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April | 2011 | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Archive for April, 2011

Greetings friends. Well, we’re drawing to a close for the year. We’ll be taking a break this summer, but checking in every now and then. We might have a few surprises in store for you! Either way, we’ll start gearing up in August for our Fall 2012 semester. But before we start packing up the winter mittens and cuddleduds, I wanted to make sure that you all met Ryan Wallace. Nope, it’s not William Wallace like the movie, but I’m sure that he’s heard that one before.

A while back, you met Layla, Ryan’s faithful companion and his sitting model for his home-made ties (see below). So, now you’ll meet Ryan. As you will read, Ryan is very serious. He doesn’t take a joke well and he doesn’t wear his home-made clothes without a good starching them first (that is after the pre-starching). For you incoming students, you’ll meet him next year and for those of you that know him already, well, you know.

Green brings out his eyes. So do small birds.

Well, Ryan, tell us a little about yourself.

I was born on the twenty-third of February in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-seven in Evanston, Illinois….though not without complication. You see, I was born with a dislocated hip. But not to worry, it has since been located! Then, nothing important happened for about 18 years…except for that time I got my head stuck between two cinder blocks underneath our back deck for like 3 hours. Then I was all growed up and I went off to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there that I was apparently infected with a slight southern twang. During college, I also spent a semester studying at la Universitat de les Illes Balears in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I lived in a homestay with a crazy 61 year old Spanish woman named Rosa with a passion for staying out all night partying at the discotecas. I had planned to head straight to seminary after my undergrad, but instead I took a youth ministry job at First Pres. Nashville. It’s a good thing I did because I met my future wife (Amanda) not long after! We met in the most romantic of places…a dive Irish bar named McFaddens. When I decided to start my MDiv at McCormick, I asked Amanda to come with and she did! She works as a recruiter at a staffing agency downtown and pays for me to eat.

So Ryan, you bought a sewing machine that you keep in a large camping backpack (which is possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen). Tell us about your sewing endeavors…

Do you know how to sew?!? Cause I do! Well, let’s qualify that remark. I know how to sew one thing….neckties. As many of you know, I’ll be getting married in August. And I thought to myself, “What could be a better gift to my groomsmen and ushers than ties to wear on the big day?” Tie-making is going great (thanks to Lib and Abby for teaching me!), but it turns out that 15 ties is a lot to make. After I finish those ties, I plan to move onto bigger projects. So if I show up to class one day with a hideous and poorly-made shirt or pair of pants, just smile and say, “That looks really great, Ryan! Did you make that all by yourself?”

What brought you to McCormick?

Mostly its reputation as the #1 party seminary in the continental United States.

What is something that surprised you about McCormick?

The professors seem just as ready to learn as they are to teach. I love that! Not that I really have anything to teach them, but they listen to me anyway! I like that McCormick is not just a place where you come to memorize bible verses, regurgitate church doctrine, and learn that orthodox theology is the only theology. Instead, you’re encouraged to critically engage everything and, more importantly, figure out how it all fits into living the gospel.

What is one thing that has been most challenging to/for you?

Owning who I am. McCormick is a community full of cool people that I wish I could be more like. But the truth is that I’m not any of those people. I’m me. And sometimes it’s hard for me to be okay with being me. That is, white, American, male, straight, and from a wealthy family….sounds more like I should join the Young Republicans and play croquet in a white cardigan. But the great thing about McCormick is that everyone (yes, even people like me) are welcomed and accepted. And slowly but surely I am learning to accept who I am while at the same time being aware of the amazing diversity of social locations all around me.

What are some of the things you are or want to be involved in on campus? In the Chicago community?

I’ve been involved with the eco-justice group at McCormick this year as well as some other eco-justice-related projects around Chicago. I am also planning to be involved with the peacemaking group next year. I will be doing an internship at Wicker Park Grace this summer, which I’m pumped about. And next year I’ll be doing my field education at Protestants for the Common Good. As such, I’d really like to get the McCormick community involved in political advocacy and public policy reform over the next couple years.

What’s one thing that you hope for McCormick in the future?

