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Seminary | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Seminary


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!

Peace!

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!

Peace,

Wes

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).

Dirk

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.

Melva

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.

Greetings friends! After a rejuvenating Thanksgiving break, the CURE is back! This week I wanted to bring you Thanksgiving reflections, and happened to read the blog of one of my great friends here at McCormick, Tyler Orem. He wrote exactly what I was hoping for, and so with his permission, we’re re-blogging his original post.  Tyler is in his second year and is completing a dual MDiv and MSW. He’s also one of McCormick’s great deacons! Enjoy his post!

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Before Thanksgiving I had the usual weekly joy of spending Wednesday evening with the middle schoolers of Knox Presbyterian Church, Naperville. We had recently completed a rather dull study by Tim Keller, so I had the freedom to make a stand-alone Thanksgiving lesson. The challenge was how to move beyond the annual “What are you thankful for?” discussion into something that might actually carry some meaning. Thinking about what should be soul-crushing irony in celebrating the cooperation and mutuality between First Nation peoples and European settlers, I decided to have a discussion about how we as relatively new people on the land have given thanks to those who were here before us.

I had my Charlie Brown clip all set up and was prepared to get up on my soapbox to rail against the systemic evils that resulted in the founding of our country and permeate society to this day. In short, I was ready to use my bully pulpit as the middle school leader to teach 600 years of oppression, destruction, and genocide in 20 minutes to a group of pre-teens excited about getting a short break from school.

Within the first 3 minutes I realized that my method was madness. This is a bright group of kids, and they were getting the intellectual gist of it. But my ambitious lecturing was obviously not having the desired meaningfulness. So, I quickly switched to the Charlie Brown Mayflower clip in which the Pilgrims learn agriculture from horrifyingly caricatured “Indians” and then sit down to feast. My goal was to point out how the characters were portrayed and how the tables for feasting were segregated.

Then one of my students raised a hand and said, “It’s like the Native Americans have to sit at the kids’ table.”

With that single observation, every person in the room got it. The sixth-grader gave infinitely more meaning to the lesson than anything I was going to teach. Kids have been relegated to the lesser table all of their lives and have a keen awareness of what it means to be pushed to the side, ignored, and patronized. The analogy for First Nation peoples is surely incomplete and too mild, but it works perfectly to help middle schoolers feel and understand.

My ongoing prayer is that we ever seek to make the table for feasting open and abundant, that there might be enough room at the mesa for all to sit together and share their lives.

In reflecting on this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my expanding family whose love never ceases to amaze me, for the adventures being lived by my brother and cousins, for friends who regularly join my family, and for middle schoolers who speaker and understand with a profundity beyond me.

Grazie, Naa-ni, Arigatou, and Again I Say, “Thank You.”

I did not plan on being a church planter. And, I don’t mean that in a God-was-calling-me-there-but-I-refused-to-listen-to-God’s-voice kind of way. It was literally not even a blip on my radar. So, when the opportunity came up to be a planting pastor with Urban Village Church, an initiative with the UMC, I really had to think on it.

I began talking with Trey Hall and Christian Coon, the lead pastors of UVC about a year ago. At the same time, they were having conversations with Benjamin Reynolds, a PhD student at Chicago Theological Seminary who had pastored a large African American Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs. I was caught by how they really listened, were responsive, and sought to follow the Spirit’s lead in their own discernment about us as their partners in ministry. I realized that, in a risky endeavor like church planting, it was important for me to know I had passionate, dynamic, and intelligent partners who would not only recognize and value the gifts and experiences that I brought to the table, but also take me seriously as a partner. I didn’t plan on church planting, but once I accepted the call, I became excited. It was the best intersection of my gifts and passions: creative communications, graphic design, organization, seeing the gospel change lives, and having fun.

So, why plant churches in time of mainline decline? The simple answer is that there are people who want to engage questions of spirituality and faith, but they are not finding what they need. Rather than paint with a broad brushstroke, I will speak to the particular context where Benjamin and I are doing our work. In my conversations with folks (most, but not all, of whom were young adults) in the Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighborhoods, I have come across 4 types – People who have:

1)  given up trying to find something in the neighborhood and go somewhere else.

