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November | 2011 | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Archive for November, 2011

Thoughts from the first year…

Starting seminary is hard work.  At the end of my first semester at McCormick, I think I can safely say that continuing is even harder.  Fantastically harder.

Let me explain…

I’m not really new to higher education, or church even …. but this level of theological exploration was not exactly something I could have prepared myself for.

Back in August, I figured I pretty much had this whole seminary thing under control.  I had talked to former students, read other seminarians’ blogs, and recited the expected prayers …. I’ve been through the college and grad-school game before, so how different could it be?  Sure, I would be tested and tried … but God led me here, right?  I got this.

Sitting in the pew of churches back in August, and even September — I found myself picking out messages of encouragement from the sermons and using them to affirm my calling to be in seminary.  I was definitely on the right track.

Or so I thought….

…and then assignments were due.  Now, I was expecting to write papers and do research … I really was.  But I wasn’t expecting the emotional tie I would have with these papers, lectures, and tests.  No longer was I waiting until the last possible minute to form complicated answers to simple questions [which is no small feat for a self-proclaimed hard-core procrastinator].  No longer were the papers I was writing strictly for a letter grade —- and no longer was the studying being done because a professor was forcing me to learn something that wasn’t relevant.

Not only were the assignments completely relevant to my eventual career and life — they were about me.  They were me.  They were about God.  They were about faith and belief.  These assignments suddenly had the potential to rock me, roll me, and transform me whether I was ready or not.

Bible and history lectures were absorbed by my hungry spirit.  Baptism and communion papers were written through my poured-out heart.  Hebrew language tests were taken with hope of understanding antiquity.  Events were attended with an open-mind [and even a bit of timidness] only to fall completely in love with the people standing for a cause and scrambling to figure out my contributing part.

Something happened.  Something broke.  Something transformed.

…it was my spirit.

My spirit has been broken down and transformed into something else.  Something other.  Something beyond myself.  These days, when I sit in the church pew, I’m not picking out messages concerning my own affirmation and personal call.  Rather, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat yearning to hear God’s message for God’s people.  I’m seeking challenge and living with mystery.

This seminary business has been quite a doozy so far.  I hope it continues…

Stephanie Levan is a first year student at McCormick who can be found baking pumpkin goods, taking Spanish lessons at midnight, or searching for her perpetually misplaced apartment key.  She also loves watching Hebrew Aleph-Bet videos on YouTube and enjoys long elevator rides with her friends.  She blogs at Stepanana’s Stumbles (stepanana.wordpress.com) and you can always catch her on twitter: @stepanana.

Reflections from the third year…

When I started seminary, I was terrified. There was nothing comforting about moving to Chicago from Atlanta, leaving my friends and family behind, and moving my dogs and I into a tiny apartment with a new zip code, complete with snow. A lot of tears were shed getting here, and a lot more have been shed getting to the end. But it’s all been worth it.

When you get here, it gets hard.

Really hard.

You do pour out who you are and what you believe, but in doing that, in mulling over your own beliefs and the beliefs of your classmates, you become affirmed and strengthened in your own beliefs. Some might change, but you have reason for changing them and you have reason (that you are now aware of) for having them in the first place. While my first semester was life-shaking and also life-affirming, I can safely say that I’m just as terrified now as I was then.

Confusing? It should be.

Seminary isn’t about becoming Super-pastor, it’s not about knowing it all, it’s not even about making sure you can recite the Bible back and forth; it’s about knowing your growing edges, your gifts, and becoming realistic about them and how you can use them, stretch them and help them to develop in whatever your setting may be. It’s realizing that you know nothing at all aside from your faith.

And that’s okay.

Working in the Department of Admissions is a lot of fun. And it’s exciting to see new students, glassy-eyed, as they search out their call. Some come into seminary, confident that they have it all figured out. I pray for those people a little more than others. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound fair. But those are the ones who are in for the most shock, and the most amazing transformations. That isn’t to say that everyone isn’t in for some major life transformations while you’re in seminary, they just look different.

For everyone.

Just like we are all created good, in God’s image; we are all different. We all experience the world in different ways with our cultures, our past experiences and our various shades of rose-colored classes.

