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So for the past few days, well, since Friday I’ve had nothing to do here in Pittsburgh.  Officially things get started here on Wednesday with new student orientation, but really they get started Thursday.  So, I’ve just been bumming around.  I helped Brad move on Saturday and I have managed to get a fair amount of reading done and my room is all set up, although my desk area is already a mess.  But part of what I’ve thought about is how far I’ve come in two years, and wondering what my last year will bring.

Two years ago around this time I moved to Pittsburgh and started my own seminary career.  I started out well ahead of the game compared to my classmates because my undergraduate background included humanities courses (which I never thought would come in handy) and a minor in religion, that included course work in bible, church history, and theology.  All in all, I just had the framework from which to think theologically, and that was big advantage.  This isn’t to say I was smarter than all my classmates, because that certainly wasn’t true, I just had a leg up on most of them as far as the academic study of theology goes.  I was scared like everyone else, although I wonder if I was as scared as some of these new students look (well, probably I was, I’ll be honest).  I dove into my first term classes, church history, spiritual formation, greek, and Historical Books of the Old Testament and quite honestly did quite well that term.  But beyond academics, seminary has taught me a lot.  

One of the things that people will tell is that seminary is challenging to their faith, and I have to admit that that wasn’t the case for me.  One, the academic study of theology has always been spiritually nurturing to me.  Reading the likes of Calvin, Barth, Torrance, and Athanasius has aided in my spiritual journey, as does writing long technical exegetical papers.  Second of all, I had been introduced to many of the things that cause people trouble in their faith, namely higher critical study of scripture, at Grove City which presented a “safe environment” to explore its implications, rather than the halls of a mainline seminary where higher criticism is taken for granted.  (In other words, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Moses wrote the Pentateuch among the faculty here)  Second, I am a sucker for tradition, as my fiancée would tell you (she thinks I’m quite traditional).  Part of what seminary has done is introduced me to the history of the church which has been enlightening to me and quite fun to learn about.  Some of the most cherished books in my library come from what is known as the Early Church Fathers collection, which includes the writings of everyone from Origen, Justin Martyr, Augustine, Athanasius, John Chrystom, etc.  These marvelous collections are not only great for sermon preparation (when I can find stuff) but also priceless treasurers of Christians from a time gone past.  I also have continued to fall in love with the Confessional tradition of the church.  The Reformed church (those roughly following in the theological footsteps of Calvin) has always been a confessional church which has, at different points in time, composed confessional statements that outline what the church believes.  These include the Apostles and Nicene Creed, which are shared with the greater church (after all, the Nicene Creed is shared amongst the Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox traditions).  But also more recent confessional statements, such as the Heidelberg Catechism, the Scots’ Confession, the Westminster Confession and Catechism (not my favorites), the Second Helvetic Confession, as well as recent statements of faith, including the marvelous Barmen Declaration and the Confession of 1967.  (By the way, if you’ve never read the Barmen Declaration, you really should read it.  It is truly one of the greatest statements of Christianity in contemporary times.  It was written by German Reformed and Lutheran pastors in the face of the rise of Nazism and claims that the true Lordship of the Church rests in the hands of Jesus Christ, and no other.)

So now I stand on the beginning of my third year of seminary, and already the dean of Student has been looking at churches that want associate pastors.  And well, the whole thing is sort of overwhelming.  There is a part of me that would really like to pursue my PhD in Historical or Systematic Theology.  There is another part of me that really thinks it time for me to get out of the classroom and start serving in the church.  There is another part of me that really just wants to stay here, where its now become comfortable.  Last fall I preached to the incoming class during orientation, and I preached on Peter walking on the water.  I told that group of students that Jesus would be constantly calling them out of the boat, and I’m afraid that time has come for me.  Last year I was called out of the boat when Lisa, the youth pastor at the church where I work, left to take another job and I was asked to fill in till they found someone new.  Now this year things at church look a little more predictable, but after graduation is a brand new adventure, as I’m graduating one weekend and getting married the next, and then who knows?  Well, God knows, thank goodness.

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