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Questions About McCormick | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Questions About McCormick

Well, McReaders, this is the last blog you’ll get from me. Wes will be taking over soon, and I’ll be done with seminary after 3 glorious years.

Thinking about the past 3 years is a bit overwhelming. As I’m leaving seminary, I’m not one of those prefect Presbyterians who passed all her ordination exams in the first try; I’m not walking out of seminary with a job in hand, ready to become ordained; I’m not in the minority. I am, once again, in the majority. I’m walking out of seminary with debt, no job, very little idea of where I am going to live, and a car that requires prayer each time to drive it down the Dan Ryan (which, given the shape it’s in, I don’t go down the Dan Ryan with it if I can help it). It’s not that I don’t have skills, I have mad skills. It’s just, there really aren’t many jobs out there. Recently, several people have asked me, “So, if you had to do it over, would you do it all again the same?”

Yes. I’d do it all over again and I would not do it differently. Here are a few reasons why:

1. I met Megan, Alex, TC, Sylvia, Tracy, Jon, Joe, Holly, Kim, Jason, Bong, Lilit, Ching Boi, Tyler, Ken, Lora, Matt, Jenny, Hannah, Amber, Molly, Han Kook, Dave, Kristi, Meredith, Kristin, Robyn, Tina, Karl, Michele, Vimary, Abby, Nathy, Nancy, Jeanine, Sergio, Kristin, Deanna, Mo, Stephanie, Melva, Kathi, Wes, Liz, Albert, Mike, Monica, Daniel, Sarah, Sarah, Katie Jo, Kate, Kirk, Jamie, Matt, Allison, Casey, Phil, Jeff, JC, Honna, Jake, Kelly, Megan, Sarah, Melvina, Delores, Kay, Sheila, Chris, Brenda, Peter, Heather, Jamie… the list is endless. This only includes the people that I could think of in 5 minutes and doesn’t include staff, professors, students from other seminaries, people in the community… Need I say more?

2. The friendly folks at the Starbucks at 55th and Woodlawn know my name.

3. I now know that Joel is an actual book in the Bible.

4. Ted Hiebert taught me Hebrew and Sarah Tanzer taught me Greek.

5. Janaan Hashim and Bob Cathey answered all my ridiculous questions and never told me to shut up. Ever.

6. I got to be Lib Caldwell’s EA.

7. If you ask nice enough, Luis will put on his Dracula cape.

8. Christine Vogel lets me cry in her office and Frank Yamada lets me cry in the halls.

9. Dr. Daniels made singing “Welcome Table” my favorite communion tradition.

10. Deb Mullen helped me accept who I was on my first day of classes.

11. Joann Lindstrom has a puppy in her office.

12. Sam Evans talks in a French accent when he’s in the office.

13. David Crawford is my friend and I know how hard he works for the seminary and the people there.

14. My classmates are fabulous dog-sitters, bird watchers, fish sitters, and plant waterers.

15. Melody Knowles taught me how to write a better paper.

16. Ted Hiebert made me re-think how I read the Bible.

17. Jennifer Ayers made me appreciate food and be thankful that I have it.

18. Ken Sawyer.

19. Ken Sawyer’s Mustache.

20. David Esterline’s wife’s cookies.

21. Knowing that Priscilla Rodriguez is always laughing at my facebook posts and understands my existential angst and will always have a hug for me.

22. Christine Vogel has a constant and steady supply of chocolate in her office.

23. No one reads the Psalms quite like Nanette Banks.

24. Dr. Frank Thomas taught me how to preach like I was on fire and then he made us go play in the snow.

25. Joann Lindstrom has my back.

26. Deb Kapp is an awesome cook at Iron Chef.

27. Monica actually smiles, you just have to know how to make her do it.

28. Natasha thinks I’ve already graduated.

29. I sort of have teacher crushes on Bob Cathey, Ted Hiebert, Lib Caldwell, Melody Knowles, and Janaan Hashim.

30. Community meals are always better food than I have in my apartment.

31. David Crawford often confuses me and Abby Mohaupt.

32. Boundaries don’t actually exist at McCormick despite Joann Lindstrom’s attempts at educating us.

33. Kimchi and Chapchae are two of my new favorite foods.

34. After being her EA, Abby Mohaupt and I now know that Lib Caldwell drinks Diet Coke at break and her Starbucks order is a grande unsweetened passion fruit iced tea.