So, as I finish my last year of seminary, I look back on the Iron Chef competitions, the Halloween parties, the Advent Celebrations, the Session and Deacons meetings, the apple orchard outings, the time in prayer, the football games in the park, the time playing in the snow, the times crying through Hebrew as Ted Hiebert convinced me I actually did understand verbs, the papers written at 4am when my mind would not shut off, and the satisfaction of passing Greek… and I would do it all over again. (Well, okay, only if I had to… passing Greek and Hebrew once is enough for one lifetime.)

Now, it’s almost time to leave my seminary bubble. I will miss it. I will miss my neighbors and their silly children, I will miss study breaks, I will miss Christine Vogel’s office with candies, Jimmy’s, but I will go out being prepared and terrified for the real world that I have been prepared for with love and compassion. There have been hurt feelings along the way, hugs and laughter, and it was all worth it. Every stinkin’ moment of it.

Shelley Donaldson is a senior at McCormick. She’s currently juggling CPE, classes, and working. When not reading or hanging out at Rush University Hospital, she’s watching re-runs of Fringe, learning to re-make her favorite southern foods, trying to figure out her new smart phone, and make the perfect cup of chicory coffee. You can read her blog: thetravellingtheologian.wordpress.com or on twitter: @scdonaldson

Predicting the Weather

Christine’s Corner – Blog – November 18, 2011

I have two journals, one that reflects my daily (or weekly, depending on my moods) thoughts, hopes, dreams and prayers, and the second which is more like a scrapbook – filled with quotes, hymns, prayers that others have written.   They provoke moments for reflection and moments of amusement – like this whimsical one from the Portland Oregon Historical Society:  

During the 1970’s, weather forecasters relied on two touchstones to predict the weather:  the National Weather Service and the goats that grazed on Mt. Nebo.  Variable high goats = good weather; widely scattered goats – = partly sunny; low pressure goats (i.e.; grazing at lower elevations) = rain or snow.    The goats had a 90% accuracy, and the National Weather Service  – 65%.

Google: goats on Mt. Nebo

 What touchstones do you use to predict the weather in your own life, and how accurate are those predictions?    Turning again to my journal, I found a wisdom answer to that question in a recent entry from  the book Unexpected Destinations: An Evangelical  Pilgrimage to World Christianity, the 2011 autobiography of Wesley Granburg-Michaelson,  General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America.     He talks about his struggle, as a college student, to both nourish his soul and enact a relevant witness in the world.  

 He insists that the inward journey of a spiritual life must find outward expression in “inner attention, listening prayer, attuned exploration of God’s work in [one’s] life and the discovery of gifts intended to build up the body of Christ for strengthening its witness in the world…..God’s work is the transformation of lives, but also of communities, societies and the world.”   

In other words, we must do our best to adjust the chaotic pace of our lives– especially the multiple demands of seminary, work, family and church responsibilities – with a clear awareness that we are not doing this for ourselves.  Let us discipline ourselves to graze and not neglect prayer and time with God – with the excuse that we are too busy each morning, or too tired each night.   Let us not allow the rush of life’s “necessities” to override our need to attune ourselves to the necessity  of God who calls us to live and move and have our being in a way that commits us to  community and then to justice.

A Check-In with the Moderator

Good afternoons McReaders.It’s a cold day in Chicago, a blustery 39 degrees. But no worries, we’re staying warm inside of 5460. Fall in Chicago is a beautiful tome of the year, and to walk down to the local coffee shop or the lake, is a special treat when we know that the snow will be coming soon. That’s a special treat all in itself. But for now, we’re enjoying the weather here. Besides the weather, we’ve also got another special treat for you today.

Last year, we brought you an interview with Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 2010 PCUSA General Assembly. So, we decided to check in with her again and see what she was up to.

Moderator of the 219th PCUSA General Assembly, Cynthia Bolbach

So, you’ve been busy traveling places and what not. How have things been for you since we last spoke?

