In class writing assignment

Revolutionary Grave Site
A sacred space: Revolutionary War graveyard along Germantown Avenue

Last night, during the first official session of my intensive course, “Introduction to Public Theology”, we were given an in class writing assignment. The question involved the current debate whether the islamic center should be built near ground zero or not. Specifically, is ground zero a sacred space?

The professor walked out of the room and I began to organize my thoughts. I started writing, my first instinct to discuss the 17th century ship that was recently discovered at Ground Zero. My plan was to lead in to a discussion of how all of lower manhattan is a sacred space of some sort – a struggle to expand and develop more space, more living room, more places to do business and worship. The 17th century ship was an extension of that idea – used as landfill to extend the shoreline into the Hudson. The Islamic Center should be built because it is another type of sacred space that, above all, is not in competition with the surrounding areas. The Islamic Center is a sacred space with, and within, other sacred spaces. Lower Manhattan is a significant to a large number of religions – civil religion, the market, wealth, empire, history, American identity, and the story of christianity in America. Manhattan matters (and don’t hate me for saying that – us New Yorkers do tend to overvalue our place in the world quite often but, in this case, I think I’m not far off the mark).

That last paragraph did not take much time to write at the moment but I had a hard time cranking that out last night. Rather, I started in slowly and I was also writing by hand which I haven’t done regularly for years. After a few moments, the professor came back and told us to wrap it up. I was no where near answering the question nor finishing any of my thoughts. I hastily tried to throw a sentence or two together but I realized I couldn’t write what I needed to write so I just finished, mid sentence, with “…and I ran out of time.” Honesty is the best policy sometimes, no?

Day 1 done

The Chapel

Day 1 of orientation is done! Over! Finito! It was pretty basic and now I find myself, in my dorm room, feeling kind of bored. I know that my grad student career has officially started and that I should ease into it but I feel like I’m a rocket, geared up and ready to go. I bet my enthusiasm will fade over the next few days.

Today started with an orientation on housing and security. The overall theme is that we’re all adults, we should act like it, and we should not leave wallets in our car. ¬†I think I’ll be okay one that one. ¬†Dinner was a small potluck lovingly thrown together by members of the two local Lutheran congregations. ¬†I met several students – a few from the north east, a few young married couples, a few folks I’ve met before in NYC, and a young man who was originally training to be a RCC priest in Liberia but is now exploring his options (and really likes Martin Luther). ¬†There’s a good mix of age groups here and about 50/50 male and female.

After dinner, we had our first worship service as a community. ¬†It contained the Rite of Welcome ¬†where we all responded, three times, “Teach me, O Lord, your ways.” ¬†After that, we jumped into the hymn Praise to the Lord, Almighty. During the second verse, it hit me that I really was here and that I’m really doing this. ¬†Even with the candidacy process, the acceptance letters, the scholarships – all of that was a prelude to this moment. ¬†Even though I was on this path, it was still not 100% tangible. ¬†But now it is. ¬†This really is happening.

After communion, I noticed that there were crumbs on the floor and for most of the sending song, I just stared at them. ¬†I’m still trying to get use to how I handle crumbs. ¬†Some folks care, some don’t. ¬†I remember visiting a class at another seminary where, when the professor mentioned crumbs being thrown willy nilly, everyone in the class groaned and had a heart attack. ¬†I know I’m not at that point but I do know that I’m very aware of what happens to the bits of the consecrated host after communion. ¬†I figure that this will be one of the many questions I might just spend too much thinking on while I’m here.

Worship ended and we were sent to another introduction class in a room with no AC.  From one sweltring chapel to a humid as all hell room was not really I had planned. The President of LTSP and the Dean both made a little speech. We met some faculty members and our Introduction to Public Theology: Prologue course gave a short introduction.   And, with that, day one was done.

Oh. If anyone reading this knows where there is a dollar store in Mt Airy, I would appreciate if you could fill me in. ¬†And if it’s within walking distance from LTSP, that would be even better. ¬†Someone recommended me one that was 3 miles away. ¬†Even though I’m in the “city”, this is still car country it seems.

My Room

Very basic setup with no decorations…yet. And it is missing a desk. ¬†But I like it. ¬†There’s also a lingering smell of paint throughout the room as they just repainted it. ¬†I feel like they did that specifically for me.

From the doorway

The main space

My own bathroom!!!!!

