***This is copied off of an entry I had in the first incarnation of Meditatio with a few things added to make it fit my current circumstances.
The Story of My Seminary Admission (abridged)
In November of 1999, I was miserable and failing two of my classes. After a night of fighting with my roommate and a few hotly worded emails to my ex-boyfriend, I was at my wit’s end. That lunch, I was sitting with Carolyn (my roommate) and Jon Louie (my ex-boyfriend) and both knew what was going on. Jon offered to take me off campus for an afternoon. We apologized for the latest blow up and made up. Then, he held me as I started sobbing about the fact that I hated my life and I just didn’t know what to do. I commented that I was considering a change in major to Religious Studies but that I didn’t know the first thing about doing it. Jon gave me some pointers and then took me for some tea (since my stomach was so knotted up that I couldn’t eat).
=Flash forward to February 2000=
I had indeed passed all my classes the quarter before, but I was miserable in my Bio major. I was looking into Religious Studies classes in the course catalog and had basically decided to take a quarter off of Biology. I was talking to Jon (my boyfriend then who is now my husband) and he encouraged me in my thought that ordained ministry might be where God was calling me. He recommended Luther and Trinity and since Luther is the more conservative school, I thought I’d go there.
=Flash forward to September 2000=
I had made up my mind to go to seminary but this would be after I’d been out of school for a few years (since I really didn’t want to go straight to grad school after college). Jon and I had been engaged for a month at this point and I’d met his parents. His dad had suggested bumping the wedding to December 2001 so that I could take intensive language classes at Trinity before I headed up to Luther. This would also give me time to get all my candidacy stuff done.
=Flash forward to January 2001=
I’m sitting in my room surfing the Trinity site when it gets put on my heart to apply there. My response is: “NO CHANCE LORD!” However, the Lord really doesn’t like taking “NO” for an answer, so the whole application thing stayed on my heart until I downloaded the application, printed it out, and sent it in. I applied as an MTS student because it was really my only option, and I figured that I’d get my MTS first as something to do while Jon finished seminary and then figure out what to do with my life.
=Flash forward to March 2001=
I get a letter stating that I’ve been granted admission to the MTS (Master of Theological Studies) program at Trinity. I waffle over whether to go, even though I told God that if He got me in, I’d go. I finally decide to accept the offer of admission.
My Seminary Adventures
When I arrived in July 2001, my housing had fallen through and I was staying at Jon’s apartment. When the property management people found out, they called the dean of the seminary and the housing office and explained to them that Jon and I were living in sin and the seminary should probably look into this. (As if my life was *that* interesting.) I went over to the housing office to straighten everything out and Cecelia (our housing person and purveyor of good chocolate) explained that they knew my situation and I was welcome to stay with Jon as long as I needed. In the meantime, had I thought about taking Summer Greek? I’d be able to live at the seminary and I’d be able to have a job there. So, I ended up taking Summer Greek and getting to know some of the M.Div students.
During Fall, I kept saying that I’d switch into the M.Div program the next year and then I realized that just getting my MTS meant that I could either go on for Ph.D work or apply it toward an M.Div later on. In February, I was prepared to declare my entire program and go for my thesis proposal conversation. Then Jon’s pre-Internship interview happened. They told us that we couldn’t stay local and that one of us (read: JEN) would have to take a year off for the other one to finish. That basically shot all my plans.
After getting that news from the Contextual Ed people, I decided that I really needed to get some plans in place for the next year. I went to talk to my pastor about candidacy stuff and to our seminary president about whose jurisdiction I’d be under for candidacy since I might be changing synods (which turned out be a moot point because I’m still in the same incredibly dysfunctional synod for Jon’s internship).
Since I was taking a year off for Jon’s benefit, I was told that this might be a bargaining chip to use for being able to stay at Trinity if I wanted to. Others who knew how I was feeling about Trinity at the time told me that I could probably look into Luther at this point since Jon and I really wanted to go to Minnesota for his first call. Trying to get a call in my current synod is hard because there are so many people here that hire those who know them from something else. In Columbus, it would probably be impossible to get a call and we’d have to live apart. It would be the same way at Luther but the synods in the Twin Cities are less dysfunctional, so it would actually be nicer. We’d met the bishop of Southwestern Minnesota Synod at a reception and he was really wonderful, so we felt like we had a shot. (He actually is now the head of the Division of Ministry, which is also nice since he’d be a good person to work with for appeals.)