The Moderator’s life can be hectic, but so far I’ve been able to both fulfill moderator duties and continue working part-time at BNA, Inc., the legal publisher where I have worked for my entire career. During the last month, BNA, which had been entirely employee-owned, was acquired by Bloomberg, Inc., and the work involved with that caused me to have to cancel a couple moderatorial engagements. But that happens to many ruling elders, who have to juggle work, family, and church commitments. One of the issues I am trying to lift up during my term as moderator is how we can get ruling elders significantly engaged in the leadership of the church — and we proudly claim that ruling elders and teaching elders share equally in governance and spiritual leadership — given the difficulties of balancing all of those commitments.

Lots of things have been happening in the past year, especially with the passing of 10-A. Recently on the 19th of August, the National Presbyterian Church voted to end their relationship with the PCUSA because of 10-A. How do you think this will affect the PCUSA’s mission efforts in Mexico?

I hope our mission efforts will continue, especially the important work that was being done along the U.S. -Mexico border. It is unfortunate, and sad, that the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico decided to terminate our 139-year relationship. Hopefully, we can continue to engage in dialogue with the church in Mexico. I hope everyone at McCormick read the letter sent to Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who strongly affirmed the PC (USA)’s decision to approve Amendment 10-A, despite the divisions that that decision has caused with some of our partner churches.

Do you think that this relationship can be repaired in the future and if so, how?

This question is probably better answered by those within the PC(USA) who are more familiar with the workings of the church in Mexico. I think there are difficult issues dividing us — significantly the Mexican church’s decision in August to sustain its policy of not ordaining women — but I know that we in the PC(USA) will always be open to conversation about how to move forward together to address the significant issues of how we as Presbyterians can address  violence and poverty in that area.

Since the passing of 10A in the PCUSA, several groups of churches are talking of leaving the denomination, the Fellowship group. I know you went to the gathering, can you tell us what went on there and your own thoughts about it?

I was gratified by the lack of anger, and by the welcome given to those of us in leadership in the denomination who attended the Fellowship meeting. I saw energy and excitement there. A lot of ideas about how to “do church” in the 21st century were talked about — and everyone can benefit from talking about how we can do ministry more effectively. At the same time, I think two points need to be emphasized. First, that the PC(USA) is deeply engaged in figuring out how we “do church” in the 21st century — this is not something that has sprung up from the Fellowship.

Second, the focus on “missional church” can obscure the fact that the genesis of the Fellowship is opposition to G-2.0104(b). If we want to talk about how to be a more effective, a more missional church, let’s do that together. Separating into two separate bodies does not help that effort. Separating on the basis of opposition to the Constitution is schism, which I believe does harm to the Body of Christ.

Any thoughts about what might come from this?

I hope that folks within the Fellowship — and I have to emphasize that I know them to be faithful, committed Christians — will come to understand that separation does nothing except diminish the effectiveness of our Presbyterian witness. Whether they come to understand that, I don’t know.

Are you planning on going to the Next Church gathering in Dallas, TX?

Yes, I plan to be there.

Once your moderator duties are over, what’s next for you?

Good question — and I wish I knew the answer! I think by next July I will not only be a former Moderator, but also retired from BNA, so I will have the opportunity of much more free time. I think I’ll just sit around doing nothing for a month or so, and then find some particular niche within the church where I can be of service.
Thanks Cindy! Always good to catch up!
Well folks, there you have it. Cindy is pretty great about answering questions, so if you have any further questions or thoughts, then just send them!
Be on the lookout for Friday’s blog and also be on the lookout for our newest contributor, Wes Pitts. Wes is a first year student here at McCormick. I’m partially fond of him because he hails from the great city of Atlanta. And you can’t go wrong there, right?!
Until next time!
Peace~Shelley D.

Happy Wednesday McCormick Community.

So often you all get to meet our professors and students, but there are other aspects to our community, like our adjunct professors that we want to show off as well. They’re pretty awesome, especially today’s interviewee: Janaan Hashim, Esq. Janaan teaches alongside of our favorite Nesting in Beirut Theology Guru, Bob Cathey. Not only is she one of our favorites here, she’s also a lawyer (and one of the founders) of the first law firm founded by 6 Muslim women right here in Chicago, the Amal Law Group. She’s also a maker of homemade baklava, and she has a great sense of humor. Janaan also lectures wherever and whenever she can. She covers a range of topics, and I was lucky enough to go to one of her recent lectures right next door at LSTC.