McCormick is multicultural, which is terrific. But I hope that McCormick becomes more cross-cultural. What I mean is that I hope McCormick finds a way to be more intentional about teaching its students how understand their own social location, listen to the social locations of others, and learn to be respectful and effective communicators with one another. Oh, and I’d also love to see more opportunities for interfaith dialogue in which McCormick students hang out with students studying and practicing other faith traditions.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to folks looking at coming to McCormick or to new students just beginning?

To those who are considering coming to McCormick, visit! Come spend a couple of days in classes, stay with students, and talk to people in our community. Honestly, McCormick is not the place for everyone. If you’re not willing to listen to perspectives much different than your own and then reconsider your theology, then you probably shouldn’t come to McCormick. But for a unique experience full of people from all walks of life, McCormick is an outstanding place to be. To new students, invest in people at McCormick. Not literally of course…I don’t even know how that would work. But put yourself out there, try new things, make new friends, and be a part of the community.

What’s an interesting fact about yourself?

I’ll give you three! 1) I have a secret obsession with History Channel, PBS, and NOVA documentaries. 2) I once took part in a cabinet fast with my roommate where we agreed not to buy any food until we finished everything in our cupboards, fridge, and freezer…it lasted 27 days. 3) I was raised by wolves.

Ryan celebrating his last exam at Vanderbilt!

Until next time!

Peace – Shelley D.

Meet McCormick Middler (and building lover), Jon Philips!

Greetings all you out there. Today,w e got to sit down with Jon Philips and pick his brain a bit. A few things to note about Jon: he loves Portlandia (IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT, YOUTUBE IT!), he’s a ginger and proud of it, and he’s also all about some peace.

So, who exactly are you?

Since being and artist and all, we decided to let Jon give us his interpretation of himself.

Hey everyone, happy April. I’m Jon Phillips, M.Div middler who enjoys cities, buildings, mountains, music, theology, RC Cola, striving for justice, and is fully rooted in a Cascadian social location. I’m also that guy who does entirely too much – including being the co-moderator of Eco-Justice, the Session representative for Peacemaking, an ally with Acts 10:15, intern at one of the coolest field sites McCormick works with, and yet I still somehow manage to pull off doing fairly well at M’Div work.

Why did you come to McCormick?

When my search for a seminary home was finally narrowed to two very good possibilities, the other being up in Canada, I visited IIM and had that feeling. You know, the one that says you’re supposed to move two time zones over and work on becoming a Sox fan. It is a feeling I’m grateful to have listened to, as I am precisely where I ought to be.

Who do you represent on Session?

I represent our Peacemaking group at McCormick. We are a loose collaborative of students here at MTS who have hearts for living into God’s justice down the street and across the globe. We assist other groups around the seminary, Hyde Park, and greater Chicago in doing acts of peacemaking. In actuality though, my representation of Peacemaking on Session is merely a front to cover for the clandestine activities I do for McCormick.

What’s your background? You know, what did you do before coming to McCormick?

My background is in architecture – I have a Master of Architecture and over seven years of experience practicing. I also served as an elder in my home congregation, and did a bit of missions and peacemaking work, some of it in Guatemala and Colombia. Perhaps the most important pieces of my background, however, involve my love for drawing and the mountains.

What is something that you’ve learned since coming here?

Never trust midwestern weather.

What’s one hope that you have?

That our seminary community will continue to grow into who we have the potential to be.

Well folks, that’s all for today. See you in the future!


Shelley D.

Greetings again everyone! Today we bring you a special edition of the blog. We have an interview wih Rev. Dr. Christine Vogel, our Dean of Students here. She’s one of our favs. Hope you enjoy!