I can hear my neighbors

I can hear my neighbors but I have yet to meet any. ¬†I don’t hear music, talking, or people walking through the halls. Rather, I can hear the indoor plumbing being used when they flush the toilets or turn on their showers. ¬†PEOPLE! I KNOW YOU ARE THERE! I wonder if they know I am here too.

The trip down yesterday was uneventful. My bus arrived at 30th St Station 30 minutes late (which is normal for megabus) and my uncle picked me up and drove me to the seminary.  We arrived to find the Director of Student Services and a member of admissions manning a table. I picked up my keys, found my room, threw my stuff down and then headed out to Costco and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  You cannot furnish an entire apartment with only one small suitcase and one athletic bag.

We had great fun going to the suburban box stores. ¬†Even though K and I love the city, we are suburbanites at heart and having the option to load up a car truck full of goods and services, is something that K and I really appreciate. ¬†I’m use to granny carting it to Costco. ¬†Cars are a luxury. ¬†We picked up sheets, towels, a set of pots, 1 bowl, 1 plate, 1 cup, 1 knife, 1 spoon, and 1 fork. ¬†Why only one of each? Because I’m living the bachelor life now. ¬†I will, most likely, just be eating out of the pans if I ever cook. ¬†I am a classy fellow.

After the trips to suburbia, K and I set up my room. ¬†I’ll post pictures later today. ¬†The place is rather spacious (though it is missing a desk). I actually have closet space which I don’t have in NYC. ¬†And I have more dressers than I really need. ¬†I’m pretty sure I’ll fill up this place with quite a bit of useless stuff over the next few weeks but it is nice to have room and knooks and crannies to place dust collectors. ¬†For a dorm room, this isn’t half bad.

I was able to show K the campus – the tour took a whopping five minutes. ¬†We did get to glance into the chapel which is always nice. ¬†When the campus has only five main buildings (or maybe six), there isn’t too much to see. The book store was closed which was a shame. ¬†I felt like buying college kitsch.

Through the day, I did see some of my future classmates. I saw many vans and SUVs in the parking lot with plates from Jersey, Iowa, Minnesota, and a few other parts of Luther Country. ¬†Admissions let in 62 folks this year which is a lot for a school of only 500 students across all degrees. ¬†We still need to wait to see if everyone shows up but it looks good. I don’t know how many are aiming for a Master of Divinity degree nor do I know which ones are in Candidacy or not. ¬†And I’m not sure if any others are coming from my home synod.

After the campus tour and setting up the dorm room, my uncle took me and K out to dinner with his family. It was nice talking to my cousins who are in high school (and who I originally saw when they were each 1 years old).  After dinner, K jumped on the bus back to NYC (which was 45 minutes late) and I took my first SEPTA ride!  If you ever head from 30th St station to LTSP, I recommend taking the Cherry Hill West line, jumping out at Allen Lane and then walking straight down Allen.  It runs right into the Seminary after about five minutes.

This morning, I’ll experience the big local lutheran church, St Michael’s, that serves the Seminary. ¬†And then I need to go out and buy all the remaining things I need. ¬†Showering without a shower curtain is a very wet affair. ¬†And not having an umbrella on the one day in the week where it is thunderstorming is very lame.

On the bus

I’m on the bus. ¬†We just passed Newark and are heading down the Jersey turnpike. ¬†K is curled up next to me and is taking a nap. I’m enjoying the free wifi. ¬†I’m living the high life.

From my standpoint, on the top deck of a double decker bus, we’re making good time. The traffic is moving quickly and we might actually make it to Philadelphia on time. ¬†When I have taken this trip in the past, it has only been on time once so I’m not holding my breath.

I didn’t start packing for seminary until late yesterday afternoon and, while sitting here, I’m already remembering the things I forgot. ¬†I really do need a towel. ¬†I might need bed sheets. ¬†And I was only able to cram half a dozen books in my small suitcase. ¬†I’m going down there bare bones. Like I told my friend, I don’t view my dorm room at seminary to be my home away from home. ¬†I view it as an extended stay in a hotel room. ¬†I’m not sure the view will be as nice and there probably won’t be a mint left on my pillow when I check in but the room will do. ¬†It’ll suffice.

K is coming with me for the day but she’ll be heading back to NYC tonight. ¬†My Uncle Mike will be picking us up from the station and driving me to my new digs. ¬†The seminary has a two week long orientation that starts tomorrow night. ¬†In the orientation, along with details about financial aid, the student handbook, and how to use the library, is a course called “Introduction to Public Theology”. It’s a warmup course to get myself oriented to the rest of the semester. ¬†I’m curious how it will go. I’m curious to see who my fellow classmates will be. And I wonder how long it will take before I get use to reading constantly. ¬†It will be weird having semesters where I never have to turn in a problem set.