Janaan plays a really important role in the life of the McCormick community. To state the obvious at this point, she’s a practicing Muslim (trust me, there’s much more to this lady than only that!). Chicago is a place rich for interfaith learning and conversation, and Janaan helps to bring that directly into our classrooms. Personally, I can attest that she has helped me, a white, Christian, Southerner, to connect with someone of another faith and to really learn. Through interaction, we get the information first hand and that’s how people make relationships and come to have a respect for one another. This is how things change and how people learn.

Now it’s time for me to stop rambling on and on about her, you come by the Religious Pluralism class on Friday mornings and meet her as well. You’ll also get another change to meet her and take a class from her and Bob Cathey this coming Spring semester as they teach a new class, Arab Reawakening. Check it out on the McCormick page for more information! Without further ado, here she is!

Please tell us your name, where you are from, and what exactly it is you do at McCormick.

My name is Janaan Hashim, I was born a mile south of the Mason-Dixon line in Cumberland, Maryland but grew up just outside the Capitol in Rockville, MD.  At McCormick, I try to keep students in my class awake Friday mornings by engaging them in thought-provoking analysis of the faith being studied that particular day, and when we go on our site visits to various houses of worship, I do my best to set a good example of being a respectful guest and learner.  And what class would draw students out of their comfortable quarters on a Friday morning?  Religious Pluralism and the Ministry.


Tell us a little bit about your family.

There’s not much to be said.  My father is from Iraq, my mom is from Ohio, so I’m a Scotts-Irish Arab…reality is, if I were a horse, I’d be valuable.

As for the boring stuff, I have two older brothers and when I was young, our family included two guinea pigs, Spicey and Cutie-Pie, two rabbits, Bunny and Fredrick, and several tanks of fresh water fish.  I went to public school (thus, my weak geography skills), played the piano for nine years and trumpet for four, enjoyed photography tremendously in high school, was a member of 4-H and spent parts of my summer on the shores of the Atlantic at Ocean City, MD.  Oh, and I was a runner doing cross-country, indoor track and spring track in middle school and high school with my mom at too many meets to count, cheering me on every step of the way… no pun intended.

You are a McCormick adjunct professor, and (besides the rumor that you make some stellar baklava), we hear you are also a lawyer. What’s that all about?

Good question.  Hmmmmm, well, I had just finished meeting my goals at the high school at which I taught (journalism and desktop publishing) and was trying to determine whether I should set new goals or do something different.  My husband reminded me of my interest in continuing my higher education and suggested law.  Since my kids were in upper elementary school, I figured why not?

I was intrigued by the analytical thinking and reasoning skills that many lawyers carry, and thought that this was something I’d like to polish.  With that, my skills as an oralist also improved, thanks to both the Socratic Method and the moot court team I was on.  Through these experiences, I came to realize that when I find myself put on the spot, whether it’s the professor or a judge wanting an answer, it was either shrivel away or step-up to the challenge.  Early on, I decided I would always try the latter and not worry about being wrong, looking silly, or anything like that.  It was an incredible learning experience to say the least and one that has made me into a better person and thinker.

How did you come to teach at McCormick? What do you teach/will you be teaching?

God really works in strange ways…at least, strange to us.  It took a trip to Barcelona, Spain to get me to McCormick – talk about taking the scenic route!  I was a panelist at the 2004 Conference of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  Among other speaking engagements, I participated in a panel discussion entitled, “The Headscarf Debate and Ultra-Secularism in Democratic Societies” in which two others and I talked about our head covering experiences.  Of course, with the other two democracies being France and Turkey, it was easy to make the US shine above the others in terms of religious freedom and expression while also expressing caution with the growth of Islamophobia.  Afterward, Professor Cathey’s daughter approached me, with Professor Cathey and his wife by her side, we talked and exchanged contact info.  That fall, Professor Cathey invited me to speak to his class that attended the Parliament, then the following year he approached me to tweak his Parliamment class so that McCormick could provide a course relating to the interfaith movement between Parliament events given the pluralistic city we live it.

