March 3, 2015

Thinking about Lent: Why Seminary?

Why would anyone attend a seminary if they were not intending to be a pastor or some other church-related vocation?  In my generation, there were a few students at seminary who were there to avoid the draft.  But there were others who were trying to "find themselves" or were seeking a deeper understanding of their relationship with God and their faith.

In the February 18 issue of Christian Century, Senator Chris Coons (Delaware) tells "Why I went to seminary."  In his case he went to Yale Divinity School following his graduation from Yale Law School.  Coons writes: "Divinity school gave me the opportunity to connect my interest in service to the traditions and obligations of my faith."

Yale Divinity School is one of 27 Theological Seminaries, including Church of the Brethren Bethany Theological Seminary, to be named to the Class of 2015 Seminaries that Change the World.

Senator Coons summed up his reason for attending seminary with the following thoughts:

"I think there's a broad misconception out there - and I came to divinity school believing it - that only those with unshakably firm conviction and profound faith belong in ministry. My divinity school training taught me that, in fact, the opposite is true. In order to be an effective preacher and faith leader, you've got to question.  I came out of school more convicted than ever that doubt is essential to faith - that without doubt it's not faith; it's dogmatic belief that can become extremism. The whole essence - the definition - of faith rests on a foundation of doubt, and if it rests on a foundation of doubt and questioning, then that demands of us humility as we interpret the text and serve in the world."

A second article to read for reflection during this Season of Lent is written by Wayne Meisel entitled: Tattoos and Theological Education: In Common Cause to Change the World.  Meisel begins with a story of a young lady with a tattoo on her left arm, "Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God."  He inquires about her tattoo and she responds by sharing her faith journey.  Her tattoo was a form of proclamation and her commitment to endure through God's love.

The following conversation developed between the two of them:

"Have you ever thought about going to seminary?"

"I'm very spiritual, but not religious. ... I believe in God, but I'm not sure of all the rest of it."

"I know the feeling.  That is how I felt and still feel. That is why I went to seminary."

"How do I learn more about seminary?" she asked.

Reflect today and throughout Lent on the role of seminaries in our society today.  Perhaps you might think of a person or two who would appreciate your planting a seed encouraging them to consider attending seminary in their future plans of preparing for the living of their life.