what I had been looking for, the program wouldn’t break the bank, and I could do it on my own time in my own way, (and wouldn’t it be worthwhile to have educated lay leaders?). So I signed up. I’ve taken 3 classes, and they’ve all been worth my time. It’s fun. It’s also kind of fun to be in classes again (My spouse suggests I just like being in school. He may have a point. I’ve spent more years in school than not in my life.)
Up this term: Reading the Bible Theologically and Pastoral Care and Leadership. It will be a challenging quarter and I wish they had spread the “required” classes out a bit more over the year, but I’m looking forward to both of them.