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Why Seminary?

July 11, 2007

On our recent trip to Trinity Seminary in Ambridge, PA, Dr. Paul Zahl, the Dean of the School, asked me what I hoped to get out of coming to seminary. I quickly responded, “I hope to gain a greater intimacy with Jesus,” then added, “and of course the education.” Whether that was the right answer doesn’t matter, since disappointingly to me, Dr. Zahl has left Trinity. But the answer, one that I have considered throughout the discernment process, reveals the truth from my heart.

Besides successfully graduating from seminary, I hope the time will result in a closer relationship with Him. Isn’t that what the Episcopal Church and the Body of Christ really needs: clergy who walk intimately with Jesus and can daily share his love, wisdom and power-and truth. I feel fortunate that God has led me to the Diocese of South Carolina, a diocese rich in such clergy, including our Bishop and Bishop-elect.

In January, when Rev. John Burwell told my wife and I that we were approved to begin the ordination process and go to seminary, I felt relief and calm for about 15 seconds. During that calm, I felt great thanks for the answer to months of prayer regarding the discernment process. After the calm, I began to feel the rise of new prayers for the upcoming season of transition. These prayers have become summarized and congealed into one plea to God during this time: “HELP!”

In the last two months, my wife and I have left our jobs (careers), had a baby boy, bought a house in Ambridge, are trying to sell our house of nine years, bought a mini-van (Missy had a company car), our cat was killed, and we’re moving to where it snows a lot. The Episcopal Church staggers in crisis at the point of breaking. God only knows what form will exist at the end of three years. Perhaps the most treacherous event will be taking our 4 year old daughter and a newborn 12 hours away from their devoted “Bammy.”

“Why do all this as we approach mid-life?”

The answer is “We want a greater intimacy with Jesus, each other and the church, and I want to be effective in ministry.” He has led us in this direction. We have to trust him now. We can no longer trust our competency or income. As we begin to hang on by faith, we have a literal and figurative newborn on our hands and need God’s help.

20 years prior to the time I’ll be entering seminary I entered The Citadel as a knob from Oklahoma. At the time, I was at the height of my conceit: a high school graduate on top of the world. That world was toppled as soon as I entered 3rd Battalion. As a bald freshman, becoming a Citadel graduate seemed like a distant dream. That is somewhat how actually becoming a priest seems to me at this time…. like a murky dream on the edge of chaos, the unknown, but at least this time no upperclassman is yelling me (there’s no hazing in seminary, right?). This time I know from experience that I’ll go through that chaos in God’s peace.

God used my experience at The Citadel to draw me to Him, and I am positive He will do the same through seminary.

Missy and I know we can trust God, the one who does not disappoint. We also realize we can use the help of others during the course of the next three years. We welcome the support of friends and family. The members of St. James on James Island have been wonderfully supportive, and we will continue to covet your prayers and encouragement.

The movers are coming to pick up our stuff on July 24th and should be dropping it off in Ambridge on August 1st. Classes start the first week in September. At this point, that is about what I know.

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