Sunday, May 29, 2011
I really miss daily chapel at LSTC, but I managed to find an ELCA Lutheran congregation not too far from where I'm staying. I showed up this morning to see the sign reading, "No family in the area? Join ours!" It's almost as if this sign was put up, just for me. The service was great. It was my comforting high liturgy, with ELW hymns, even though LBWs were in the backs of the pews. There was even some gender-inclusive language for God snuck in there! After service, there was a small potluck, to which almost every member of the congregation asked me to attend as a visitor. It felt awesome to be welcomed into this little southern family, since my heart misses my LSTC family and my, you know, biological family. One of the ushers told me that if anything could go wrong with this congregation is that they could love me too much.
I think I'm okay with that possibility. :)
Saturday, May 28, 2011
And I suspect this will be the hardest part of senior year: knowing I could be a pastor but am not one yet. Well at least not beyond the priesthood of all believers sense of things. But I love my congregation and understand their plea for me to stay.
I accept that change is necessary for growth... but goodness it's a difficult beast.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
After 9 months of internship, it seems I'm finally getting the hang of this ministry thing. The rhythms. The patterns. The way death and life weave together continually. I'm finding what brings me life and what wears me out. And I have to say, I enjoy it. Though I get weary, this ministry thing is wonderful.
Being there for people when they are grieving and celebrating that life with them. Celebrating being a woman with women of all ages with a fun "Hat Show" and a Salad Luncheon despite the rain that continues and our leaking church roof. The joy of sitting down with people who have just had back surgery or are healing from a hip replacement. Commiserating with high schoolers and college kids who are more than ready to be done with school.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."--Lincoln
The shirts that my mom picked out are of the style where you buy a separate collar and posts to go with it. Not only do you get measured for the length of the collar, but you have to decide if you want a 1", 2" or 3" collar, a pontiff (stiffer material) or Clericool (more flexible plastic collar with air vents...and lemon-scented...?), and if you want short or long shanked posts. Whew. There are so many decisions! My mom and I made the trip out to the store where she ordered my shirts from and I began trying on collars to find the right fit. The store clerk and I eventually found the one that best fit my neck and shirt. I turned to look at my mom and the look on her face was priceless. She said, "I'm sorry. I'm having a moment right now." I haven't seen that look on my mom's face since I walked downstairs in my homecoming dress during my freshman year of high school.
I'm reminded, in these little moments, that the call to ministry is not solely my own, but it is of the community, which includes my dear mother. My mom continues to walk hand and hand in this journey of seminary and discernment and I thank her for that.
Graphic from http://www.askthepriest.org/askthepriest/2005/09/why_the_collar.html
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I had a similar moment last weekend at our spring lock-in. We took the kids cosmic bowling (I am an atrocious bowler), and around midnight, we discovered the bowling alley clocked mileage on the balls. One of our youth decided to see how fast he could bowl. Turns out a brawny 16-year-old can throw a bowling ball down the lane at over 21 mph. There I stood, in too large bowling shoes, utterly exhausted in the middle of the night, high-fiving a kid whose bowling technique leaves you afraid that at any moment he might lose control and send a bowling ball at you at 21 mph, but who is totally delighted at his accomplishment. Being pastor in that role, in that place, is pretty great. I could make a career out of this.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The most obvious difference was that LSTC's graduation was incorporated into a worship service, eucharist and all. When I graduated from my undergraduate school, which is a Catholic school, we had a graduation mass, but it was completely separate from commencement itself. I know what you're thinking, "Duh, Meredith. You're graduating seminary. Of course it's a worship service!" It's still different and I like it. I like that graduating four years of theological education, for MDivs, or any number of other years for MA degrees, doctoral degrees and so forth, is worship. It's still a step in our relationships with God. We are so, so, so blessed to be able to be studying in this academic institution.
Another difference between LSTC and my sister's New Jersey law school graduation?
The women were wearing much more sensible shoes at LSTC!
So, congratulations LSTC Class of 2011! You have all been fantastic leaders and role models in the church and I wish you the best in your continued ministry.
This picture is from the http://gadgether.com/18-weird-stiletto-designs/ And, no, no law school graduates or LSTC grads wore these "shoes."
Friday, May 13, 2011
Last night I went to Thusday night basketball at LSTC for the last time. During my first two years at seminary, these weekly evenings of basketball shaped my experience here as much as anything. It was when I got to know my classmates beyond the classroom, when we poured out the pent-up energy of our sedentary student lives, and, like the Bulls finally beating the Pistons in ’91, conquered our demons – er, our professors – by winning the annual Student v. Faculty/Staff game for the first time ever. (And yes, our t-shirt jerseys did say “Here We Slam: We Can Do No Other.”)