On Draft Day (when the seniors find out what regions of the church have chosen them — it’s a majorly festive day around the sem), I cornered one of our admissions people who had graduated from Luther and explained my predicament to him, asking him what I should do as we might be in Minnesota next year or even for Jon’s first call. He told me what to do about taking a leave of absence and he told me that the head of admissions at Luther was at Capital University and that he could meet with me the next day. This was pretty sweet timing!
The next day, I went and met with Ron Olson (their admissions guru) and explained my situation to him. He told me that they needed a positive entrance decision from my candidacy committee and a letter of honorable dismissal from the dean of the seminary. He also understood that my decision to transfer seminaries was not an “I hate Trinity” thing; but rather a move to help Jon get a first call in a more friendly climate. He told me to keep in touch with him (which I’ve started doing) and we’d work admissions stuff out.
My Present State of Mind
After spending a year at Trinity, I’m seriously looking at checking Luther out as far as how the campus is and feels. Trinity is one of the best seminaries academically in the ELCA and I have never found more gracious and loving people. It’s also incredibly liberal and I constantly feel like I have to hide my conservatism. (And yes, I’ve heard the argument about being God’s leaven in the midst of rampant liberalism. I think it works for public school children bringing others to Jesus; but it’s not that way in a seminary setting.) I had a TA rip apart a paper because I had an opposite viewpoint to his on the issue of homosexuality as a sin. (My professor took it and re-graded it, letting me know that he at least agreed with me.)
Mainly, I’ve been feeling called to Luther for the last two years and I’d like to answer that call. Why am I feeling awful? I really love the people at Trinity and Dr. Ramseth, our seminary president, is really pushing for me to stay. He is everything I’d want in a pastor and a bishop and he really tried to help Jon and I find a good site for Internship. He and his wife have essentially adopted Jon and I for holidays (like Easter) and his wife Carol is someone who has really been a support to me this last year. They are really pushing for me to come back and I know that if God calls me to Luther, there are going to be some seriously hurt feelings.
Why I Actually Want to Transfer to Luther
They have a “cross cultural missions requirement”. Basically, you have to go interact with another culture for an extended period of time. I’m hoping that my Islam class doesn’t count for that because I’d love to go hang out on an Indian reservation or in Cairo or in Guatemala for a month and learn about evangelismand ministry in a culture different from mine, rather than learn about a culture different from mine but not discuss evangelism.
I have a choice of who teaches the classes I take. At Trinity, I had no choice regarding the professor who taught my classes. If I thought they were a heretic, I was basically stuck. At Luther, I have a little more of a choice and I can avoid certain professors.
I want to be in a place where eco-freaks like me are not a minority. Ohio is a huge EPA brown site. It’s polluted and smoggy and icky. I’m also 4 hours from any major body of water where I can surf or swim. Minnesota has lakes.
Luther has discipleship requirements. You have to do two years of discipleship and Bible study with your advisor. I think the I-Groups were supposed to be like this at Trinity but they really weren’t. (Not that my I-Group was all that awful…)
Jon could have his first call in Minnesota as he’s wanted for a long time. Yes, both of us are from California and no, neither of us really want to head home. If I’m at Luther, it’s a bargaining chip for sending us to Region 3 and preferably within an hour of the Twin Cities.
They have a really good spouse’s group and also a marriage care group. At least half of the professors at Trinity are divorced and this is really a fractious issue with a lot of local churches. Luther seems to recognize that this is an issue.
My mother-in-law has pointed out that I have until June to get my application in and to figure all of this out, especially since Jon might not get approved until December 2003 (meaning that he’d be in the February 2004 draft). I really don’t have until June — I have until May because I need to figure out my program changes if I’m going back to Trinity. I also have to mentally psych myself to be able to deal with our director of Contextual Ed since I am still just a *teensy bit* pissed at her for making much of my year a living hell. The woman simply intimidates me and if she comments on how well all of this has worked out during her site visit, I swear that I will vomit. It has *NOT* worked out as “well” as she’d like to think.
OK… enough ranting for the moment.