When “Feet” just mean Feet

karen slappeyKaren Slappey is a seminarian, beer snob, tipper of sacred cows, and that blue dot in the midst of the political red sea that is North Georgia.  She is a mother and wife.  Campfire is her favorite smell, and she thinks Jesus probably looked like Sayid from Lost.  She has aspirations to live in a yurt and raise chickens. She is pursuing ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

[If you can’t tell from her bio, Karen is a fun, witty gal whose time in seminary has given her much comedic material to use in her non-existent standup comedy routine. Below is a glimpse into the funniness of pursuing God in Seminary.]

So, I just finished my first year in seminary, and while that feels like a major accomplishment, I realize that 1) I am not even half way through this crazy endeavor; there are two more grueling years ahead of me, and b) I don’t know anything.

Really.

I mean, I learned lots of stuff.  Good stuff.  Stuff that might help me in bar trivia, or in a Bible verse search competition, but the really hard stuff? Nope. There was no “hard stuff you will be asked by your parishioners” class and Candler School of Theology is definitely not like Hogwart’s.  I did not get a wand and spell book to help me make problems like injustice, poverty, war, or prejudice disappear.

So, when I told my friend Alisha that I wanted to guest blog for her “What I learned in Seminary” series, I was excited for…about 5 minutes. Then I was like “Well, what the hell did I learn in seminary because it sure as hell wasn’t how to give easy answers!”

If I can say one thing for sure it is that faith is full of ambiguity, and because of that ambiguity, because I know for sure that I do not, and never will, have all of the answers; God will have to work through my weaknesses.  

A few years back, I remember hearing a commencement address delivered to graduating seminarians at Iliff School of Theology by Nadia Bolz Weber, an ELCA pastor in Denver, and a total bad ass.  In addressing the anticipation by the graduates of being let loose on the Church, and their questions about whether or not they were ready to face all of the challenges that entering ministry was sure to bring, the answer was “of course you’re not ready”.

Bolz Weber reminded those seminarians of what the seminarians I know, as well as a few, *ahem*, practicing clergy need to hear: play to your weaknesses. When we play to our strengths we get cocky.  We think we know the answers and this is where things go terribly wrong.  So while this may seem to some a huge waste in tuition money, it’s what I got.

Well, wait.  I did get a few more things out of the year.  They are listed below.  Some of them may make sense.  Some of them I’m still trying to make sense of myself.  For your reading pleasure, I present “Other Seminary Stuff That I Learned”:

  • “Don’t think, Meat.  You’ll only hurt the ball club.” — Bull Durham
  • The mere mention of Real Madrid can unite a room full of refugees from all over the world.
  • Academics make shit up, and you can, too.
  • Being in seminary and starting the ordination process is akin to a ticking, biological clock.
  • Don’t be like Elihu (in the book of Job). That guy is a jerk.
  • If you don’t like the denominations out there, start your own.
  • Gluten free wafers are bigger than you think and will stick to the roof of your mouth.
  • References to “feet” in the bible sometimes really just mean feet.
  • And most importantly, Christianity cannot be lived in a vacuum and neither can seminary.  You need community.

–Karen Slappey

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10 thoughts on “When “Feet” just mean Feet

  1. Lora Gary says:

    Cool!!!

  2. Pat Pope says:

    The one thing I learned at the end of my stint in seminary is that the more I learn about God. the less I know of Him. This to me just speaks to His expansiveness.

    I invite you to join the Facebook group, Things They Didn’t Teach us in Seminary. Lots of clergy and some former clergy there. We could always use fresh voices and perspectives and you might pick up a thing or two from us as well.

  3. Having spent some time in Georgia (mostly the Atlanta area) I am amazed to find that there are Lutherans anywhere in Georgia, much less Liberals. 🙂 Loved your list of lessons learned, at least two of which gave me reason to pause and think.

  4. Lynnett says:

    Awesome!

  5. […] Bible says a lot about feet (please read my dear friend & sister in Christ, Karen Slappey’s, blog on this matter). A woman, with wild hair and weeping eyes, washes Jesus’ feet. Jesus washes the […]

  6. […] Bible says a lot about feet (please read my dear friend & sister in Christ, Karen Slappey’s, blog on this matter). A woman, with wild hair and weeping eyes, washes Jesus’ feet. Jesus washes the […]

  7. Ms. Slappey, I wanted you to let you know I’ve enjoyed your writings- even though I’m 2.5yrs late to this party lol! I was raised in a strict, then loose, then strict again Lutheran environment in which I developed my own take on life and my belief structure(much to the consternation of my Grandmother). I found this blog after looking you up based on your recent comments on CNN regarding Governor Deal’s announcement to veto HB757. I’m happy to see and hear your tone is little changed as it’s very refreshing to hear of someone of your stature not seeing their freedoms being imposed upon in this day and age=) Thank you for continuing to be true to yourself and others! As one who has lost the A-typical religious focus while still focusing to do right by others I appreciate you!

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