Bob and I met, we discussed a few avenues for the course, and then came up with the current model that was based on a course I took in law school.  The course, Religious Pluralism and the Ministry was born, approved by the administration and has earned a steady spot in the fall as an elective.

The other course that I will also team-teach with Professor Cathey is Arab Reawakening which will be offered for the first time this spring.  It will be really interesting because we will look at Arab Christian and Arab Muslim immigrants who moved to Chicago from six specific Middle Eastern countries over the past 100 or so years, the impact they have had on the community and its impact on them, and then what kind of impact that may have had on current life in the Middle East all within the context of diaspora in the Bible and Quran.  Cool, eh?

Personally, I think it’s pretty important that we have you as a professor. You’re a practicing Muslim, and that’s something really great that you bring to the table for students to learn from and to engage with. Why do you think it is important that you are part of the McCormick community? What role do you see yourself playing (besides the obvious professor role)?

This is a great question.  Without a doubt, if I were to learn about, say, Judaism, I would be smart to go to an observing Jew or even a Rabbi, ask my questions and learn from them.  Similarly, a smart school would do the same if it chooses to offer a course that involves Islam: it would pull in someone who not only knows the faith, but feels it, breaths it, lives it.  That makes all the difference in teaching students because it brings in passion and brightens an otherwise dry topic.

The events of 9/11 propelled me into the interfaith world and, through it, I’ve realized that the only way we can undermine the nay-sayers out there who are convincing the world that faith is part of the world’s problem, is to step up to the plate and say, “No, faith is part of the solution.”  The basis of this is simple. I’ve found through my interfaith work, especially with the CPWR, that no faith calls for the annihilation of the other, no faith calls for starving the other, no faith calls for hate and violence toward the other.  I hope to bring that into my classroom and help my students see the beautiful world beyond the circle of their own faith.

In terms of role, I guess there’s a bit of helping the student realize his/her own stereotypes or prejudices of a person who doesn’t dress like them and helping the student overcome these preconceptions through my role as an educator.  It’s pretty fair to say that most of my students have had little contact with Islam, Muslim women, or an American Muslim woman.  I’ve noticed that over the course of the semester, the student shifts from seeing me as “the professor who wears the hijab” to “the prof who teaches the Religious Pluralism class.”  In essence, they, themselves, move beyond defining my scope or essence, in their view, by what they see on the exterior toward defining my scope or essence with what is deeper through what they see in class, experience on the road, learn from in debriefings after site visits, etc.

To me, the reality is that it’s a pluralistic world out there, especially in the US, and more so in Chicago.  The sooner seminarians can enlarge their comfort zone such that it includes “the other,” the better equipped they will be as religious leaders in their community.   I hope that my presence as a member of the MTS community helps with that process and that students years from now will say, “I had this professor who was Muslim, and I learned that when you go to a mosque, expect to see the wall lined with shelves filled with Qurans in the prayer area, or when a Sikh greets you with his hands clasped together, the best response is to reciprocate with the same gesture, or when you go to meditation at a Buddhist temple, expect to sit for a long time.”  So long as I’m making this a part of my students’ learning curve, then I can sleep well at night knowing that our future is a bright one.

You mentioned your involvement with the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Can you speak to that a bit?

I was first exposed to the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) in 2004 when I was invited to speak on a couple of panels at the Barcelona Parliament event.  I then stayed connected by helping with the programming of the 2009 Parliament event in the context of finding highly qualified Muslim speakers to talk on a variety of relevant and interesting issues.  In 2010, I was privileged to join their Board of Trustees.  I currently sit on the HR committee and I also served on the Site Selection Task Force Committee to determine which bid city would host the next Parliament Event in 2014.  Working with the CPWR staff, Dirk Ficca, the Executive Director (and a MTS grad!) and other trustees has been a tremendous experience and wonderful gift.

At the beginning of our reading week, you gave a lecture on the shariah at LSTC, and I hear you get a lot of requests for speaking engagements. What kinds of things do you get asked to speak about? Which one was your favorite to give?

