Deja Vu Seminary Style

General Seminary At LTSP, one of the first year classes is a survey course on Christian history. Over one semester, we cover 2000 years of history. The class isn’t designed to dig deep into many aspects of Christian history, rather, it’s there to lay some groundwork for the historical elements of the other courses that are in the pipeline (Confessions, liturgy, patristics, liberation theology, etc etc). It wasn’t the greatest course in the world (I found the TA to be weak sauce) but I liked the professors and loved that they didn’t seem to mind that I connected failed modern day Lutheran evangelism towards Latinos to the Marburg Colloquy of 1529. Anyone who will let me do that is A-OK.

And speaking of books, one of the required books for the course was A Short World History of Christianity written by Dr. Robert Bruce Mullin who just happens to be one of the professors in GTS’ history department and part of a seminary that requires three semesters of Christian history survey work. So, this morning, at the bright early hour of 11 am, I walked into the newly renovated (and unfinished) auditoriums on campus and began my studies under a professor who I had already ready to cover Church history post 1668 from an Anglican perspective.

It’s always weird to meet a writer of a textbook because I quickly discover that they always sound and teach just like their book. Since I’ve already read Dr. Mullin’s book a few times, I basically witnessed his book come to life today. Sure, there were a few more details, and he spoke faster than I can usually read, but, there it was. It felt strange – like I already knew a little bit about him while he knew nothing about me. He doesn’t even know who I am. Though I’m sure he’ll probably find out eventually.

I’m not particularly sure how I’ll end up liking this class mostly because it is from a perspective that I’m not really that interested in and that the professor, at least based on today, seems to like using “Lutherans” as code word for “other religious groups.” And I don’t really think he understands Lutheran theology as I would like. And one of the books we’re asked to read (and possibly write a paper on) is Spener’s Pia desideria (yay pietism). And….well….Hmm.

If this blog just becomes me complaining about my history class, feel free to slap me.


My last final of the fall 2011 semester (or michaelmas as GTS likes to call it) was December 15. The last day when all the forms, evaluations, and other hoo-hah had to be turned in was December 16. I have no idea when grades were to be turned into the registrar but I finally discovered what I earned on the evening of January 24.

I found that lag time to be very bizarre.

I wasn’t expecting myself to knock it out of the park. After complaining how bored I was in my classes and instead plunging myself into my field-education work, I was happy to just do well enough to keep my grant money and maybe set the stage so I can write a thesis my senior year. I also expected some grade inflation and nothing makes me want to work less than the threat of grade inflation. I like to be challenged and if I’m not, I revert to a childish rebellion where I become incredibly lazy. I’ve got some teenage baggage to work out it seems.

But here’s what I got: I received two P’s, two A minuses, and three solid A’s for a total GPA of 3.848. Good enough for government ministerial work.

I’m fine with the grades but I’ve noticed a trend. After three semesters of seminary, my grades seem to be traveling downwards ever-so-slightly. That trend doesn’t worry me all that much but it does make me wonder why it’s happening. And, honestly, it’s probably just because of the classes I’m taking. If I don’t feel moved to do well in a class, or if I find it boring, or if I decide to phone in the last four weeks, my grade will drop a bit. If I’m excited or engaged, I get that solid grade. And that worries me a bit because, next semester, I have a feeling I’m going to be Only my New Testament studies excites me and I’m taking a less intense workload that is mostly filled with requirements. And I really don’t seem myself getting excited about those requirements. Because, really, why should I get excited about Christian history, post 1688, through an Anglican lens? Can’t I just get that in a book?

Merry Christmas, Merry Merry Christmas: Photobombing the CBS Christmas Special

So, on Christmas Eve Night, the CBS Christmas special was shown. It was actually filmed in early November at my seminary (General Theological Seminary). Even though I didn’t do anything during the service except sit in the audience, if you watch closely, you’ll see my lovely face all over the place. And, lucky for you, the entire thing is on youtube! We’ve still got a few more days in this Christmas Season so enjoy.

I keep checking for my grades at least three times a day

Even though it is only December 28, I keep checking to see if my grades have been posted online. My fellow students told me to not even bother checking them until mid-January but, well, I can’t help it. I want to see how well (or how poorly) I did.

My vacation in Florida has been going well. I’ve been spending most of my time eating, visiting family, drinking diet soda (since Florida’s tap water is a little rough), and reading. In fact, in the week I’ve been here, I’ve finished one book (Biography of a Mexican Crucifix) and started and read three more (The Pastor: A Spirituality, God’s Battalions, The Tiger’s Wife). I’ve got one more left in my queue and then….I don’t know. Maybe I’ll actually pick up a few of the books I bought for classes last semester that never actually ended up being assigned (wasting money – grumble grumble).