35. I learned more about YAV’s than I ever imagined was possible.

36. I learned that Frank Yamada used to be in a band.

37. Anna Case-Winters lets me call her A.C. Dub.

38. Ken Crews can eat ungodly amounts of fast food in one sitting.

39. Deacon retreats aren’t the same without Christine Vogel present.

And last but not least…

40. The University of Chicago has a library. Thank God, or none of my work would have ever gotten done.

Well, that’s it. There are other things I could have talked about on here, but this is all I had time for, I have to finish a project for Bob Cathey. Go figure. Graduation, here I come!

Peace – Shelley D.

Since Spring has sprung and the weather is warming, I thought it would be nice to introduce you to McCormick’s urban classroom: the city of Chicago. Chicago is a city of many incredible neighborhoods, each with its own flair. Once or twice a month I’ll highlight a new neighborhood, give a little history and introduce you to some of the fun things to do there. This week: Pilsen.

Pilsen is located near the heart of Chicago, bordering the Chicago River on the East and South sides, 16th Street to the North, and Western to the West. Originally named for a city in the Czech Republic, Pilsen is now home to Chicago’s Mexican community. Served by the Pink Line, Pilsen is easy to reach from just about anywhere in Chicago.

Me taking a really awkward picture in front of a garden, in Pilsen of course

My first visit here was last Friday, Good Friday, to participate in a Mexican tradition : Via Crucis Vivente (Link goes to a YouTube video of last year’s march), or “Living the Way of the Cross” which has been taking place in Pilsen for 37 years. The Via Crucis take place down 18th street, and provided a great opportunity to see much of the neighborhood. After that taste of Pilsen, I had to go back, so my wife, a friend and I went and spent the afternoon looking in the vintage shops and enjoying Mexican food and adult beverages.

My friend in front of a public art installation entitled, "Before I die"

Pilsen has an up and coming art scene, which is evident by its many art galleries and public art installations. Near the intersection of 18th and Halstead is a line of art galleries, open by appointment only, but really interesting to look at. If you come in by bus, don’t miss them. Another don’t miss gallery is the National Museum of Mexican Art. An added bonus, it’s free!

Coffee shop - and an example of some of the great architecture Pilsen has to offer!

One of the best things Pilsen is known for is food. Being a predominately Mexican neighborhood, you’ll be able to find some of the best authentic Mexican dishes Chicago has to offer. A favorite for many, or so I’ve been told, is Nuevo Leon, located on 18th near Ashland. Not only does Pilsen have good Mexican options, but Barbecue, Asian, and many more. Some of the best tortilla chips in Chicago are also made right here.

Lastly, Pilsen’s architecture is wonderful. There is a mix of old and new, everything is colorful and there is a lot of exciting history. For great examples, check out some of the churches in Pilsen, like St. Aldabert’s Catholic Church.

Check us out later this week for an update on visions for the Church, with a guest blogger, Stephanie Levan! Until then!

Greetings McReaders! We’re back after a well deserved reading week here on the Southside of Chicago. Back to homework, reading, researching, going to weekly chapel, going to our respective meetings, and going back to class.In the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at some of the classes that McCormick offers students. Sure, we have the typical Greek and Hebrew and we have our theology classes, but our professors go out of the way to create specialty classes and environments where students can learn, explore, and challenge themselves based on their own areas of study and expertise.

Today I want to introduce you to one of those classes (and the professor that go with it). You won’t find a class like this one at any other seminary (well, you might find one similar, but not this one!).

Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Sarah Tanzer

Welcome to Bible 440, Life Cycles of Judaism! Sarah is one of our New Testament professors here at McCormick; she also teaches classes such as Greek Exegesis and Gospels (a must take if you love some NT). The class itself is designed to look at the Jewish calendar, Jewish practices, and, you guessed it, the life cycles of Judaism. Since being in this class, we’ve learned about everything from holidays and Jewish festivals, to learning how to blow a Shofar, a ram’s horn.

First year student, Tyler Orem, practices blowing the Shofar, the ram's horn which is blown on Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah

Now, it’s not about the super cool instruments and prayer shawls that we get to see in class, it’s really a class about learning where we, as Christians, come from. It’s a chance to learn more about our Jewish brothers and sisters and to gain more respect for the Jewish culture. It’s about appreciating the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Sarah even invites us into her home for a traditional Shabbat service. We are also sent out into Chicago, to visit a Synagogue of our choice (I’ll be visiting Congregation Or Chadash).