When I first started going to basketball nights, I stayed pretty quiet. I ran around a lot and played hard on defense, but I didn’t have the confidence to take an active role on offense, didn’t shoot or drive or otherwise take my turn at center stage. But over time, week after week, I slowly grew into my role. I never became D-Rose – that’s not me – but I started taking my open shots, my threes and fast breaks and midrange jumpers. I took an active role alongside teammates who had their own gifts and skills and passions. I found my place.
I didn’t go to Thursday night basketball much this year; it has a different vibe now, and for much of the year I couldn’t bring myself to adapt yet again. Senior year has been hard like that. But last night I went again, one last time. It was hard at first, as it always is, adjusting to a new group of people and finding your place in their midst. But the Spirit moves, even on the hardwood, even when it’s late in the game. By the end of the night, we were running on all cylinders, like a well-oiled machine, or at least like a rusty old jalopy…whatever. We played the game. We finished well. We lived.
In the morning I woke early for graduation rehearsal, one last huddle before Sunday afternoon, when we’ll run our final play before the buzzer sounds on this seminary series and we turn, finally, to face whatever comes next.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
What a weekend!!! I spent some time with my friends from OR at the “Glocal” Mission Gathering. We spent Friday evening and most of Saturday talking about the relationship of local and global mission, and how we need to better in both. We heard some excellent speakers, and even saw a one woman musical/drama, that was superb highlighting ecological responsibilities and the theology that informs it. An amazing opportunity, which I was informed about through my friends who were speakers at the event, but we were able to allow four other LSTC students by asking for scholarships from our school. There were 5 of us as participants, there were a couple more that were speakers, talking about their experiences in Young Adult and Global Missions. The food was amazing, the music was quite inspiring, and the community blossomed. I think this all happened in good time, as we go our separate ways, because we are able to leave remembering the entirety of the church. Although many of these I will not see for months, I take joy in the work they do, some as close as Chicago, others in New York and Minneapolis, and of course my friends in Oregon always working hard for the marginalized. We will all be busy, but I like knowing we are busy together, hands dirty together, being the church together.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
And really, I think they're my favorite because tattoo artists, perhaps better than most people, can understand the absolute unique faith that every individual has. Just as a person's body is their own personal canvas for beautiful ink and piercings, each person's heart and mind are uniquely linked to God. Their faith is as individual as they are.
Today, I went with a friend to get a new piece on her ankle. We were in the shop for 3.5 hours, swapping stories about how we were raised, how we express our faith, the stories behind our ink, and how we will raise (or are raising) our kids to believe that there is no one answer. In this artist's words: "There are 6.5 billion answers."
So here's to Ink Talks and finding space and time to talk about God in all the places no one expects.
(Photo from http://derek.broox.com)
Friday, May 6, 2011
We gathered outside, on the grassy courtyard lawn, grateful for the return of springtime, and gave thanks for our baptism. As many have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Allelluia! Then we took off our shoes, and walked inside through the baptismal pool, getting good and wet on our way into the sanctuary.
As I dipped my own feet into the storied waters, my heart flooded with memories. If was as if they were surging up from the very water itself. I remembered my first end-of-the-year chapel service, when as a first-year I watched graduating seniors walk through these same waters, shedding a tear or two, smiling, laughing, crying, embracing. I remembered the last service before I left campus for internship and study abroad, a different sort of service: a commendation of the dying for one of our professors who was facing a terminal illness. When we walked through the waters that time, tears falling, she stood at the end of the pool to greet us, arms open, as we emerged, dripping wet. Now, a week from graduation, I walk through the water again, one last time, remembering, remembering everything.
Professor Satterlee says the gospel is like a river, and that’s what it’s been for me here at LSTC, flowing through classes and classmates and everything in between. Now that river sends me out again, sends us all out, down new tributaries, to new people and new places, where, dripping wet, we’ll live out the gospel anew.
At the end of the service, we gathered around the cross, joined hands, were blessed with one more reminder of who and whose we are, and were sent out, finally, into the wide, wide world. Then we sang another song – guide my feet, Lord – and danced ourselves right out the doors.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
You could probably get through most of seminary without saying much. Just sit in the back of every class, taking notes behind your computer. Write a paper when you need to, take a test every now and then. Chances are you won’t really be put on the spot very much. But you can’t hide in Preaching class. In Preaching, sooner or later, you will be the center of all attention. As Dr. Satterlee’s syllabus for our Advanced Preaching class this semester says, “Your professor regards your sermons as real. I suspect your classmates do as well. We expect to hear the gospel proclaimed from you. We expect the Holy Spirit to show up. Decide that your preaching is real and prepare and preach accordingly.”
