I feel as if I would be remiss if I were to skip talking about my seminary retread now that I'm home. So, this is going to be my attempt to put some things into words.
Seminary is many different things for many different people. For some, it's a mean to an end. They feel called to some sort of ministry or higher education, and they see seminary as the way to get there. Maybe they feel called to be a pastor, and to get there they know they need to go to seminary, and so it becomes a set of hoops to jump through so that they can achieve their goal.
For some it might be a stumbling block. They feel called to ministry, and know they need to go to seminary to achieve this goal. But, once they are there, it just seems to get in the way. Maybe it's the academics or the academic approach to theology. It could be that it stands in opposition to the theology they came with, or to some of their deeply held truths. Maybe they manage to get over the hurdle, maybe they don't. I've seen it happen both ways.
For some it's a place to be while their spouse goes to school. Maybe they see it as a family calling, and they feel as called to be there as their husband or wife. Or it could be they came with their fair share of struggle or disagreement.
For some it's a place of learning and growth. They are encouraged to think and question and theorize. Their knowledge is expanded, they are introduced to new ways of interpreting Scripture and looking at God. While, ideally, this would be true for everyone who attends, I have to say that this is not always the case.
And for some it's a strong community. The shared experiences and the common goals unite people in a way that many other communities are unable to do. As the seminarians and their spouses and families journey alongside each other, it strengthens bonds and creates friendship and kinship where it might not have otherwise formed.
For me, I'd have to say that it was a bit of all of them (except for the spouse thing). Naturally, I came to seminary because I felt God was calling me to be a pastor. And while I had my fair share of struggles, of times I wanted to shake the dust off my feet and leave, times I told my academic adviser I wanted to take a leave of absence, nights I had terrible dreams about upcoming Hebrew tests, through it all I managed to learn and grow in ways that I hadn't imagined at the outset. And the friendships I formed there are some of the strongest and most trusted that I've had.
So Wartburg Seminary has quite an important place in my life. And pretty much since the day I have departed I have been anxiously looking forward to the day, three years later, I would be returning along with all, or most, of my classmates. I could not wait to reunite with this particular community who had come to be an important part of my life. I wanted to reconnect and renew those bonds. I wanted a reminder of that fellowship that we had shared during our life together.
And I was not disappointed. Although the three days we shared was a bit more scheduled than I would have liked, and we were in sessions from after breakfast until the evening most days, there were opportunities to talk and reminisce and remember and enjoy the company of friends. I got to see good friends and play with their children. I was able to break bread (figuratively and literally) with them, to laugh and talk and cry with them. I got to hold babies and to worship alongside my friends. There were moments where it seemed like the past three years had not happened, as if it had only been yesterday that I had talked with my friends, because the connections were still as close and as strong as they were when we saw each other everyday.
Like my last post said, it was like an oasis. A place set apart to offer refreshment and renewal. It is a bit surprising that something I waited so long to arrive passed by so quickly, but then it isn't really because, unfortunately, that seems to be the way it goes. Time flies when you're having fun, apparently.
Toward the end of our time together, someone spoke up and said that 3 years ago, our good-byes didn't seem so final because we knew that in three years we'd be gathering together again for our retread (although it didn't make them any less tearful). We said that as we neared the end of our time together, it was beginning to seem a bit more final because we weren't sure when we would see each other next. The only other reunion that the seminary sponsors is the 40 year anniversary and, truth be told, there are many people in our class (much loved people) who probably won't make it to that one, as they are second (or third) career pastors. So in our discussions we decided that we needed to get together again, even if it meant planning it on our own. And so we've agreed to meet again in 2012, in three more years, to reconnect again, to get together with all of our friends and classmates in a broader and more intentional way.
And so now I begin the journey of this next 3 years, excited to see where I'll get to go and what I'll get to do, but always aware of that bright spot on the horizon where my friends will be waiting for me.