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February | 2013 | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Archive for February, 2013

Norae’s Pet Corner: An Interview with Thumper Lily Goldfish

Hi friends,

It’s time that I, Norae, take the controls of CURE over from Wes and introduce you all to the amazing four-legged folks at McCormick. Up this time: Thumper Lily Goldfish!

Thumper Lily Goldfish

Norae: Tell us your name and breed?

Thumper: My name is Thumper.  Well, Thumper Lily Goldfish.  My human is only responsible for “Thumper.”  Something about being playful and looking like a gray rabbit sometimes.  My foster mom gave me a middle name and Goldfish is more like an alias.  You can call me Thumper.  I am a gray tabby cat.

N: Who is your human?

T: My human is Lora Burge.  I let her stay in MY apartment and she feeds and pets me.

N: How did you get her?

T: That is a funny story.  I’ve lived with a few humans; all linked to seminaries in fact.  What can I say, I’m only drawn to especially smart humans!  When I was little, a few years ago, I showed up on my first human’s porch in an awful snow storm.  It’s scary being a little and alone in a few feet of snow!  So he took me in.  Then my second human took care of me for awhile and thought I was pretty cool.  She convinced my first human that I should live with her.  What can I say, I’m an amazing cat and everyone wants me to grace their home.  I had to live with my foster parents and their lovely cats for awhile but it was ok and they took good care of me.  Now I’m back with my second human again and we have a good time.

N: What’s your favorite place to be in your apartment?

T: My chair in the window.  It’s sunny and warm and I can watch the birds out the window.

Thumper lookin' out the window

N: What’s your favorite place out of your apartment?

T: I don’t much love going outside.  I rule the apartment–why would I want to go outside?  Though sometimes I like to make a run for it.  Sadly, I get stuck in the hallway and haven’t figured out how to get any further.

N: What are you favorite treats?

T: I liiiikkkee treats.  Can you bring me some?  I like the tasty green ones.  And sometimes the little chewy chicken ones.

N: What do you prefer: wet or dry food?

T: Dry food.  What is wet food?  I’m a very thirsty cat though.  My human gets annoyed sometimes because after I drink my face and chest are pretty wet and then it leaves spots on her papers.  She doesn’t want to pet me when I am dripping for some reason.  Small price to pay for a good drink of water.

N: How many toys do you have? Which are you favorites?

T: How do you define toy?  I have some of my own:  a few mice and some balls for me to chase around.  But I like to climb in bags.  And books and papers are fun.  I don’t understand why my human doesn’t want me to play with those and lay on the warm thing with keys that make fun noises and a bright thing that I can rub up against.  Also, I like to hang off things hanging on the walls and doorknobs–I’ve been known to open or close a door on occasion.

The simple joys of sleeping on books

N: How else do you like to spend your days?

T: Sleeping, playing, climbing on things, and things I don’t want to admit to my human. I also love watching “Plaza Sesamo” on Saturday morning with my human.

Thumper enjoying Saturday morning educational programming

N: What is something everyone should know about you?

T: I am known to some as a catdog because sometimes I act like a dog.  When my human comes home (and a few other select humans), I run to greet her.  Apparently, dogs do that.  I do it to get extra pets and treats.  Whatever.  It’s worth it.

N: Final words of wisdom?

T: Nap as much as you can.  Play and eat in between.  If needed, lay on your human’s books, papers and tables to get plenty of attention and treats.  That’s about it.

There you have it folks! See you next time!

Wednesday Worship Recap

This past Wednesday’s worship (2/20) featured the preaching of Senior Katie Hartwell. She preached this week in connection with the student advocacy group Women in Ministry’s performance of the Vagina Monologues, held this past Friday night.

The wonderful cast of the Vagina Monologues

Katie preached on a passage in scripture controversial in many traditions: 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

It might seem an odd choice as it was in connection with an event denouncing violence against women, but Katie wanted to shape a conversation.