Rev. Vogel with Herald the Ram at GA this past summer

Name/Title here? Dean of Students/Vice President of Student Affairs
Who makes up your family? My husband Paul and our daughter Adrienne.  Our siblings and extended family live on the east coast (New York, New Jersey and Baltimore).  We may get a kitten soon – most likely from PAWS.  We haven’t had a pet in nearly 10 years and our daughter keeps insisting a pet will help us live longer!
Tell us about your seminary career and what led you to it.
Went to seminary in mid life without plans to be ordained, though I did enter the ordination during my first year, just in case. I wanted to become biblically and theologically knowledgeable, so I could be a more effective teacher within my congregation.  As a member and then chair of the Christian Education committee at my church, I had a particular interest in adult education and faith formation and often taught sessions at the church.  The experiences of field placement ( I interned at Lincoln Park) and particularly CPE had a radical impact on my sense of call and midway through McCormick I realized that I wanted to be ordained to the ministry of Word of Sacrament.
Can you tell us a bit about your job and what it is you do?
I practice what often feels like “a ministry of interruptions.”  As Dean of Students, I wear multiple hats — chaplain/pastor to the students, worship coordinator.  I help plan and often facilitate many of the vocational planning workshops we offer each year.   I’m a general “nudge” for issues of spiritual formation and more;  I collaborate with the Associate Dean for Advising and Formation to help provide support for students who are having issues that might interfere with their success at the seminary.

As VP for Student Affairs, I sit on the Administrative Cabinet and constantly (and, I hope, faithfully) advocate for student needs and concerns.   I supervise the Office of Student Affairs and serve as a member of the Anti-Racism Committee.   I teach two classes each year and also serve on team that leads the required Boundaries Training workshops.
What classes do you teach?
I am part of the PIF team in the fall term and in spring term, I teach Spiritual Practices for Faithful Discipleship with my good colleague Joanne Lindstrom.
What’s the best part of your job?
Relationships with students and colleagues.  And reminding myself  every day to rejoice that God has placed me in this ministry.
What are some observations that you’ve made over your time here about the students of McCormick?
They make me feel hopeful about the church! Super bright  and committed to increasingly varied forms of ministry that are emerging in response to the changing church landscape.   Outspoken on so many issues of social justice.  Deeply faithful and also willing to question just about everything.  I admit that their addiction to their iPhones, laptops,  Facebook and Twitter makes me crazy and I also worry that some of them seem hard pressed to allow themselves to unplug and simply be.
So why do you do your job?
Because I love God and the church and feel called to a ministry of mentoring and relationships.   Because I believe that relationships are a sacred trust; and I feel privileged to stand on holy ground with students any time they allow me to enter into some of the most private and intimate spaces in their lives.   Because it is awesome to walk with students as they go through these several years of transformation.   Because I get to share laughter, tears, vocational plans. theological and personal questions, joys and disappointments and so many moments of worship and prayer.  Because I love working with persons who are discerning how God is working in their lives.  Because there are days when it’s just a lot of fun (except when it’s not!).
Let’s be honest, there just aren’t as many jobs in the pulpits as there once were. So why do people go to seminary? Why should or shouldn’t they?
Is there really a “should” about going to seminary?  I believe that students come to seminary for so many reasons, not the least of which is because they feel called to do so and because their pastors, colleagues, friends and broader communities of faith have seen in them gifts and skills for ministry.  Not all are called to ministry of Word and Sacrament; they want to learn, be challenged and stretched and involve themselves in God’s world in ways that will make God’s realm more visible in the here and now.
It’s true that there aren’t as many pulpits available at present – often because many ministers are working until they are 70 or older, and also because the overall number of churches has declined  (in the PCUSA, for example,  there are about four times as many persons seeking pastoral calls as there are pastoral openings available).  But there are lots of possibilities:  small churches, rural churches, churches in need of redevelopment and transformation.   Students, churches, judicatories and seminaries  need to be thinking more broadly about ministry in settings both in and outside of congregations;  we all need to be more creative as we think about preparing ourselves for bi-vocational ministries, tent making ministries, planting new churches, etc.   And students need to be more flexible about the kinds  of ministries they will consider and the places they are willing to go to do God’s work (As Dr. Seuss once said:  oh, the places you’ll go and the people you’ll meet……)
So, tell us some of your favorites. You know, food, places to shop, those kinds of things…
I love to eat just about everything (but please don’t ask me to eat tripe or haggis) .  One of my favorite restaurants is Café Bionda and Lib Caldwell recently introduced us to Amelia’s at 47th and Halstead.    I like to shop at outlet stores and on-line — though I browse more than I buy.   I love movies and live theatre and the Chicago Symphony.   And I love to read for escapnovels, mysteries(The Nation, Atlantic, Vanity Fair – for the articles, of course!) and my guilty pleasure on the supermarket checkout line is PEOPLE.
As an ordained minister, I know you’ve got some good stories, anything you’re willing to share about your time in ministry?
My favorite is from when I served as an associate pastor in Lake Forest.  During one particularly hot July I was preaching and celebrating communion with a close colleague as the liturgist.  We both wore our clergy robes, but I decided to wear sandals.   After the service a number of the older women came through the line to greet me and tsk-tsked me for not wearing “proper shoes.”   I asked them why they were looking at my toes and then I offered the opinion that sandals had been good enough for Jesus and disciples….
There was the wedding where the bride fainted, fell on top of my colleague and they both ended up in a heap on the chancel steps.
And last summer I officiated at a sunset wedding on a small cruise ship.   We sailed along the Chicago River and the captain spontaneously stopped at a spot with a breathtaking view of the city skyline   …BUT we also discovered we had an up close and personal relationship with the El trains that periodically went screaming by during the service. They had not thought to bring a sound system and anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that my voice is less than stentorian), so the service was filled with pauses for what I called “the music of the city.”  Luckily everyone had a good sense of humor ……
Lastly, if you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
ONE food?!  That’s just not fair.  Does “Italian food” qualify?   Probably not.  So I’ll say asparagus — I know that’s weird, but it’s such a VERSATILE veggie.

