April 04, 2020

48 Hours in the life of a Theology Student in 1992

I know I skipped yesterday. I didn’t mean to skip yesterday’s blog, but Holy Week is almost here (starts tomorrow) an I was pre-occupied. You would think with being in one place for 24/7 I would have more, not less time for writing. Well that depends on the distractions, and I spent waaaaaay too much time yesterday on pandemic updates. And none of the information changed what I a required today, it just increased my stress levels. So going forward, less news updates or more time on keeping my perspective.

Speaking of perspective, as I was reviewing some old notes looking for my Psalm Sunday material I thought I had, I came across a piece I had written in 1992. I was a third year student at Queen’s Theological College in Kingston, Ontario and a single parent of a teenager and an a pre-teen. I thought it might make an interesting read, though the piece is 28 years old. Blogs were not being written then, and I don’t think I even had internet yet. The original piece was written at the suggestion of my Field Supervisor as a Sunday Morning Sermon/Reflection. So here it is as it was written.

1992: Theological education is, of course, not just for those who are called to a formally recognized ministry.  We are all ministers of Christ, and each time we think about God or speak about God, we are “doing theology”.  Our actions and the decisions we make and our judgement of them are very deeply rooted in what we believe about God. In a very real way, we all live out personal theologies. 

The suggestion was made that I could speak for five or so minutes on something that might come up during the week at Theological College.  I decided to give try to give you a view of what it is we “do” or at least are supposed to “do” there by giving you an overview of 48 hours from the middle of my week.

After hearing this greeting of John to the Churches of Asia (Revelations 1:4-8), it feels a little like cheating–just to sit down and write about part of my week–without spending hours reading commentaries and looking up difficult words in a concordance and analyzing the structure of the text and praying and meditating on the words of the Scripture and looking around at the world we live in to find the living word of God in today’s text for God’s people today.  But here it goes anyway:  48 hours in the life of a theological student. 

Tuesday, 9:30 a.m.  I have one class on Tuesdays – Christian Ethics.  I managed to get enough reading done to ask questions–and ask questions I did.   What I wanted to know was if this author, when he suggested that the ancient Hebrews based their ethics on deontology [deontology: the study of the nature of duty and obligation] and not consequentialism in the modern sense [consequentialism: the doctrine that the morality of an action is to be judged solely by its consequences], what he meant by in the modern sense; i.e., was God assumed or not in the modern consequentialism?  That question led to others and before long the first hour had flown by.  (Unfortunately, for the rest of the class I continued in that vein for an hour and then decided that I didn’t know enough to be asking questions and maybe better be quiet for the rest of the lecture.)

After class I went to Chapel.  We read the same Scriptures you heard here today [including Revelation’s 1].  Three years ago I had read and preached on the Gospel reading Scripture in the Theological College Chapel. Listening to a fellow theologue [theologue: student of theology] read, I could tell just by the way he read that he understood the passage differently than I had and, after three years of Biblical exegesis, I was able to predict from his reading how he was going to interpret it, though not what message he was going to give us from it.

 Tuesday Afternoon: I called on a neighbour and friend.  I wanted to explain to her why I was unable to attend a meeting on Monday night, and to show her the proofs from my graduation photos.  It turns out she was anxious to talk to me about a couple of things.  She told me about someone we both knew who had had a prayer answered in such a way that it was too much to be coincidence.  I knew she was confiding in me because on Sunday night I had told her about a prayer I had experienced being answered in a most incredible and thorough manner.  In other words, I was telling her a story in a Christian context–what we is known as witnessing; something we refer to now as Christian storytelling. Within two days a second person had come to tell her a similar story, a story that was unfolding before her eyes and she wanted to tell me about it.             

When she had finished with that story, my friend moved to another pressing topic.  She told me in confidence that someone else she knew was unemployed and had been speaking with her because he was unable to provide enough food for his children.  I asked her if he had used the food bank.  He hadn’t.  I then told her how to go about it.  She made the phone call to him while I stood silently in the background to make sure she had the right information.  She told him to call any church for a referral, but especially any United Church because, in her words, they were a very progressive church and usually knew what was going on in the community.  Since she is a Catholic, though not a practicing Catholic, I found her view of the United Church very interesting and it gave me something to think about.  It was something that fed into the who question–who am I? who are we as Christians? who are as Christians in the context we find ourselves?  what does it mean to say declare who we are–what are the ramifications, the responsibilities that go with that?  “Who?” was fast becoming the theme question of this week.

Tuesday, 5 pm: After I finished speaking with her it was about five o’clock.  I went outside to call my youngest son and we went to get groceries.  We arrived home shortly after six.  I made supper, then settled in at my computer to do some homework.  My son and I watched some television.  After he went to bed, I went back to my computer because I had to present a critique of another student’s presentation the next morning.  I finished my homework at about midnight.

Wednesday am:  Morning unfolds as usual.  I get up at 6:15 a.m., spend some time in prayer or meditation or reading or any combination of these, have a coffee and then a shower.  I get the kids up, make breakfast, make lunches and get ready to leave.  I arrive at school around 9:00 a.m.

I love this morning’s class.  John is my favourite Gospel and every Wednesday morning we spend two hours on some part of John.   I gave my critique of the other student’s presentation of the footwashing episode.  Did you know that footwashing was so menial a task that it is listed in Leviticus among the tasks that a Hebrew slave should not be asked to do?  It was a task so low it was reserved for (all the feminists had better hang onto their seats for this one) it was reserved for Gentiles or women or children.  Yet Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example of how they should behave.  It’s something to think about–and again, something that relates to the “who” question? especially as “who” relates to discipleship. 

Wednesday Afternoon: Every Wednesday afternoon we have a Colloquim or an Assembly on a current topic of interest.  Last week’s Colloquim was called “Living on the Edge of Evil” and featured a speaker who discussed the theological difficulties and the very real problems with the New Age Movement.  However, this week I skipped Colloquim and spent the afternoon discussing my prayer life and the presence of God in my life with my Spiritual Director, whom I visit about once a month for just such discussions.  I left there and went to discuss parenting with someone who had promised to get me some really good articles on the subject.  We had a good chat and I learned some important principles of teenageology. 

 Wednesday, 4:30 pm. At 4:30 I went to one of the two components of my practice of ministry course.  This one is called ‘Integrative Seminar‘.  It’s a third year course, and the place where we’re supposed to “put it all together.”  Each week we are supplied a question to discuss for the next week.  The questions come from a list of questions that we asked our professor near the beginning of the term.  Today’s topic of discussion is “Who am I in the role of minister of Christ?”   Now we were getting to the “who” question in a more direct manner?  The discussion was rather complex, sometimes heated, always insightful and intellectually and emotionally very draining.  We leave class with the beginning of an answer for ourselves and with many more new questions to think about.

Wednesday, 6:30pm. I arrive home at 6:30 beat, knowing that I still have to read about 70 pages and do a written assignment for the next day.  I make supper, read for a bit, then spent an hour and a half with my youngest son (my oldest son, being a teenager tends is out with friends).  I am too tired to read, so go to bed early and will rise at 4:15 a.m. the next morning to finish up my homework.

4:15 am, Thursday: I rise and settle into my practice of prayer, meditation and or reading – shortened a little because I have homework to do. I make my first coffee and have it while I am finishing my homework. Then I shower, wake the kids, make breakfast, and get reading to go to the Theological College.

9:30 am Tuesday to 9:30 am Thursday –48 hours in the life of a theological student.   

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