Friday, 21 February 2003

Four of us had a very cathartic conversation after New Testament yesterday morning. It began as the now normal complaining about the unreasonable work load, a very chopped up daily schedule, the lack of emphasis on spiritual considerations, a very unbalanced and unhealthy expectation, a counter-production curriculum-wide pedagogy, a general sense of helplessness, extreme fatigue, and a developing attitude of "to hell with it all." I'm not exaggerate We are all feeling this right now, and there may be some who will say, "everyone goes through this and you will survive," but that does mean that the system is healthy, productive, or anywhere near accomplishing in a POSITIVE way the formation of priests for the Episcopal Church. There is a difference in formation of a system that pushes development from negativity and one the pushes development in a positive manner. We may learn from either one, but the former produces cynical, discouraged, angry, and malformed priests. Is that what the Episcopal Church needs or General Seminary intends?

It isn't a matter of poor instruction or a lacking curriculum. It is a matter of poor cooperation and coordination among many of the faculty and administration in identifying the core elements that every new priest should come away with, then focusing everything from class schedules, chapel schedules, curriculum rotation, core information in every class, to a designed method of spiritual growth to accomplish the core elements identified. This term, as well as last, I find the course very interesting (although some things last term were busy work!). I WANT to study. I WANT to read all the books. I WANT to process the information. I WANT to learn! But, there is not time to process; there is no time to wrestle with the material; there is no time to think about how this is going to affect me, my ministry, or those I come into contact with everyday. As things stand right now, we are cramming information as best we can (sloppily at that) in order to write papers and take exams. That may be how much of k-12 or undergraduate education currently is in this country, but we are not being prepared to be accountants, or artists, or physical therapists, or higher education professionals, we are training to be priests - the ones that, as Hailey said, are supposed to be showing the world a different way. If all we do is replicate the American educational system and American cultural ways in this place, how then are we to learn a different way, the Way of Christ, the way of sanity in community? It won't happen, and I don't really think it is happening. As Wendy feels - are we helpless to do anything?

YET! I realize that even in the this negative and counterproductive environment, we are in a place were we can learn, albeit from a point of negativity. If we cannot learn here, were there is at least a sense of learning for learnings sake, to understand that God's agenda for us individually may very well not be the agenda of others. We can learn to say no, or to understand that God is in control of our ministry and lives rather than other people or institutions. We can learn to step out of the rat-race, to step out of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations of others, and live that different kind of life - the Way of Christ. The great men and women of the faith have done just that, and here we have the opportunity to learn to do just that, from their example. Not only that, but we have the ability to learn to do that as "normal" people - and be examples to our parishioners how they, too, as normal people can live the Way of Christ - powerfully, radically, positively. If we cannot learn how to do that here - to have the strength, the guts, the integrity, the honesty - then how in the world are we going to do it when we get into parish life? If we cannot have an honest understanding of how to stand and be in God's Way (enormously count-culture) here, then where?

Here is the laboratory, here is the place to do such things, but it means we have to give up our notions of success, our compulsion to compare ourselves to one another, and our determination to get good grades, or to please others (our professors, Bishops, Commissions on Ministry). We have to lay down our lives before God and ask, "What am I to be doing?" Then, to listen. Then, to do, regardless of the ramifications or outcomes. Yes, regardless, for if we are in the place and attitude God has for us (together, but it starts with the individual), then we have to be willing to give up everything, EVERYTHING - the priesthood, the insecurities, the fears, the anxieties, our preconceived notions about everything, our ideas of success, and those things that we think give us our self-identity. If we do that, if we give up our lives to be in the place of Christ, then that is when we get back a life that is free, at peace, joyful, with purpose, and with power. We give up, and God gives back to us far more than we could ever hope for or expect. Are we willing to do that? Are we willing to learn how to do that? In means jumping off the precipice. It means giving up everything, but here is the place were we could try in an environment where the ramifications may not be quite as sever and where there are people all around who will be there to help! Can we learn, with positive outcomes, even in negative environments? In Christ, all things are possible! Yes, we can, but it means a change in attitude, a change in desire, and a change from looking to the systems of this world to looking to the Way of Jesus Christ. What do we want most? Is it Jesus? Is it God's will? I pray I will be that place, and learn to be in that place always.

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