2)  given up trying to find a church and don’t go to church.

3)  settled on a place, but aren’t all that satisfied

4)  been burned or rejected by the church at some point.

Many people are looking for a sense of connection and community; where someone notices when they’ve been away or knows to ask about what’s happening in their lives. They are also looking for a place where their questions are not ignored but taken seriously and engaged; where doubt is not equated with unbelief. Additionally, families are looking for a place where their children can be equipped to think about faith and faithful living that is rooted in the gospel with intelligence and meaning. There is also a unique need that UVC on the south side can address: being a faith community that welcomes and affirms people of color (and their families) across the spectrum of sexual orientation. Finally, our vision for Urban Village as a whole (and particularly on the south side) is to be a multi-racial faith community that does not minimize difference but engage it for the sake of being a fuller expression of God’s kindom.

McCormick was important in equipping me with certain tools in this work:

  • Developing a posture of life-long learning
  • Opportunities for engaging in conversations with people who come from a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences
  • A network of creative colleagues who both support and challenge me
  • Knowledge of ministry in an urban context (particularly Chicago)
  • Public speaking and preaching
  • Supportive faculty and staff
  • Tools for shaping creative liturgy and worship

There are other key tools that McCormick did not (and in some cases, could not) equip me with, so I had to learn or obtain elsewhere:

  • Perseverance
  • Humor
  • Graphic design and marketing
  • Organization/Administration
  • External networks and connections
  • Creative ways to do evangelism/outreach
  • The nuts and bolts of church planting
  • The practice of trying to do church differently
  • Community organizing

Being a church planter is hard work! You have to put yourself out there again and again, initiating conversations with people, risking rejection and judgement on a daily basis. But, I do not regret my decision. There is something very powerful and humbling about the work of planting churches. You get a front row seat in bearing witness to the kind of work that God can do through a broken vessel (moi) to help make the neighborhood just a little bit better and the gospel just a little more present in the world.

This is a brief overview of some aspects of my work as a church planter. If you have questions or are interested in church planting and would like to join Benjamin and myself in this work, feel free to contact me at emcginley@mccormick.edu

In a recent daily meditation for the Center for Action and Contemplation, Father Richard Rohr wrote that “you never think yourself into a new way of living. You invariably live yourself into a new way of thinking.”

That reality has always been relatively clear to me – especially when it comes to faith and the gospels; but it became even more clear several weeks ago when I participated the 2012 Western National Leadership Training in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.   Futurist M. Rex Miller, author of The Millenium Matrix, was the keynote speaker for this annual conference and his topic was “Developing Leadership in Changing Times.”

Miller’s starting premise for both his book and presentation was as follows:  In the beginning was the Word….[and] what happens when you change the container of the Word.   In other words, the new ways (aka containers) in which and through which we communicate, are encouraging (even compelling) us to live into new ways of thinking about words and the Word, about institutions and about leadership.

He took us on a brief tour of the cultural containers in which both religion and society have operated (terms and dates coined by Miller):

In the Oral culture  – aka ancient (? BC- 1500), the credibility of the word was that of the person who spoke it.

In the Print culture  – aka Modern (1500-1950),  we began to see the word as idea, more than as relational.

In the Broadcast culture – aka Post Modern (1950-2010), the word became experiential;

and

In the Digital culture – aka Convergent (2010 –), the word both becomes and facilitates conversations.

The implications for society and certainly for faith and religion are downright mind boggling, at least for someone like me, who didn’t become conversant with digital until I was already into adulthood .  The digital age has changed our understanding of what it means to be relational, accessible, and communal.  We are indeed living into new ways of thinking that are happening so quickly that we barely have time to adjust to one adaptation before another has taken its place.