Most of my talks involve Islam one way or the other.  Typically they address Islamophobia, eg. religious freedom in the US, the hijab, rising hate toward Muslims both at the personal level and within a legal context; women’s issues ranging from my work as a criminal defense attorney to Muslim women’s involvement in society and women’s rights in Islam; my work with Radio Islam and religion in the media; and now, as you mentioned, Shariah since it is becoming a political issue and it seems that politicians and their constituencies, including many Muslims, do not know what Shariah really is.  I really love talking about issues relating to Islam, it really lights the fire in my belly! I love informing and educating folks and seeing the light above their heads turn on as well as exploring issues with scholars and seeing my own light shine a bit brighter.

I know you’ve traveled to study Arabic. Where all have you gone and how’s that going?

I have studied classical Arabic for the past three summers in Amman, Jordan at Qasid Institute.  It’s a fabulous program and I hope to ultimately complete its five levels.  Until I found this program, learning Arabic was a great challenge and I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that, to know my faith, I have to rely on someone else’s translations, their proficiency (or lack thereof) in Arabic and English, and whatever social and personal influences they may carry when determining what English word properly translates the corresponding Arabic word.  With this handicap, libraries upon libraries filled with thousands of classical works by brilliant minds – both men and women – are closed to me; but once I learn the language, imagine, not only will those library doors be open, but I won’t need a library card to read the works!  So, with great patience, I plow forward, finding myself closer to my faith as I hear and better understand what I’m saying and reading.

Honestly, you work with Bob Cathey. How great is it to get to work with him?

I couldn’t have a better teacher to be by my side.  He has terrific patience with me, introducing me to various aspects of life in academia and the pace with which it operates.  In class, he gives me full freedom as an equal when it comes down to everything from grading to in-class analyses and discussion of students’ writings.  He has been very supportive of my interest in entering academia and provided many great ideas.  MTS is blessed to have him on board.

What is the one thing you hope your students get to walk away with when they are done with your class?

Other than my baklava?  Wow, hard to beat that.  Seriously, though, I hope they feel that their horizons have broadened, as cheesy as that sounds.  I really want my students to leave the semester saying, “I feel that I not only learned a lot, but I’m a better person now because 1) of what I learned, and 2) how I’m going to use that knowledge-base and gift that I’ve been given.”

What’s on your playlist right now?

Nothing.  Sorry, I can’t concentrate and listen to music at the same time.  You?  What’s on your playlist? (Um, I’m still listening to the Yusaf Islam CD you gave me!)

The food you hate the most?

Ugh, my mom’s split pea soup.  It’s the worst thing I ever tasted!  (and Mom knows this reality…) Thank GOD she hasn’t made this during my adult life – the memory from 35 years ago is still that painful!

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, right now, who would it be and why (and you can’t say the Prophet!)?

Khawla bint Tha’laba.

Here’s the context:  Back in the day, one way in which divorce was possible in Arab culture was through zihar, a specific expression that reduced the wife to the status the the husband’s mother’s backside, meaning the wife was completely devoid of sensual attraction.  Under Arab custom, zihar was irrevocable and thus, it became prohibited for the husband to touch his wife, and yet she was not free of the marital bond.  It’s unknown what made Khawla’s husband, Aws ibn Samit, reject Khawla with this vulgar expression, but when it happened, she was stuck without any ability to override such norms and customs.  So she decided to take her concerns to a higher power – to God.

When Khawla approached the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) to complain of the injustice fallen upon her, she left dissatisfied because, as the Prophet explained, unless God revealed a new ruling, he was without authority to change existing custom; the change had to be through devine revelation, not the Prophet’s own decision.  The Prophet received no revelation on the issue, and thus, Khawla left disappointed, but not without hope.

Convinced that the custom was unjust, she continued to complain to God, and waited near His messenger.  The answer came in the first two verses of chapter 58:

“God has heard the words of she who disputes with you regarding her husband and made her complaint to God.  God hears your conversation.  Verily, God is all-Hearing, all-Seeing.

“Those of you who shun their wives by zihar – they are not their mothers.  Their mothers are only those women who gave birth to them.  Indeed they utter words that are unjust and false; but God is absolving of sins, all-Forgiving.”

With these verses, God openly confirmed what Khawla knew all along: that what her husband had done to her was unjust and needed to be prohibited by law.