Until next week!


Shelley D.

Chronicles of McCormick: Spring 2011 Inquiry Into Ministry

Happy Monday everyone. Today we have a special treat for you. If you’re a YouTuber, then you will appreciate this. If you’re not, I think you’ll still appreciate it! We recently decided to start putting together some videos about McCormick. This gives you a feel for what it is we’re doing around here and some of the things you could get to do!

This video cronicles our Inquiry Into Ministry event that we held back in February of 2011. We’ll be making more videos in the future for you to eatch and enjoy. It’s like our own version of the Chronicles of Narnia, but you can call these the Chronicles of McCormick. Only we’d have Herald the Ram instead of Aslan the Lion.

This is what Herald would look like if he were in a movie.

The Chronicles of McCormick: Spring 2011 Inquiry Into Ministry

We hold Inquiry Into Ministry twice a year, once in October and then once in February. It’s a chance for you to do some discerning. Maybe McCormick is the right place for you, maybe it’s not. But either way, these events give you a chance to meet current students and faculty, ask questions, interact with other prospective students, and try and hone in on that age old call, “Just what exactly is God calling me to do?” Here’s a hint. You call never answers. In fact, discernment of your call, no matter what kind of tent maker you are in the world, never ends. Had Wolfgang Peterson not already used the title for his box topping movies, then we could call one’s discernment The Neverending Story. But we can’t; copyright infringements and all.

For some additional information for the presbys, check out this booklet from the PCUSA titled: Discerning Your Call.

If you can wait until Thursday, we’ll have a special chat with Christine Vogel, our Dean of Students here at McCormick!

Until Thursday! Peace~Shelley D.

Meet Deanna Drake, First Year Deacon and YAV!

Greetings everyone. Today, I would like to introduce you to Deanna Drake, first year MDIV/MSSW student. Before coming to McCormick, Deanna was a YAV in Kenya (Young Adult Volunteer for you non-Presbyterians, it’s like Lutheran Volunteers for the ELCA). She has some pretty cool stories to share about her time there. You should ask her sometime.

Deanna waking up from her nap in the library.

Name? Deanna Jo Drake

Tell us a little about yourself (like where you’re from, where you went to college and what you studies, etc.) I grew up in Oswego, IL (southwest suburbs) and went to undergraduate near Cleveland at Baldwin-Wallace College. I eventually fell in love with the Religious Studies department there and ended up with a major in that with minors in Sociology and Music. After graduation, I did a couple of volunteer years: one doing non-profit work in D.C. and then last year took me to Kenya as a YAV.