As our professor, Sarah brings a lot to the table. A practicing Jew herself, Sarah explores the class with the students (as she does in all her classes). This isn’t some class where you get a talking head for 3 hours. Nope, it’s a dialogue in which the students and professor interact in a mutual desire to learn and share information. Sarah has a love for teaching and she even makes two semesters of Greek Exegesis pretty bearable; you almost like it when you leave it! One thing that I can say, on a personal level, is that Sarah is invested in her students, and she is always around to help.

This is one of many classes that you can expect to see at McCormick. Next week, we’ll be talking about one of our Christian Education/Bible classes with Lib Caldwell and Ted Hiebert.

Have questions about more of our classes?! Contact one of our student reps in the Office of Recruitment and Admissions and we’ll be happy to tell you more!

Stay tuned to see what Wes will be bringing to the table on Thursday. Until then, happy reading!

~Shelley D.

Happy almost Friday McReaders! Today we have a report on the mission trip several McCormick Students took to New Orleans this past January, written by 1st year MDiv student Stephanie Levan – you may remember her reflections in this blog post.


Is it safe?

I think it is.  It’s finally safe to come out of the woodwork on this one.

(we needed some recovery time, ya know??)

Well, Mcbloggers — I’m here to announce that McCormick went on a mission trip, and we’re ready to broadcast it to the world. [hang with me ... I know it's a long post...]

For all of you who aren’t aware — a group of 10 students and staff members from McCormick went on a week-long mission trip to New Orleans, LA on from January 21 – January 28, in partnership with RHINO.  RHINO [that is Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans] is a ministry that is supported by St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in NOLA. [they are obviously Presbyterian, given how much they seem to like acronyms] RHINO partners with Habitat for Humanity in the New Orleans area and has helped to rebuild homes since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

On a snowy January Saturday in Chicago, our crew loaded into two mini-vans, and the 10 of us made the fast-paced and windy-road journey to The Pelican State.  Stopping over in Memphis on Saturday night in order to catch a quick church league basketball game and our fill of Memphis BBQ — we welcomed the gorgeously sunny weather in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon.

With our self-proclaimed tour guide, Maureen, [or was that group-appointed??] we had the opportunity to explore our new surroundings.  We discovered the French Market, free romantic ferry rides, and red beans and rice to our hearts’ desire.  With only an instance [or 2??] of slight food poisoning and [mis]communicated directions — we were able to enjoy areas of this eclectic city that has been physically and spiritually resurrecting from the storm that hit almost 7 years ago.  The spirit and pride that radiated from the people of New Orleans was contagious … and after our orientation from our [rockstar!] RHINO coordinator Avery, we could not wait to get started on helping the rebuilding process of this fantastically spirited place.

Tuesday morning [bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ... and operating on true Presbyterian time] we met our supervising crew for the houses that we would be working on for the rest of the week.  We were divided into several groups with other small groups of volunteers, and got to work quickly!

Our groups were involved in several projects between two different houses [nicknames are my own, based solely on the responsibilities and personalities of the people involved]:

The BangerSisters: Melva, Bong, and Kristin were in charge of nailing and screwing in woodblocks in order for the drywall to be put-up by subsequent groups of people.  When their inside job was completed, they then assisted in climbing ladders and nailing on siding to the outside of the house.

The Social Climbers: Stephanie (myself!) and two other ladies who were from New York, Katie and Krista, were trained on the scaffolding in order to apply trim for the subsequent siding, and then later we put trim up around the corners of the house and nailed, cut and measured siding as well.

The Backsiders: HyungJae, Tyler, Miseon, and JungJae working on the house around the corner putting up trim and siding.  This group was probably the hardest working group of all — and you could definitely tell at the end of the week that all of their hard work paid off!

The Porch Swingers: Maureen and Jamie worked to complete a front porch on the house around the corner.  They nailed, sanded, and built a beautiful porch with railing that we’re sure will be enjoyed by the owners!

[insert pregnant lull in the background music now ... time for a more serious note...]

After one rainy morning that involved lots of coloring for the Literacy program, however, Thursday brought with it a chance to get personal tours of New Orleans, both the good and the not-so-good that has come about in the past 7 years.  After a short presentation of the history of Hurricane Katrina, we were accompanied by St. Charles Pres church members and led around the city to explore what New Orleans looked like today.  This is when reality hit for many of us.  In the 9th ward, which was one of the most deeply affected places in New Orleans, there were still piles of rubble and remnants from 7 years ago.  There were bare fields where houses once crammed together, and there were house foundations still remaining, intertwined with the grass and weeds of the field.  Of course, there was sign of new life as well — many different groups are still working to rebuild and redesign this area.  There was an obvious attempt to redefine what it means to live in New Orleans, but the scars still remain.  Just as any other wound — this one will continue to take a long time to heal.  Through our tearful tours, we could feel both the hope and the heartache of the NOLA people — all rolled up together.