I’ll report later on a few of my recent back-to-school purchases, my adventures with Amazon, and some of the advice people gave me before I left. ¬†I won’t see NYC for two weeks. ¬†I won’t see K either. ¬†I know that, by day three, it will be weird that she isn’t around. ¬†But I’m off on a new adventure. ¬†I’m pretty sure this is going to be fun.

More shoes and BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

Ahhhh. Seminary.

Over the last few days, I have become officially entrenched in seminary. ¬†I received my email account and my login information into one of the most basic online student information tool I have ever seen. ¬†The tool I used at Cornell in 2000 was incredibly detailed which makes the tool at LTSP look really really sad. However, they promise to unleash new features soon so I’m looking forward to that. At least I’m now able to see that I really am enrolled at LTSP and that, in a lot of ways, is all I really need. ¬†It made me comfortable enough to add LTSP to my facebook page. ¬†I can’t get more official than that.

Today, the book list for my classes arrived and – well – it didn’t shock me too much. I expected to spend close to $500 a semester in books and, if I did the math right, I won’t reach that amount this semester. I am, of course, completely ignoring the ‘suggested’ book list for one of my classes. ¬†If I bought those books, my total book cost would double. ¬†Two of those books I will most likely buy (for fun) but I’m very curious to see if my professor is the type of professor where ‘suggested books’ are really ‘required books’. ¬†If yes, I might end up spending most of my time in seminary at the library reading those suggested books. ¬†I don’t think I have the physical space in my bags to carry those books between home and seminary every week.

The email containing the book list also included a small plea from the administrators that I purchase all my books from the seminary bookstore. I understand the sentiment. ¬†I fully want to support the book store. I have, already, purchased some items from there even before I was enrolled. ¬†The book store does have a 20% discount on most titles I am required to pick up which, in some cases, is less than’s prices. ¬†And that’s great. ¬†And for those few books, I will be picking them up from the store. ¬†But if I’m going to save $20 bucks buying a new copy from an partner, I have to take that deal. ¬†I hope the bookstore can forgive me.

And being the engineer that I am, I quickly threw together a spreadsheet of the books I need, their price points on various websites, and whether buying the books on a Kindle was a possibitly. ¬†I don’t have a Kindle yet but I want one – ooooooh, do I want one. ¬†Only a half a dozen titles, or so, are available for the Kindle and the savings between buying a new/used copy and the kindle copy does not make up enough to justify buying a Kindle right away. ¬†Over the long term, I’ll probably save money. And I’ll probably save money on any future back problems that I’ll develop while lugging those books back and forth. ¬†But, sadly, too few of my books are un-kindle-ized at the moment. I hope that changes.

After placing a small book order, I then went out to TJ Maxx and bought some more Chucks.  Getting those shoes 40% off is a deal I will take advantage of all day, every day.  Thus, my total seminary cost is, at the moment, slightly north of two hundred.  So far, so good.

I love my Iron Man pajamas.

In three weeks, I will start seminary.  In three weeks, my budget and my financial planning will be torn to shreds.  But I refuse my financial discipline to be as damaged as it was when I went to university as an undergrad.  I want to know how much seminary really costs me. I want to keep track of EVERYTHING.

And I need to share.

Every school year begins not with registering for classes, paying the tuition bill, or waiving health insurance. Oh no.  The school year officially begins when you start buying new clothes. BOOYAH! I am really excited about this part.

So far, I bought new shoes, one new vest-hoodie from Forever 21, and something from wal-mart.  I will share my wal-mart purchase with you because it is the greatest.  I give you my Iron Man Pajama bottoms.

The amazing thing is that I use to own everyone of the comics depicted on the pants. From Iron Man Submariner #1 (from 1968) to earlier Tales of Suspense issues and through the picture frame covers from the late early 70s. I loved those issues. The stories are ridiculous, the writing dated, but the art was just fantastic. ¬†K found this for me yesterday and I’ve been wanting to wear them outside every day. ¬†I, however, won’t because I also refuse to be the grad student who wears his pjs to class. ¬†What would Stacey and Clinton say?

So, so far, my clothing cost is currently at $72.94.  My first book for my intensive course (Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces by Jon Pahl) cost $28.16 .  Total seminary expenses : $101.10.  That will go up.