“What is important is what we have done with this text, and what we continue to do with it … This text has been used to oppress women, to keep us silent and uneducated. Many women have found their voices in the church, seeking ordination, seeking change, to live out the Scripture that in Christ there is neither male nor female. This battle has not been won … Ordaining women is one way to give women a voice in the church, but it is not enough.  The ordination of one woman does not give all women a voice … 1 billion women have experienced violence. 1 billion. That is 1 in 3 women who will be raped or beaten in her lifetime … How many of our deacons, elders and pastors have been raped or beaten?  1/3 of the women in our pews each Sunday are suffering through or have survived violence. And what are we doing about it? As a Church? As a denomination? As individual congregations? What are we doing? Are we promoting their silence? … We wash over the parts of Scripture that we don’t like, the texts that even the best exegesis struggles to make sense of. We pretend they don’t exist … Imagine reading this Scripture, the Word of God, … as a woman who has been abused, is being abused or will be abused. Are we just hoping that our parishioners are not reading the bible on their own?”

Katie’s sermon was a call on all to think about who we silence and who we stick up for, a reminder of the horrible reality that our church has faced and has often ignored.

Who are you allowing to speak?

Relationships and Life in Seminary: Part 3, Being Gay and in Seminary

Happy Wednesday McReaders. Today we have a special treat – the return of CURE extraordinaire Shelley Donaldson! Shelley graduated last year and has moved on to bigger and better things, but I’ve asked her to continue in our series of relationships in seminary from her perspective as an openly gay woman. Here’s Shelley:

Being a gay woman in seminary at McCormick was pretty great. Mainly, because I was able to learn that there were bigger issues for me than that. And it was a safe space. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was hard sometimes; and trying to find a job in the PC(USA) after seminary was even harder being an openly gay woman. There is something degrading about having to tell a group of people from a church that you are openly gay in your first interview. Has a straight person ever had to do that? No. But, luckily, the community around me helped me with that part and held me up when I couldn’t do that for myself. My last semester was a rough one in a lot of ways, but there is no way I could have done it without that community of people! Honestly, McCormick and Chicago are possibly the safest spaces one can go when the world tells you that you belong on the island of misfit toys.

Story: In my first semester of seminary during our Intro to Biblical Studies class, our professor was entertaining an idea that was a bit off topic, but still relevant. Then one of the other first year students stands up (literally, he stood up), and he says, “I just don’t know how someone can stand in a pulpit, preach the word of God while being gay, and have a conscience and think that is right, because it is not. It’s wrong.” (In case you were wondering, this was not the topic we were discussing…)

At this comment a few things happened in my personal bubble: first, I have never wanted so badly to just sit on my computer in the back of the class and be on Facebook and just pretend not to exist; second, all of my friends around me started shouting; and third, my friend, TC, sitting next to me decided to have his own conversation with me and pretend like no one else was there. We talked about the Beatles or something irrelevant. Thank God for TC.

One of my classmates leaned over to me and said, “Aren’t you going to say something?”
“No. That’s not my job” was my response. My job was to be friends with that student and come to a mutual understanding that we were different, and that was okay. When I saw him, I said, “I don’t have a problem with that.” To his surprise, I was gay. He had no idea. Gay people were hypothetical to him, and they are to so many others. Things change once you know someone face to face.

He never believed that I was to be a pastor in his tradition (and frankly, neither did I), but the difference was, he no longer looked at me as someone lesser than, but as a person. After he and I talked together, we became equals. He didn’t know I was gay, even though we were friends. He was able to put the idea of being gay to the face of an actual person, and it wasn’t as horrible as he thought.

My role in the seminary community wasn’t to be the gay person. Was I? Sure. I joked about it with people. But at the end of the day, I was just me. The same person that convinced Ken Crews to wear Kim Adams’ short shorts to Wes Pitts’ apartment for fun. The same person who ate a full 3-course meal in Ken Sawyers’ History class each week (how I miss that man).

Was McCormick a safe place to talk about people who are not heterosexual in the church and world? Yes. Is it a place to be a person who is not heterosexual and still be safe? Of course. Did I wrestle with things? Certainly. But not because I was gay. But because so many other people had a problem with the idea of gay people.