This hope is what sustained our group through the last work day…

On the last day of work, we worked alongside Avery and Mike to help clear rubble from an empty lot before returning to work on our assigned houses for the week.  Of course, rubble is best cleared to the tune of an 80′s Pandora station — and we were so excited when we finished that we quickly formed an [air] rock band!  We might have gotten a bit carried away….

At the end of the week we were exhausted, sun-burned, and full of emotion.  I suppose that’s what mission trips do to people.  We have returned to McCormick with a tweaked outlook on our own lives, and with the hope that relationships and partnerships were built and will remain strong.

After all, our mission work didn’t end when we returned back to a snowy Chicago —- it began.

Good Morning McFriends!

Chicago received its first dusting of snow overnight and McCormick gets its first post by its new blogger – ME!

For my first blog I’ve decided to introduce you to a friendly face seen around campus – Yeon-Ik Park. I first met Yeon-Ik in August, as we were both taking the summer Greek intensive. Our class only had 8 students in it, and we formed a bond really quickly (that tends to happen in a class you go to twice a day, every day, for three weeks! – Prospective students, take note – the Summer Intensive is the way to go when it comes to languages if you can make it).  He’s finishing up his degree this semester, but will be in Chicago for a little while longer. He’ll be sorely missed by our community but we wish him the best of luck in his future.

Yeon Ik and his family spending a vacation in Atlanta at the World of Coca-Cola

Wes: Tell us your name and where you’re from:

Yeon-Ik: I am Yeon-Ik Park. Yeon-Ik (連翼) comes from Chinese – Yeon means ‘connect or inherit’ and Ik means ‘wing or flutter’. Namely, it means to work connecting with someone through helping and preservation. I came from South Korea.

W: Tell us a little about yourself – What did you do before coming to McCormick? What was your dream job growing up?

Y: I was born on Je-ju island, the grandest and most beautiful island in Korea. It is like Korea’s Hawaii. I am the youngest son among three children of my parents. I was raised with strong influences of Christian heritage inherited from my grand-parents. I had learned the model of God’s stewardship from my father who has been a lay person and served the church as a faithful steward. I applied to a seminary and had made up my mind to become a minister in order to practice the life.

After I graduated from the graduate school of theology at Hanshin University, I had worked on the editorial staff at the Institute of Theological Studies of the Presbyterian Church of Republic of Korea (my denomination). I have also worked as an assistant pastor in a Korean Church, Yedarm Presbyterian Church, before coming here.

W: Yeon-Ik, you’ve told me that you have also been a Chinese food delivery driver (in Korea food is delivered via motorcycles!) and a body guard in the military, how were those experiences?

Y: I was in the army from 1999 to 2001 stationed at the Army’s headquarters in Daejeon, South Korea. I served as a body guard for generals, which was fun because when we had motorcades we would be able to drive really fast. After getting out of the army it was difficult for me to break the habit of following people really closely in my car. After the army I needed extra money in order to pay tuition for seminary, so for three months I delivered food in Daejeon. In my culture, life moves really fast (빨리빨리) and people expect their food really quickly, so I had to get the food to a person’s home in less than 5 minutes!

W: Tell us about your family – Who are they and how do they like living in Chicago?

Y: I have four family members. They are – a cute and pretty daughter named Sol-Saem, who is 4 years old and going to pre-school at Ray school; a vigorous 23 month old son named In-Bum, and a lovely wife named Yoon-Jung, who worked as a social worker in a facility for people with disabilities. They like living in Chicago except a little bit about the cold weather.

W: What do you miss most about Korea? What do you like most about living in Chicago?

Y: I miss my family, the church and congregations where I worked and I miss Korea’s scenery of seas and mountains.

What I like about living in Chicago and the US is the fresh air and wider view, which is better than Korea. Korea is really densely populated and the buildings are really close together, so I’m happy to be in a place that is more wide open. Chicago is kind of like the town that I grew up in on Jeju Island, so I like that. I also like experiencing diverse cultures and people.

W: What do you do for fun?

Y: Sometimes my family and I watch Korean television programs to quench our stress and to get away from English. At times, I have fun extra times baking breads, like Korean pancakes with sugar and peanuts or steamed bread with adzuki beans or diverse muffins or pizza, and so on. After I baked the breads, I shared with my neighborhood.