What was your time like as a YAV and where were you? I lived in Meru, Kenya, which was a rural town in the more mountainous area. It was awesome! I taught English, CRE (Christian Religious Education), and Creative Arts to 4th-6th graders at a primary school there. I grew a lot and learned a lot about hospitality, community, relationship building….and a little bit of Kiswahili.

Why did you pick McCormick?: I chose McCormick because of its strong commitment to cross-culturalism and diversity. As an added bonus, it’s in my favorite city in the whole wide world.

What’s one thing that has surprised you about it here.: It’s surprised me how much I’ve stood to gain from being in this diverse community. The learning is as much from people that have different beliefs and backgrounds as it is from professors (who are also (not surprisingly) AWESOME.

What’s one thing you hope for here at McCormick? I’d like to see spring! Get going on that, God. But for real, I want to see people getting outside for various recreational activities planned for warmer weather. Two words: whiffle. ball. Or is that one word?

Any advice for prospective and new students to McCormick?: Just jump in. And don’t freak out. The hardest part is generally the initial yes. And when you’re here, you can rest assured there’s a strong community of fellow seekers as well.

When not in class, you can find Deanna practicing her Little mermaid routine on the rocks along Lake Michigan.

Until next time everyone!

Shelley D.

Meet Lora Burge, Middler Deacon and North-Westerner Extroidnaire

Good afternoon all you McBloggers! Today, we’ve sat down with Lora Burge, North-westerner (not the University), and co-moderator of the Deacons. Lora also makes mean desserts. Without further ado, here’s Lora!

Tell us about yourself (where are you from, where did you go to college, that kind of thing, just whatever you want).

Well, I am not from the Midwest.  I grew up on an island in Washington—Washington State that is.  Then I ended up here in Chicago by way of Guatemala.  I was a competitive swimmer for at least a decade of my life.  That was a little while ago though and the chlorine stench has finally faded from my skin so I don’t smell like cleaning supplies anymore.  In 6th grade, I sang some mean Rodgers & Hammerstein ballads as the Mother Abbess in my middle school’s production of “The Sound of Music.”  I participated in a regional geography bee once (don’t worry—I didn’t even progress to the second round.)  I tend to attract black bears (not as cool as it sounds).  I worked at a gas station for awhile and didn’t like it…so now I go to McCormick!

Tell us about this island you grew up on…

It’s a pretty swell place to grow up..though I might be biased.  It’s roughly 35 miles long and 1-12 miles wide and kind of shaped like a “W”.  It sits at the northern end of the Puget Sound (where the Pacific cuts into Washington down through Seattle and to Olympia).  We sit in the rainshadow of the Olympic Peninsula so we get a lot less rain than some other parts of the state.  Lots of great evergreen trees and forest areas, beautiful rocky beaches, good places to hike, bike and explore, good fishing and places to kayak/row/boat, sometimes you can see whales and a small town, friendly community feel.  You can ride the ferry or drive over a bridge to get there and no, I did NOT ride a dolphin to school (local joke.)

What brought you to McCormick?

Well, there aren’t any seminaries that interested me especially close to home so then I just started looking all over the country.  I was really intrigued in the diversity of the McCormick community, the breadth of viewpoints and traditions represented both demographically but also examined in coursework, and the urban location.  Then I visited and just had the feeling of being at home.  Didn’t end up applying anywhere else.

What is something that surprised you about McCormick?

How committed the McCormick family is to a strong community, both in and outside of class and academic events.  It’s not always easy, but I really value the continual process of forging a better community amidst academics, life and faith.

What’s one thing that has been most challenging to you?

I didn’t study religion, theology, or anything churchy in undergrad so I really had no official experience in the area of theological/biblical studies.  All graduate studies are rigorous but I think there’s an especially personal and emotional-spiritual level to it when intricately tied to my personal identity.  In other words, I cannot divorce myself and my soul from what I am reading about and (attempting) to write papers on.  It’s not bad—it’s been a good time of challenge and exploration but compound that with life, and it’s a lot to think about and process in a short amount of time.

You’re a greek EA, how does that work out for you?

