Greetings again everyone. I pray that this finds you well in whatever life is bringing to your table. Today, we have 2 things to talk to you about. 1. the Beatitudes Society and 2. the Spiritual life at McCormick.

First, I want to introduce you to the Beatitudes Society. They are a progressive Christian group that does a lot of amazing things! They are holding summer fellowships and applications are due soon! Check them out! I’ve posted on my own blog, the Traveling Theologian (there is a link on the menu above this to my site) about my own time as a Beatitudes Fellow in Atlanta working for the Youth Theological Initiative, you can find a link to that blog on the menu bar above. Or, you can check out the Beatitudes Society Fellowships above on the menu bar. If you have questions, please let me know! I’m happy to sit over coffee or e-mail with you.

Recently, we’ve heard a great deal at our Student Session meetings that seem to concern the spiritual life of students at McCormick. This includes everything from prayer services to Wednesday night worships. While we are a seminary known for being active in the community and in the world, we also know it is important to focus on the personal, spiritual side of things too.

I am sure you all read the blog posting from Michele Edwards on worship. But before we go much farther I want to introduce you all to Martin B. Copenhaver. He’s a pastor in the UCC church and we went to Yale Divinity School. There is a chapter in a book he co-authored entitled, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, about his prayer life while at Yale. I think it’s pretty applicable here. Read on…

One evening during my first week as a student at Yale Divinity School there was a knock on my door. Sitting at my desk, I tossed the words, “Come in!” over my shoulder. The door opened and there stood a student from down the hall. He and I already had a few glancing conversations, over a meal or two and while brushing our teen in the communal bathroom. I remember liking him, even though he had a brilliant smile and a mane of windswept hair that, once I learned he was from California, made him a bit suspect. He introduced himself as “Toph,” which didn’t help much, either. I was from New York, so perhaps I can be forgiven for assuming that the next thing I would learn is that he went to college on a beach volley-ball scholarship.

Toph asked, “Am I disturbing you? We could talk later.” I replied, “No, this is a fine time.” I stayed at my desk and he remained in the doorway. He started with something of a Jimmy Stewart stammer: “I was, you know, just wondering if you might be, well, interested, or could be interested – perhaps – in having a prayer group.” I did not respond immediately, so he continued, “That is, if that might be something you would be interested in doing. Or not.”

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Here it is.” I did not know this fellow and I had my own stereotypes of the sort of person who would issue such an invitation. That reaction was part of a larger concern. I did not yet know any of my fellow students very well and I wondered how I was going to fit in…

…Now here was this fellow I didn’t really know, asking me to join a prayer group… One reservation that I probably did not express at the time was that I did not know how to pray…

I asked Toph what we would do exactly. He said, “Well, I’m not sure. We can decide that. But I could tell you what we did in our prayer groups at Williams.”

What ended up happening in this story is that their prayer group was started, by students who wanted a prayer group. And it lasted them through all 4 years in seminary at Yale and they even continued on with it after seminary.

Now, I suggest reading this entire book, cause it’s good. But what I also want to point out here is that the young man, Toph, in this story took on the initiative of seeing to his spiritual well-being in some way. Now, this didn’t cover all of his spiritual well-being, by any means. But what it did do was gather students together, in their time and by their guidance, and it enabled them to share, grow, learn and continue on with their practice after seminary was over.

As one of the Co-Moderators of the Deacons, I completely understand that students need spiritual nourishment. We all do! It’s so important. We can get so stuck in our own heads in any seminary. And let’s be honest, it can be hard. We are a seminary different from many other ones. We’re an urban seminary. We have a larger number of commuter students than a lot of others. That’s what makes us so interesting, we’re a community made up of hundreds of other communities simply because of our students. In turn, that can make it hard to meet the needs of so many different people.

At McCormick, we offer lots of ways to fulfill spiritual needs. First, we have weekly worship at 4:15pm, every Wednesday in Augustana Chapel at the other end of the Quad. And every other week, after worship, we offer a free, community meal in the McCormick building. Second, we have weekly prayer services on Tuesday and Thursdays led by our Worship EA’s and by the Deacons. Those are at Noon and last about 20-30 minutes. You only stay as long as you need, want, or can. Those are on the second floor in room 241. See Christine Vogel is you would like to participate or help lead one of these. Third, we require that all graduating students must take 3 practicums. Students can choose 2 of the ones they want to take and then, the third one is a required one. It’s on the Spiritual Life of leaders that Dean Christine Vogel leads. If you don’t want to take it as a practicum, you can take it as a semester-long class. It’s amazing either way. The last one was canceled because no one signed up… Fourth, we offer Spiritual Direction here at McCormick. We even help you pay for it. Many seminaries do not offer this, but we do. All you have to do is come by Christine Vogel’s office, let her know you are interested and you’ll receive information on what to do next. (Also, all of this information I have listed here is also available on a weekly basis in the Herald student newspaper.)

This is where my suspicion as a member of the McCormick community comes in. Why didn’t you all sign up McCormick? Did it not fit your schedule? If not, then tell your Session Representative. They can get them changed. Was it not interesting? Well, tell us what you think should be in it and we can look into that. What I’m trying to say in the most pastoral and neighbor-like way, is… get ready…

There are chances for spiritual care and growth here in our community. People have different schedules and we try to accommodate those as much as possible, but, like the story above, there is some initiative that should be taken on by students. If you want something on campus, do it. When the students start something themselves, then it becomes more important and personal. Hence, the reason why we have Student Deacons that are available to fellow students.  Also, if you start something, let us know about it. Put it in the Herald (e-mail at herald@go.mccormick.edu) or send us an e-mail here at the blog (E-mail Shelley @ sdonaldson@go.mccormick.edu). We’ll feature whatever it is you are doing! Or maybe you want to write something about what you’re doing here on campus.

While I do most of the posting and editing, this is YOUR blog McCormick. People are really reading it, inside and outside of McCormick. I only write what you tell me to write (With a little of my own social commentary thrown in there too. Let’s be honest, it’s bound to happen. It’s just the part of the author.)

I hope this has been helpful all you McCormick Bloggers! Happy Advent to you and a Merry Christmas. We’re signing out here until we return in J-Term! See you then!
Peace ~ Shelley D.

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