W: I have been a happy recipient of the Korean pancakes and I can attest to the fact that they are absolutely delicious!

Why did you come to McCormick?

Y: After conversations with McCormick alumni, I came to consider as McCormick the school which could offer me both pastoral and theological disciplines for further ministry. I thought that it would be a great honour for me to be a part of this esteemed school as a student. I knew of the excellent educational system for the foreign students, and that I might encounter other students gathered from all around the continent and even the world in the Cross-Cultural campus that is McCormick. I came here, because I expected that I would expand both the experimental and epistemological horizon of my study.

W: What has your experience been like at McCormick, both as an international student and a cultural minority?

Y: I have experienced multiculturalism in diverse worship services, being able to interact with people of cultures, and I have been able to introduce the Korean culture to other people. Although I thought my English ability was insufficient, I was still interested in sharing my culture with McCormick community. Moreover, I felt that the community has made an effort to understand my culture.

W: What has been your favorite class at McCormick? Why?

Y: I have been taking the Greek class from last summer to now. It has been one of my favorite classes because it is taken by only a few students (8 people), and so I am easily able to share materials of this class. To study a 3rd language, which is classical, is not easy for me as I’m still trying on my 2nd language, nevertheless, I have an interest in studying and working hard in order to acquire not only Greek but also the English language.

W: What’s your favorite food?

Y: My favorite food is anything make with flour. Especially, I like breads. Of course, I also like Korean foods. So, I, sometimes, would make some breads and cookies. I learned many methods of baking breads and cookies through books and websites. Probably, unless I take a job in ministry, I will become a baker. (hahahaha)

W: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

Y: I think that Ministers/Pastors should go anywhere God calls. So, if some church or congregation calls me, I will go anywhere. So then, I haven’t decided on a place to go. However, I am convinced that God will call me as soon as I finish my courses.

I’ll be bringing you the blog once a week starting in the spring, so until then, Have a Happy Christmas and a  Wonderful New Year!

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

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.

Good morning everyone!

Folks here at McCormick don’t just work here or study here, we also do other things! One of our professors, Deb Kapp, our Urban Ministry guru, has just started her own blog on, what else?! Urban Ministry! It’s called Footloose:Thoughts on Urban Ministry. So, I sat down with Deb about her blog and what she’s up to with it. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us your name, title and what you teach here.

Deborah Kapp, Edward F. and Phyllis K. Campbell Associate Professor of Urban Ministry. I teach Urban Ministry and congregational leadership (mostly – but not exclusively – I teach the latter in the DMin program).

What made you want to start a blog?

I wanted to get some ideas into the urban conversation, and involve urban practitioners in thinking about some key dynamics of ministry in urban settings. I thought of trying to write a book about the ideas I’m interested in exploring, but then I thought that blogging might actually be a better way to share ideas, hear responses, and get some interchange going.

What do you think is the importance of doing a blog like this?

Well, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I know. I think that is part of what I will discover.

What exactly is the definition of “urban ministry?”

Ministry that takes place in an urban setting. Urban settings have large populations, dense concentrations of people, lots of heterogeneity, and lots of mobility. People and organizations function somewhat differently, I think, in the midst of the density and mobility, which is part of what I’m trying to explore in this blog.

How exactly does one ‘do’ urban ministry?

That’s another good question and there is not a single answer, or even a few good ones. There are, literally, dozens of ways to do urban ministry well. Depending on one’s ecclesiology, population, context, resources (or lack thereof), and imagination, one good urban ministry can look quite different from another.

What are some of the ways that students in the city can become involved in urban ministry here in Chicago?

One could (1) attend church regularly and get involved in a faith community and its ministry, (2) volunteer at various service agencies throughout the city, (3) get involved in some community or other organizing in the city.

How did you get into ministry yourself?

My pull to ministry was both intellectual and personal. I was always interested in religion and majored in religious studies in college—what could one do with that sort of degree except go to school again? Probably more formative was my experience with the church as a young person; the institutional church was a source of steadiness and strength to me at a couple different points in my life.

What do you get out of your own ministry?

Deep satisfaction, wonderful friendships, the privilege of sharing life with others, and a persistent intellectual challenge. It’s never boring.

Well, there you have it good people. Just one more way that our faculty and staff are reaching out to the broader community and encouraging the students to do the same!

Until next time!


Shelley D.

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