When Miller showed us a brief video from YouTube, I was struck by how much I still have to learn.  I encourage you to open the link and let this speak for itself.  Ask yourself if you could have imagined (if you are not a late Gen-Xer or a Millenial) such a scenario.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meyh9BFe-9Q

The digital age is changing the way we lead, the way we think, and the way in which we see the world.   Miller points out that “the changing technology of communication has also fundamentally altered the character of the church” (p. 140), despite the slowness (and even reluctance) of many to live into this new way of being.  As we become familiar with and integrated into what it means to live in an interactive culture, we will embrace these opportunities for teaching and learning, for worship, leadership  and communication.

The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins, lest the wineskins break, the wine be spilled and both wine and wineskins be ruined (9:17).   The digital era – and the emerging convergent church — are the new wine, searching for appropriate spiritual and institutional structures that will flex and expand to embrace “the connected intimacy and simultaneity of the [new] digital culture” (Miller, p. 143).

Are you ready?

Today we continue on our in depth look at relationships and how life is affected by being in seminary. A large portion of our students, both commuter and residential, have families. As such, people with spouses and children face a unique set of circumstances while studying to fulfill God’s call on their lives. I’m no expert on the subject, so I’ve asked two fellow class mates to share their perspectives – Jeff Courter and Ken Crews. Jeff and Ken are both second year students- I have asked them to share because they have had experiences living on and off campus, being full and part time, having a spouse also in school, etc. I feel like their two stories help to show what it’s really like for folks with families to study at McCormick.

First up is Jeff:

Living in the residential building with my wife and children has been interesting, to say the least, especially now that my wife is also going to school.  Five students in one family – someone please stop the madness!  Books and papers are everywhere.  We don’t have family meals – we graze, like sheep.  We have become a small band of hunter-gatherers, foraging in the refrigerator in search of nourishment to keep us alive, stopping at exotic stores like Aldi’s or Save-A-Lot to stock up on food to be consumed without having to be cooked.  We have acquired a taste for raw produce.

How does this lifestyle affect my seminary studies?  My apartment life has become a lab experiment in communal tribal living…this living arrangement is intentional and happenstance at the same time.  We live in a mixture of organization and chaos…It is not painless, and we have each seen more challenges in our lives than we have ever undergone until now.  Negotiating conflicting schedules, adjusting to using public transportation instead of driving in suburbia, now being connected more by school breaks on the calendar than by family events – this year has added new stresses to our family life.  Yet each one of us looks forward to a brighter future, each of us anticipating doing what we love to do in new careers.  After all, that’s the promise and premise of education – to enable and equip us to fully engage in a vocation, in the fullest sense John Calvin used that term.

For me personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed living with and among colleagues and peers.  I get to discuss things that most Americans avoid – spiritual issues!  It’s a little like being part of an underground culture, without the persecution and oppression (thank God for that!).  For me, the community of faith is essential.  It’s what we are called to build.  It’s the embodiment of the Kingdom of God in our world.  It’s why I came here, and what I long to help develop and create.

This has been an exciting time for me.  I have learned from women and men who have great learning, who have devoted much of their lives to research and are handing that experience down to us -  not only on subjects like theology, history and languages, but also essential knowledge about practicing spirituality and self-care, and understanding human relationships in pastoral ministry.  McCormick’s instructors are some of the most interesting and caring people I have ever met.

I have also met some of the most enthusiastic and committed men and women as fellow students.  My hope for both our denomination and the greater Christian Church has grown, due to seeing and hearing from my peers.  What excites me is being able to share my vision, and hear the vision of others, which are often similar to mine.  It’s like “we get it” together, seeing our responsibility to social justice, to the transforming good news of Jesus Christ, to our stewardship of God’s creation, and to a greater sharing of love and fellowship to the world.  These students are my partners in a Christian movement of transformation of our world, from what it is to what God wants it to be.  While our callings and paths may diverge after this time together, we are linked in this great endeavor, and will carry one another from this place in our hearts and memories.

This is a transitional time for all of us.  Many come to McCormick with new relationships – new families, new spouses, new children…many come here after relationships end.   We also establish new relationships while we are here!  But most of us will go forth from here to someplace else; our time together is temporary, and we understand this.