Yes, at times you can feel a bit exposed. All the more so when you go up there without a manuscript or notes, as a few of us challenged ourselves to do this final week of class. And even more when about a third of the way through your sermon you’re looking your classmates in the eyes and you realize your mind is blank. To use a metaphor of Dr. Satterlee’s, you feel like a trapeze artist who has let go of the bar, only to realize the next bar is nowhere to be found.
But you know there is grace in the room. There is no condemnation here. This is a workshop, a space in which to experiment. So you relax, take a breath, and just start talking again. Because you’ve done your preparation. You know the Gospel you wanted to preach. And it comes back – not exactly in the way you had planned, but powerfully none the less. And they get the message. The hear the good news. Because the Holy Spirit showed up.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Because he can take a rib.
Last Wednesday we celebrated Holy Humor night at Atonement. Holy Humor night is a modern version of the ancient tradition of “Bright Sunday,” a day of parties and laughter to celebrate the resurrection as “God’s supreme joke on death.” At Atonement, we celebrated with terrible puns, upbeat music, and Peep dioramas. It was great fun.
Seems weird to be writing about something as trivial as peeps and bad jokes, given the events of the last few weeks. Tornadoes in the south, flooding in the northeast and Midwest, revolutions and military states and whether or not to celebrate death, even the death of one who caused so much pain and suffering and death. But as I reflect back on this odd juxtaposition, I find I am even more grateful for the opportunity to find joy in the midst of confusion.
Christ died, and when the women showed up at the tomb it must have seemed like the end, must have felt like all hope was lost. And then, unexpectedly, but with perfect comedic timing, he arrives again, and is mistaken for the gardener. I can’t always see through the complicated mess we make of this world. But I know that no matter how dark things get, silly things like Peep dioramas and bad jokes always make me smile. And smiling always seems to bring light. And I believe that in the midst of it all, God’s final word is resurrection.
Monday, May 2, 2011
I woke up early today realizing that my volunteering to pray at 8 AM class was now a new responsibility. This is what I wrote. This is how I feel.
We praise you this morning for another day; we praise you for the sunlight through the weekend. For the blossoms on the trees and tulips of many colors greeting us on our walks. Thank you for the peace from such a great weekend and all that we were able to accomplish or not with such a great distraction
We come to you today in a frenzy of emotions… While finals were trumped by live news, while readings were replaced with presidential addresses and facebook was replacing normative Sunday night statuses, with words leaning from righteous victory to sobering anguish. Help us realize your will in these situations.
As David mourned for Saul his friend, enemy, and family, let us mourn for Bin Laden, help us realize that this death is not redemptive, and that those who fell at his hands cannot be brought back with the death of one or 1000, help us to realize that redemption lives in love, love of a God sending his one and only son for our sins. Help us to remember a man that said father forgive them for they know not what they do, and help us to say mother forgive them, even if they know what they do.
We ask you to be with those who suffer, those who feel like 10 years ago was still only ten seconds ago. Give joy to the saddened, peace to the angry, perspective to the perplexed, and comfort to the weary.
Help us remember that at a time like this, we did not solve the problem of war, injustice, hunger, poverty, extremism, or even terrorism. Help us remember while we killed one deliberately, many more have died and will continue to involuntarily pass from this earth from sickness, hunger, and lack of shelter. Also help us remember that many still struggle under oppressive rule and the threat of violence and persecution.
We hope in the day where love will unite us in a way death did last night, and when we realize the life of Christ day in and day out, creating a kingdom on earth that is a witness to the Gospel. Until then we live in the hope of the Redeemer, and ask the Spirit to sustain us and give us peace in this trying time.
In the name of the risen Christ,
Sunday, May 1, 2011
We've been talking about this and praying about it so much that it's started to become normalized to me. I forget that I'm saying goodbye to my first year of seminary and the intense feelings (I would imagine) that others are experiencing in their various "goodbyes" and "hellos."
I had the opportunity to worship this weekend with the congregation that I'll be doing MIC (Ministry In Context) at next year. It was crazy because without knowing that I was going to be attending, the pastor put my name in the bulletin to introduce me to the congregation. He also had a note to invite people to Travis's last service, since Travis is finishing up his year of MIC there currently.
It was a good reminder for me that these transitions are not just about us. It's not just those of us gathering in Augustana Chapel for worship during the week. The transitions are also about the congregations and site placements preparing to receive us. Peace and prayers to those receiving all of us!
**Picture from http://www.shepherdofthehill.com/**