McCormick allowed me to deal with that fact: that people would be prejudiced against me because of how God made me. And for that, I’m incredibly thankful.
Don’t get me wrong, seminary wasn’t all about, “hey, I’m gay, so I have to deal with it.” I spent a lot of time studying, writing, experiencing, laughing, eating, worshiping, talking, and simply living the life of a seminary student. Seminary was the best time of my life. I’d do it again, minus the loans… I got a lot of great mentors and friends out of my experience there.

While I still might represent the stereotypical gay woman to so many people and listen to people like Brandi Carlisle, people shouldn’t judge me for things like that (Frank Yamada has seen her in concert more times than I have). Judge me for my lack of helping the homeless, or for the fact that I get road rage sometimes on the Dan Ryan, or my lack of spiritual practices in my daily life.

At McCormick, I learned that those are the kinds of things I should be focusing on and that being gay was just part of how God made me.

Shelley, thanks so much for being so open with us! See you later McReaders!

McCormick in Motion!!

Professor Ted Hiebert and I arrived at the New Life Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque, NM on the crisp and sunny morning of February 1, 2013.  We were greeted by two smiling faces – two friendly faces that greeted us with a ‘welcome home’ look, not just a ‘good morning stranger’ look.  They were McCormick alums – one from the D.Min class of 2006 and one from the M.Div class of 1949 and the day ahead of us would prove to be a time of nourishing connections among colleagues in the area and rejuvenation through exciting scholarship.

In 2012, McCormick Theological Seminary conducted a survey of its alums and there was a consistent craving expressed among the voices – to have a taste of McCormick without having to travel to Chicago.  McCormick listened to the need and a partnership initiative of the Office of Alumni/ae Relations and the Offices of Recruitment and Admissions (Masters and Doctorate Levels) was created – McCormick in Motion.

We know that working pastors, like those in most other professions, have busy schedules and little time to take away from vocational or familial responsibilities.  So we want to meet folks where they are. McCormick in Motion is an opportunity to bring a taste of McCormick across the US – to provide a continuing education opportunity, to make time to network with colleagues in the region and to catch up on the happenings of life at McCormick Theological Seminary.  But, to be clear, McCormick In Motion events are not just for alums – in fact, these events are for everyone – prospective students, colleagues in the region, whomever has interest in the topic!

Our time in Albuquerque was wonderful – meeting prospective students, re-connecting with colleagues in the area and engaging in fascinating scholarship.  We trust that our events in Rochester, NY and Philadelphia, PA will be equally as successful – your presence will help make it so!

Our next event will be on March 15, 2013 in Rochester, NY at the Third Presbyterian Church.  Visit our website if you are interested in attending and register online.  Professor Melody Knowles will be presenting her latest scholarship on The Psalms and Gender.  http://mccormick.edu/content/mccormick-motion

Ash Wednesday Student Worship

“Wash Off That Ash – Not Just Yet”

The imposition of the ashes - Photo courtesy of Sergio Centeno

A Prayer: From Psalm 57:1-17 (NRSV)

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned,

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are justified in your sentence

and blameless when you pass judgement.

Indeed, I was born guilty,

a sinner when my mother conceived me.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,

and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and sustain in me a willing spirit.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise

Rev. Linda Eastwood Preaching - Photo courtesy of Sergio Centeno

Scripture: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 (CEB)

“Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”

“And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

“Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Photo courtesy of Sergio Centeno

Being Transformed through Field Studies

Happy Wednesday McReaders!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to a church in Michigan that has partnered with my field site, Grace Commons. My supervisor was asked to preach as we presented a video our church created about peace. As it was transfiguration Sunday, we spoke about how Grace Commons has transformed the lives of students training to be pastors. I was asked to share my story. It went like this:

Luke 9:28-36

About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him. They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him. As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe. Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They were speechless and at the time told no one what they had seen.

