Karen 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.
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.