Even so, whether permanent or temporary, life is all about relationships.  People will come and go in our lives, some for longer periods of time than others, some affecting us more than others.  Some become relationships we call family, and some become our spiritual family.  McCormick is an institution devoted to helping us grow and develop our relationships with God and one another.  To me, this is the most important lesson we can ever learn.  Our relationships define us, and affect our families, our churches, our societies, and our world.  Even temporary relationships are important, and can change us permanently.  Relationships are like any other growing and living thing – they must be nourished and attended to in order to thrive.  We must be intentional in our interactions with one another, in order to make our relationships positive ones.

My family is changing, as all families do.  Two of my children are in college, and my youngest is applying for college.  My wife has returned to college. Seminary and college are each a preparatory and transitory phase in most of our lives.  My children are moving on with their lives.  My wife and I will move on from here as well when I am finished with my studies.  While this is not my last year, the day is coming when I will finish and leave McCormick.  I will likely grieve having to leave, because I love being here.  But this is a preparatory phase, not a final destination.  There is a larger objective for us outside McCormick.

I sometimes think of McCormick like a sort of cyclotron – a particle energizer which accelerates subatomic particles towards the speed of light.  The more I learn, the more I accelerate, and the more energy I absorb, it seems.  Sometimes I am anxious to burst forth and do what I came here to be equipped to do – ministry!  I love being here, but I am also ready to be sent forth, like the disciples of Jesus.  The day for me to go forth is coming quickly – life moves fast, as my family life has shown me.

Meanwhile, I am trying to make the most of every minute, every learning experience, and every relationship I have while I am here.  The more energy I absorb, the more I will take with me.

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Last, but certainly not least, is Ken:

What was I thinking when I responded to God’s call to attend seminary? The reading assignments alone can be a full-time job (thanks Ken and Bob!), not to mention actually having to attend class, write papers, try to conjure up some creative idea for a PIF project, and make time for the occasional study break! Now add two children (Owen 9, Evelyn 5), a wife (Heather, you can ask her age!), a dog (the amazingly lazy, Sasha), a part-time job, and a commute to and from Indiana everyday to the mix and you have yourself quite the adventure. While all of this creates a rather demanding time schedule, I wouldn’t trade any of it for all the riches in this world. Why? Because, I am precisely where God wants me to be. I am able to engage in deep conversation with wonderful friends in a unique community, and at the end of the day be delighted when my daughter, Evelyn, finds it comical that she and dad are both learning their letters – English for her, and Greek for me!

Be assured, this adventure is only possible because of the support of many amazing family and friends. It has meant that my wife, Heather, had to return to full-time work outside of the home because I left a well paying job to follow God’s call. She never hesitated, and has always supported me in my journey. It has required many family and friends to sacrifice time to look after our children as I pursue my studies and Heather works full-time, and it has required that my children sacrifice time with mom and dad while we’re both away from the home more. Sometimes it has even required professors and EA’s to sacrifice classroom space when my kids had to sit through class with me (thanks Paula, Katie, and Sylvia!!!).

Although attending McCormick has required quite a bit of sacrifice, it has been so much more rewarding. My family and I have grown closer to one another because of all the change in our lives, and we have all grown closer to God as we move along this path together. We are always discovering new ways in which we come together as a family, and new ways in which God is working in our lives and providing for us as we move along the journey. Our journey through seminary as a family is proof that God uses many unique people in many unique ways to accomplish the work of divine love.

May God bless and keep you all, and your families (whatever shape they take!)….

So there we have it! If you have questions pertaining to your family, don’t be afraid to ask the friendly Admissions office workers, or even our dean of Students.

We’re not done with this series yet, so keep checking back for more students responding to what it’s been like for them and their relationships while in seminary!

Peace and Blessings,

Wes

McCormick has been preparing women and men for ministry for well over 150 years, and today on the CURE you’ll get an insiders look at what life is like when you leave the classroom and get into the ministry God has called you to! I’ve asked two recent McCormick grads to share  about their lives after seminary and how McCormick helped shape them to live into their calls. Sharing is 2012 M.Div graduate TC Anderson who works as the director of Youth Ministry at at the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights and 2012 MTS Graduate Ryan Wallace, an organizer for the Civic Action network.