“I connect so much with Peter in this passage. I’ve felt like I have followed my faith sort of blindly, without much real understanding of what has been happening in it. The disciples, you might know, always seem to be a little dim – they never quite followed along with what Jesus was saying or doing. But they meant well, bless their hearts. So when Peter, dimmed even further by his sleepiness, sees Jesus shining bright with Elijah and Moses standing at his side, it’s a little more understandable why his reaction was to build three houses – although it still makes no sense to our modern context if we’re going to be honest. When I first felt called into ministry, I felt like Peter must have when he witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. The call seemed to make sense to me in the moment, but also felt impractical and, quite frankly, pretty silly – kind of like building houses for dead glowing people appearing out of nowhere. But I answered the call still. I applied to and was accepted to McCormick Seminary. My wife and I moved half-way across the country without any clue of how this impractical call would work out. It was particularly disconcerting because I was entering a master’s program traditionally seen as a degree for pastors, and I didn’t really want to be a traditional pastor. As I completed my first year of seminary, I began to feel tugged towards a more traditional pastoral ministry. It wasn’t a very comfortable tug, either, because I didn’t really see how a traditional church would fit in with who God has created me to be. This isn’t to say I don’t love my traditional church home, but I just didn’t see how it would fit in with my call.

When the opportunity came to interview at Grace Commons for my field site, my call suddenly didn’t seem quite as dim as before, as though the lights were slowly beginning to be turned on. In the nearly six months I’ve had the privilege of serving at Grace Commons, my call has continued to become clearer and no longer seems quite so ridiculous. What has been so transformative for me is the amount of freedom and grace the community has offered me as a student. I was immediately brought in as a full partner in the ministry of Grace Commons and given the opportunity to share my ideas, to create to plan and to even shape the community, while it was simultaneously was shaping me. My experience thus far has taught me a fuller meaning of what it means to be “church,” as well has helped lift the dense fog surrounding my call and give it validation.”

For more information on McCormick’s Field Studies program, click here!

Also, if you’re curious about the video we presented in Michigan, watch below!


New Social Media Strategy for McCormick Recruitment and Admissions

Dearest Friends,

It is with great excitement that I am announcing a new strategy by McCormick’s Office Recruitment and Admissions (the awesome folks that bring you the CURE blog) are rolling out a new strategy to keep connected to YOU – all our friends, colleagues, alumni and prospective students. Here’s what to look for:

Monday: A bible verse reflecting the life of students and/or the week’s theme from worship

Tuesday: Photos from around McCormick, offering a glimpse of life in this amazing place

Wednesday: A new blog post on CURE

Thursday: A recap of the worship experience at McCormick

Friday: Another awesome  new blog post on CURE!

We’ll also be doing some live blogging/tweeting for McCormick events – starting with the Inquiry Into Ministry happening THIS weekend! Hopefully all our friends who aren’t able to be with us will still be able to experience a small part of the breadth of life at McCormick through this new system. Don’t forget to check our facebook and twitter pages frequently for all the great updates!



Student Session?!? You do things, you say?

Happy Friday McReaders!

I recently sat down with the co-moderators, Melva Lowry and Dirk Labuschagne, of the Student Session to see exactly what they do and what Student Session is all about. Here’s what they had to say:

Wes: So Dirk and Melva, you two are the co-moderators of Session. Start us off by telling a little about yourselves.

Dirk: I was born and raised in South Africa, and I’ve been calling the U.S. my home now for a little more than three years. I still don’t get the appeal of American football, but I do love Starbucks. Amy (my wife) and I are the proud owners of the cutest dog in Hyde Park, Albus, whose eagerness to go for walks is making this Chicago winter feel extra long and cold. I am a middler in the MDiv program, and a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).


Melva: Same as above. (lol, just kidding) … I am a southern girl born in Georgia, but have lived in a few different places over my years. I’m the youngest of four kids and the aunt to eight kids, ages 2-10 years old! I am a senior MADD student, raised in the PC(USA) but I also have affiliation with the non-denominational church.


W: What is Session anyway?

D&M: Session consists of student representatives from each class – juniors, middlers, and seniors – as well as a representative from each student advocacy group. Officially, the responsibilities of Session revolve around communication, advocacy, and nurture. We are here to serve the McCormick community by providing the opportunity for students to raise concerns, a way for those concerns to be addressed, and space for solidarity to be fostered. There is also an elected student and Session member on the board of trustees to ensure concerns are communicated appropriately between the two governing bodies.

W: Why do you think Session is important?

D:  I think it’s an important way for the student body to feel represented in the life of McCormick Theological Seminary. There are many decisions that go into making McCormick the seminary that it is, and, ideally, Session is a voice for the students in those decisions.