Although she was an average person, like her contemporaries, she was involved in society and shaping its direction.  She fought in two significant battles and by the Prophet’s side.

Many years later after the Prophet died, she stopped the Caliph Umar while he was walking with another and started advising him.  She was an old woman, and as she was talking, the companion interrupted her, saying she was talking for too long, asking whether she knew with whom she is talking, and then saying that she was talking to the caliph. Then Umar said to his companion, “Let her talk.  Do you know her?  This is Khawla to whom God listened from above the seven heavens, and so Umar has to listen, too.”

I’d like to meet her because of this strong character and to see what life was like in the time of the Prophet and thereafter.  She had the distinction of having her complaint heard and answered by God, fought by the Prophet’s side, and honored when she was old and almost forgotten by the younger generation.  I think I’d like to see her thoughts on the current state of Muslims – seeing this week an expected five million pilgrims gathering peacefully in her hometown to worship and reflect, while at the same time looking at the nation-states that claim to be based on Islamic jurisprudence.  I doubt there would be enough tea for such a conversation!

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading short stories in Arabic, حكايات كليلة و دمية لطلاب اللغة العربية ,Tales from Kalila wa Dimna for Students of Arabic , To Kill A Mockingbird (it’s been about 25 years, what a great book!) and some of the books for class next semester.

What’s the most annoying sound you’ve ever heard?

A child’s cry that is not comforted …I’m not annoyed at the child, but at the caretaker for not comforting the child.

Wow, thanks for that Janaan! Well, there you have it my faithful readers. Just one more reason for McCormick to be proud of our adjunct professors!

Until Friday!

Peace ~ Shelley D.

Bob Dylan sang, “He who isn’t busy being born, is busy dying.”   Those words, surely a variation on Ecclesiastes 3, were relevant when he wrote them and they’re even more fitting today.    They’re a call and a challenge to people, churches and yes, to seminaries and theological education.

Being born takes effort and time. Having given birth twice, I know full well that the process isn’t painless or easy. And in most cases, it takes a lot of time.  Do we expect a spiritual birthing process to be any easier?   We are impatient people who prefer instantaneous results for our efforts.   We are also easily discouraged when things don’t go according to plans and our preconceived expectations and wishes.   When something takes too long or, conversely, when something changes too quickly, alarm bells go off in our heads.

McCormick Theological Seminary is in the process of giving birth to something new.  We have a new president, a new sense of energy, and a diverse student body that is excited to be in the midst of a community that challenges them to grow in faith and understanding of what it means to be called to ministry in the 21st century.

The rapid shifts taking place in our churches are calling us to rethink our own place in theological education.  How do we best prepare these emerging leaders, both lay and ordained?   How do we hold the emerging future in a time of chaos, and remind people of their roots even as we open up God’s Word to them in new ways?

Some days the questions are unnerving.   But then I remember that God, who is eternal, strengthens all of us for faithful living in the midst of this birthing process.  God’s word is bringing us to new life and a new day, even though we do not yet know how long it will take or what it will look like.  God’s presence and steadfast love will call us to “keep busy being born.”

Good morning McCormick Community! Well, we’ve introduced you to some great folks in the past, but we want you to meet even more! That’s right. McCormick is made up of so many amazing people, and everyone has a different role. Today I want to introduce you to one of my former classmates and now adjunct professor, Linda Eastwood. Linda has an amazing story and I’ve asked her to share a little about herself today. She plays an important role in our community, and you should know about it!
So, tell us your name, title, and what you do at McCormick?
I’m Linda Eastwood, and my presence at McCormick is somewhat informal, but hopefully beneficial to the seminary community! My main “title” is “Coordinator of the Colombia Accompaniment Program” (more on that later) for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF). McCormick kindly provides me with office space and facilities to do this work. Right now, I’m also adjunct small-group leader for McCormick’s PIF (Pilgrimage in Faithfulness). That’s an experience that I treasure, not least as a way to get to know new members of McCormick’s diverse student body. I particularly love working with our international students, so I joined in with much of our Summer Language Institute this year. (In past years I’ve been paid-student help; this year I helped as informal volunteer.) I’ve also done a little volunteer teaching (in McCormick’s name) at the Reformed University in Barranquilla, Colombia on “Science and Faith”, and right now I’m slated to go back early summer 2012 to teach (at their request) an introductory Old Testament course.