Up first is TC Anderson-

Did McCormick prepare me for my ministry? Yee…. Nnnn…. nes! It’s a complicated answer, so allow me to try and flush it out. First, I’m working in youth ministry because that’s where I’m called. I knew that going into seminary and it hasn’t changed. McCormick is very much focused on ministry from the pulpit. This does not mean that there aren’t classes or even professors geared towards other areas of ministry, just that the majority of what I was learning was for ministry from the pulpit. That being said, I think that McCormick did exactly what I needed McCormick to do to prepare me for my ministry going forward. I needed something to deepen my own faith, I needed something to expand my understanding of my religion, I needed something to connect me with other Theologians who both agree and disagree with me so that I could stay in contact with them when I needed to talk about this ministry. McCormick did all these things. Having worked in ministry for 7 years before going to McCormick I didn’t need a class to tell me what to expect in that ministry field. I have found that books and lessons can only take you so far in that respect anyway. Hardly ever does a problem happen exactly like one of your case studies. The only real way to prepare us for the ministry is to strengthen our faith, give us a support net, and increase the amount of knowledge we have about our beliefs, the rest is experiential. So I guess my answer, now that I’ve flushed it out more, is yes. McCormick did exactly what I needed to be done to prepare me for this crazy, unexpected, difficult, fulfilling thing called ministry. Thank you McCormick!

TC's ministry in Action!

And finally, Ryan Wallace –

I began in the MDiv program at McCormick in the fall of 2010, just a couple of months after formally initiating my ordination process in the Chicago Presbytery. I had sensed a call to congregational ministry from a very young age, but I entered McCormick with a genuine uncertainty about my future. I never felt reason to question my call to ministry, per se. It’s just that, as I grew older, the world got bigger and so did my notion of what “ministry” might mean.

And then, McCormick pried open my world more yet. Fellow students, professors, and classes challenged me to think about myself, my ministry, and the Church in new ways. I learned the difference between charity and justice. I reckoned with my identity as a straight white American male from a well-to-do suburb. And I came to the somewhat difficult realization that I don’t need to be Rev. Ryan Wallace to do God’s work in my community.

In February, I reclassified my degree from MDiv to Master of Theological Studies. And though I’m still in prayerful conversation about my ordination, I’m still not sure what, if any, formal leadership position I may one day hold in the Presbyterian Church. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that I am called to the ministry I’m now doing.

Today, I am a congregational organizer with the Civic Action Network at the Community Renewal Society, a 130 year-old Chicago organization that addresses racism and poverty through community organizing. Our network is comprised of some eighty-odd churches across the Chicago metropolitan area. I am the organizer for our member churches in Lake County and suburban Cook County. Ultimately, my goal is to develop leaders in those congregations who can mobilize its members to act as a force for change. Each year, we listen to the people in our churches to understand the issues they face in their communities, and together we build campaigns to create positive change. We fight for jobs for ex-offenders, housing for those without it, adequate funding for all our children’s schools, and gun control in our communities among other issues.

In our modern culture, I believe the Church is becoming irrelevant because we too often deliver a message about eternal salvation to a people who need and long for a message about salvation in the here and now. We, the Church, often declare our vision—full of love—for God’s kingdom on earth. But seldom do we acknowledge our latent power and set out to use it for the fulfillment of that vision. Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Power without love is tyranny, and love without power is sentimentality.” With his words in mind, let’s refuse to be the sentimental Church who dreams only of what could be or might be, and instead become the Church that plays a powerful role in the building of our communities that will be.

Thanks so much to TC and Ryan. I hope you’ve seen a little about the paths McCormick students might take after leaving seminary – but their stories are only two of the many many voices to be heard, so I encourage you to come and visit McCormick, talk to our students and faculty, speak with Alumni and see for yourself what McCormick can do for you and the ministry that God has called you to.

Our Fall Inquiry into Ministry is right around the corner – so take advantage! Register here: Fall IIM Registration

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