M: I think session is very important. Students have needs and concerns and to have a group to hold the burden of these concerns with the student(s) is very important. Also to remind the administrative body where students are in terms of learning needs, community, etc. to ensure a great education and readiness to go into the world.

W: What were your goals for this past semester? Have they been a success?

M: Our main goal was to be present. To let the community know that we were here and actively willing and ready to hear the needs and concerns brought to Session and respond to those needs (no matter how long that would take). I think since Dirk and I are not overly aggressive in our approach we did a great job staying on top of the issues and making sure needed persons responded; and we’re still working.

W: What are your goals for next semester?

D: Melva has been thinking of ways to make Session work more effectively. Take it away, Melva!

M: Well, change is inevitable. We are working on the by-laws and holding elected members accountable to the call of service that Session holds. Hopefully this will increase productivity, awareness and availability of all Session, not just the co-moderators, to the community; and improve communication between students and the administration. Plus maintaining our commitment to balancing advanced education with fun, but making sure we are truly being inclusive and diverse in what we do. If we are going to have the motto “cross-cultural, ecumenical, urban and reformed” then we need to live into that better and across the board.

W: What are the biggest challenges Session faces?

D: In my opinion, Session’s biggest challenge is relevancy. We can easily become a body that exists merely for the sake of existing. It will remain a challenge to continually strive to serve the McCormick community in a constructive and relevant manner.

M: Yep! I agree. Say it, mean it, do it.

W: What has Session done that has been a success?

D: I think it depends on what is seen as a ‘success.’ If this is measured by what’s stated in our by-laws, that is the importance of communication, advocacy, and nurture, we have certainly tried to make students aware of Session as a place to voice concerns. We have worked not to have student concerns fall on deaf ears, and to have these concerns, once properly heard, be addressed in a calm and constructive way.

M: No one has picketed! I think raising the awareness of student needs and seeing the group be open to welcoming change is a success. If we can till the soil or prick the heart to look outside of one’s personal “norms” to see the concerns of another, then we are successful.

W: Any final thoughts on Student Session or life at McCormick?

D: I’m continually amazed at the ways I have grown while being here at McCormick. My faith, my sense of calling, and my expectations of the future have developed and expanded in ways I could not have imagined. I’m thankful for the people I have gotten to know and been able to work with, both fellow students and faculty, and look forward to what’s ahead. McCormick is a special place, and there is something about life here that counters stagnation.

M: Theological education and being on Session is a lived experience. You have to open yourself to it and embrace the things that are comfortable and uncomfortable. It moves quickly and calls you to look deep inside your faith and pull out your strengths and find those who will support your weaknesses. We have a great group and we get a lot done (especially when Mo reads her emails—shout out!) and we understand it’s a process of growing, reflecting and developing and students, faculty, staff and board of trustees must be willing to do it together.

…And that’s it! A big thanks to Dirk and Melva for their willingness to share about the Student Session.

See you next week! Peace.

CURE is back!

When we last spoke, dear readers, McCormick was poised for a much needed Christmas break. Well, Christmas has come and gone, as has our January term. Now that Spring semester has begun, CURE is back to write fun and informative articles about life as a student at McCormick. We’ll still update approximately twice a week!

A lot has been afoot since December that I am excited to tell you about! One of the most exciting pieces of news is that we have decided to give a 25% tuition discount to students who apply, are accepted and matriculate in Fall 2013. Details can be found here. To be sure you qualify, contact your admissions representative or admissions staff, Jamie and JC.

We’re also very pleased to announce that we have planned additional opportunities for prospective students to visit and get the McCormick experience. Not only will we have our Inquiry into Ministry weekend as usual, but two additional Evenings of Discernment. With the difficult schedules that many of us have, we understand a full weekend is not possible for everyone, but you still want to visit and meet with students and faculty. During our Evenings of Discernment, you will attend a 3 hour session, inclusive of dinner, that will cover an introduction to our Masters Level classes, a panel of professors, and a mini class experience. Evenings of Discernment is also a free program! And as always, we have rooms available in our guest housing for any out of town guests!



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