Works out pretty well for me—I get paid to do something I like to do.  I would say my job description involves giving pep talks, handing out stickers, grading things, leading discussions, and trying to keep things generally organized.  Seriously though, I’ve really enjoyed learning Greek and it’s a good challenge to try and help and encourage my colleagues through the same learning process.

Can you tell us a little bit about your time as a YAV and the work you did before coming here?

I was a YAV in Guatemala.  I spent the first half of the year living on the Pacific coastal area (Near San Felipe in Retalhuleu) covered in mosquito bites and the second half of the year living near Xela trying to keep warm (it’s chilly at 8000 feet no matter what latitude you’re at).  I had the great privilege of working with the women of the Presbytery of the West.  Basically, that means I traveled around a lot, visiting churches and women’s fellowship groups, participating in and leading different events and workshops.  I also periodically traveled with different delegations from the States who were visiting different churches and presbyteries.

I also taught English classes to middle school and high school students at a non-profit school in Guatemala the second time I lived there (Miguel Angel Asturias Academy—look it up!

I also was a gas station attendant, swim coach, doer of odd jobs, Spanish tutor, café singer, youth ministries intern and general wanderer since graduating Whitworth and now and before/between/after living in Guatemala.

What’s one thing you hope for McCormick in the future?(uh, I slightly changed this question because I’d been thinking about it and already had an answer for this version of the question.)

A therapy cat in JKM.  I’m serious.  A friendly, loving cat that can be checked out from the Reserve Desk for 30 minutes at a time.  Seriously, it would do so much for morale and stress, especially during midterms and finals.  For the record, there’s precedent (just google Yale Law & Monty therapy cat).  If we can’t get a cat, then maybe a small, independent coffee shop in the building somewhere where faculty, staff and students can socialize and take breaks together.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to new/prospective students looking at McCormick?

Come visit!  For me, McCormick is a very relational place and that’s pretty much impossible to experience through a website.

Oh, and if you decide to come, bring a really warm winter coat and boots.  It’s really cold here in the winters, no matter how much the Midwesterners try to downplay it.

Until next time!

Shelley D.

A Special April 1st message from Student Session Member, Alex Wirth

Well, in the spirit (not the Holy Spirit), but in the spirit of AFD, the first of April, the day that cometh first in the month of April, April 1, 2011 or as the Europeans write it, 1 April 2011, I bring you a special  message from middler-soon-to-be-senior, Alex Pufflefrither Wirth. Please be advised that sometimes, we can have fun here. Until next week friends.
To whom it may concern,
Hello, this is a message from the office of Mr. Alexander Wirth.  Congratulations.  You have been authorized to receive a copy of the official biographical statement of Mr. Wirth.  All of us here hope that this document proves satisfactory in addressing all of your queries and concerns.  All quotations here within are approximate.  All persons, groups, and/or corporations portrayed are legally fictional. Any claims to truth and all positions and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of Alexander Wirth Inc. or this station. Complaints can be directed to the complaint department at 1-800-OHH-WELL.
Without further delay:  The Alex Wirth Story
What defines a person?  What makes a life?  Who knows? Growing up in the shadow of my father, J.G. Pufflefrither, famous American, robber baron, and chronic chatty cathy, I often asked these of myself. I think now, in my dwindling years, I have a grasp on something that could pass for an answer.  That answer is… HA! Did you really think I’d give you that one up front? HA again and HA indeed! Truth is, I know nothing besides what I am.  What I am is a poor boy who grew up, by the grace of God, to become a rodeo clown, a fashion designer, and a gentlemen.  Though none of these career paths have brought me great wealth, inheriting a bunch of money from my father did. As an heir, a trustfunder, and man-about-town, I have excelled, which is to say that I have certain gifts that lend themselves well to schmoozing, champagne ordering, pony purchasing, and the power to talk (or write) for hours on end with out any real substance bubbling to the surface.  That said, I won’t burden you with the rest.  If you have any further questions, contact my office and they will send you my official biographical statement.  Thank you and good night.
Alexander Wirth
J. G. Pufflefrither Jr’s biographical statement composition comitee.

Alex and those of his court.

Shelley D.
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