Rev. Linda Eastwood, Ph. D

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What was your last job/career? And how did it all get you to where you are now?
As some of you may have subtly detected from my accent, I’m originally from England. Back in my “former life” I studied physics in England and then medical-physics (Ph.D.) in Scotland, and then worked for 25 year designing medical MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), as scientist and as manager. I’ve lived in the U.S. since 1986 when I was recruited to work in Cleveland, OH. I’m a “polymath”, so a career-change wasn’t a surprise – although seminary was (despite my strong church involvement) emphatically not in my plan. Which is why, of course, I ended up studying for M.Div. at McCormick (2006-2010), and have never looked back. (God has a great sense of humor.) I took advantage of many “cross-cultural” opportunities (J-term in Egypt, courses in the Hispanic Summer Program, semester in Korea, and semester in Colombia.) I assumed that I’d end up as pastor of a cross-cultural church. God’s sense of humor showed up again, and I was called and ordained to my (officially part-time) work with Colombia Accompaniment. So – here I am!
So, tell everyone exactly what it is you do?
In my main official role, I run – on behalf of the PC(U.S.A.) – a now 7-year old program of volunteer accompaniers going to Colombia a month at a time. At the Colombians’ request, they walk in solidarity with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC – Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia). We are a protective and supportive presence in their work of human-rights advocacy and community-rebuilding with some of the more than 5 million Colombians displaced by violence – all in the grab to concentrate ownership of land and resources. I recruit volunteers, run orientation and discernment, and send pairs to Colombia (one of each pair must be Spanish-speaking) to be a ministry of presence under the guidance of our Colombian partners. Accompaniers come back and (we hope and encourage!) tell the story and advocate for improvements in U.S. military, trade and drug policies that so drastically affect Colombian life.
How does all of this fit into the larger community of McCormick?
So what’s all this got to do with McCormick? First, McCormick has a long history of engagement with issues of social justice, and Colombia Accompaniment is one wonderful way to live out this engagement on the international level. Second, McCormick has a partnership with the Reformed University in Barranquilla. (Dean Luis Rivera visited them this last summer to formally inaugurate this already-signed agreement.) A 2008 McCormick J-term travel-seminar in Colombia was a precursor to this partnership. The presence here of Rev. Angélica Múnera Cervera as an MTS student is a piece of our partnership. What’s more, the links between McCormick and the IPC are so strong that our Colombia friends joke about the “McCormick junta!” At the IPC’s Reformed University, the president (Rev. Milciades Pua) and the heads of the school of theology (Rev. Adelaida Jiménez) and of the research department (Rev. Milton Mejia) are all McCormick alumni. The PC(U.S.A.) has two mission co-workers as long-term accompaniers in Colombia: McCormick alumni Revs. Richard Williams and Mamie Broadhurst. Many McCormick students / alums have served as accompaniers, or are preparing to do so. My predecessor running the program, Rev. Sarah Henken, now serving in Bolivia, is another McCormick alumna. And my colleague, Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, the PPF board-member for Colombia Programs, is, of course, yet another McCormick alumna! We have, then, wonderful links on which to build an even stronger partnership between McCormick and the IPC.
What are some of the hopes that you have for your ministry?
My hope is to help the IPC live out their dreams of a just and peaceful society. They see both “Reformed” education for Colombians and also increased awareness of their situation by the outside world as critical pieces of fulfilling that dream. I’d love to see McCormick faculty, students and staff become linked ever more closely to the living out of that dream, and I’d personally love to mix teaching in Colombia with teaching (in whatever form) at McCormick to help us share our stories and learn from each other in our striving to bring the peace and justice of God’s kin-dom. And somewhere in that mix, I’m trying to fit my own study of the crossover between theology/Bible/Christian-ethics and the discipline of Peace Studies. But who knows? Remember, God has a wonderful sense of humor!
Awesome Linda! Thanks again. Check back in for the rest of our adjuncts and what they do. And you can expect a follow up from Linda, we need to know how everything is going!
Until next time my friends. Peace!
Shelley D.
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