2013 has already been an interesting year and we are not even 1/12 of the way into it. 50% of the month I spent in the Greater Atlanta area for the 3rd installment and 4th course in my Doctor of Ministry program in Gospel and Culture at Columbia Theological Seminary. This most recent course was Eucharist of Crumbs: Women and Vocation in the Medieval Church. The course was fine, but not really the highlight of my time there. I am much more intrigued to spend extended time talking to other ministers and friends from across the country to find out what they are doing to survive the pastorate and expand the gospel in whatever ways they are able. I enjoy the alternative to my own West Coast sensibilities...getting out of the familiar and noticing what is different and what is the same in another part of the country. Oh, and to simply be and not be responsible for family, food and flock for a time is good for the soul.
What I am not loving, frankly, is the program. I'm not all that excited about the course work. I have lots of ideas for growing my own ministry and projects and creative endeavors for myself, but none of them really seem to add up to a 400 hour practicum, and I'm not at all interested in writing up some "exercise" in a 35 page paper. I am adding all this up to the fact that I am practical. I don't really see the grand benefit of doing a 20 page paper on a medieval woman and a small pericope of her writing so that I can analyze her history, culture and theology, and then, at the very end, propose a tiny little bit of how I might use this in my ministry, which frankly, I'm pretty doubtful that I can.
Churches all over the country are in crises, and our small church here in Contra County is no exception. Theresa Cho, former moderator of San Francisco Presbytery, says that we are closing five Presbyterian churches per week. This sort of urgency is another reason that I just don't feel I have the time or additional energy to expend on the luxury of academic pursuits. I need to seek out my own Doctorate. Perhaps it is sort of a Doctorate of the Street, rather than a Doctor of Ministry.
All if this started to hit me pretty hard on the plan ride from Atlanta to SFO. I should have been reading and working on Christine de Pisan's "Book of the City of Ladies," but instead, I could not pull myself away from Phyllis Tickle's "Emergence Christianity." My office table is piled with Jossey Bass, Alban and Abingdon books on leadership, times of transition and church growth. I'm trying to see if I can make peace with and find merits in "Building a Discipling Culture" by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram.
On a personal note, I am also reminded that I'm not growing younger. My time is limited on this planet and there is so much that gives me life, hope and energy, that I don't really have time to spend doing something that does give me a sense of doing something that really matters and in which I am fully invested. A wonderful parishoner who has ALS reminded me of this just today when she said via Facebook, "believe me. time is short here on earth. spend it being happy and laughing." I just don't need more letters in my title. I need more inspiration and energy and innovation to face the challenges of the calling to which I have been called. I trust that God has something in store!