In the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, on the General Theological Seminary’s campus, in the little room off to the side that covers the entrance to the bell tower and the sacristy, there exists several plaques. One day, while I was waiting in that room to begin my acolyte duties for the day, I noticed that one of the plaques was for a young man who died in his early twenties. It also said he died on a ship on his way to a call. I don’t remember the name off the top of my head but I did ask the student preacher about him. And that student told me a story about the young man, a graduate of General Seminary, whose ordination caused quite a stir in the early 1800s. Words were spoken; a riot happened too. It seems some folks couldn’t take that, during the ordination, there were candles on the altar. It just seemed a little too “Roman” to them. I think this was one of the opening salvos in the liturgical “wars” of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The student preacher liked telling that story. In fact, it’s a perfect story for General Seminary since I’m sure the seminary would like to glorify in the moments when its liturgical traditions and reforms where very “punk rock.” A few generations after the young man died, the church where the ordination happened was torn down and the plaque moved to General Seminary. I thought of this story a bit last night while watching a dvd with my wife’s family. It was a taping of a celebration of a pastor who served at Wooddale Church for 35 years and is now retiring. My wife’s grandmother was one of the members of the search committee that brought the pastor, Leith Anderson, to the church. In the “Evangelical” community, he is kind of a big deal, and is currently the head of the NEA. He’s written a bunch of books, expanded Wooddale from 1 church to 10 churches. He’s supposedly the bee’s knees. He even married my wife’s parents and a few aunts/uncles. At the end of the celebration, which consisted of a lot of speeches, the congregation gave Leith a few parting gifts. After thirty five years of service, he got a rather ugly photograph collage of the church, the lease of his car was bought out, a few flowers, and a travel expense account.

So, one young man, who led the “fight” for liturgical renewal, ended up with a plaque. One man retired and received his own used car. Not sure who got the better deal out of the two.

In the church I intern at, there are a smattering of plaques in various places of the hall. Two are dedicated to the founding pastor and his successor. One plaque is dedicated to all the individuals who went off to serve in the church. But all the plaques stop in the mid-30s. It seems creating these kinds of plaques, or at least filling them out, lost its flavor not that long ago. But plaques aren’t the only memorial objects that I’ve seen lose its luster. At my home congregation, there are ten stained glass windows dedicated to the members of the congregation who lost their lives in World War Two. The problem is there isn’t a plaque with their names on it (that I know of). I only learned the names of the people the windows are dedicated to while cleaning out some old files in the rectory’s basement while we were between pastors. Their legacy, in the church at least, is something that everyone sees but not something that everyone knows.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about legacies two days before Christmas. Maybe I turn more introspective around Christmas. Or maybe the list of people I know who are being ordained deacons in the Episcopal church has got me to think about my own future. I guess I wonder if I’ll end up as a plaque someday. I’m sure, if I got down to it, I could write some words about what it means for the church to have a legacy and I’d probably through in a few references to the incarnation, a God in the Wilderness, and the whole “living God” as well. If I ever have to write a paper on this, I’m sure I could make it sound pretty good. But I do wonder if I’ll end up as a plaque someday. I kind of wonder where I’ll end up and what kind of impact I’ll have on people. I don’t know how it’ll turn out – well, I hope – but if I do end up on a plaque, I hope it is at least at eye level so people can read it. If you have to strain your neck to read my name, I’m not sure I’d like that to be what I’m remembered by.

Stick a Fork In ME, I am……well, this semester is done.

Yesterday, at 11:30 am, I finished my first semester at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. My final final was the day before (biblical greek) but I still had to turn in my field education evaluation and it was due at noon. 30 minutes to spare.

Go me.

I’ve been doing some self-reflection about the semester, trying to pick up some of the things I really learned during the semester. It honestly feels like I didn’t learn much though after my spring semester at LTSP and CPE, it’s hard to follow up those kinds of events. I needed to wind down and I guess this was that kind of semester.

But I did get one important piece of information a few weeks ago. In my preaching class, everyone met one-on-one with the professor to watch a video of our sermons. While reviewing my extemporaneous homily, she noticed that I would trail at the end of sentences when I was preaching but not when I was reading the text. She said something to the effect “you know, when you preach, own that authority that you have.” I view scripture as authoritative and I’ve learned how to read it loud and proud. But when it comes to my own words…well…I don’t view it as authoritative. And not that I most likely ever will. But just being able to own the words that I’m speaking…hmm. It’s good advice. And, from my whole semester at GTS, that’ll probably be the thing I take with me. That and how being in Episcopal seminary has made me waaaay more Lutheran (kinda like how having a theologically liberal supervisor – and I mean that in the old-fashion-christianity-is-bigger-than-needing-to-believe-in-God kind of way – has made me a tad more theologically conservative). So there’s that.