Tuesday, September 1, 2009

They Didn't Teach that at Seminary

I have often heard Pastor's say, "I did not learn that at Seminary." That may be true but the fact that they did not learn it at Seminary does not mean it was not taught at Seminary. There are surely many things that were taught at Seminary that seminarians did not learn there. I am not sure we should blame the Seminary for that. The more important area of concern ought to be "They did not teach that at Seminary..."

I have watched Pastors muck there way through the liturgy on Sunday morning and I know that they were taught better than that but they just did not listen or give it much of a priority. I heard a person in the pew complain when the Pastor left the communion vessels in disarray after the distribution. The person shook his head and muttered something under his breath. It was a little thing but this person thought some decorum at the altar ought to be common knowledge to all Pastors.

I have listened to rambling sermons, without a point, without a hint of Gospel, and not much Law either... I know that they were taught better in Seminary but somehow they did not get it. The people in the pew got it and they walked...

If there is any fault I might lay at the Seminary, it is that I was taught too much to be a theologian and not enough to be an administrator. The parish I serve has a staff of some 30 people (including the preschool) and this represents, in some ways, my first congregation. I find that I have to work harder in this area of my vocation than any other. There are any number of administrative things I have learned pretty much on my own -- a learn as you go education.

I think that between the Winfield and the Senior College I was well prepared for Seminary. I also think that the Seminary did a wonderful job of introducing me to theology, preparing me to teach and preach, and enough to help me find my way through the ins and outs of pastoral care (in all its dimensions). But then I sought out profs and invited them to my apartment and they reciprocated so that the conversation of the classroom extended well beyond that locale. I was not married at that time and had no children and worked on campus so I guess I had ample opportunity to seek out these people.

The other side of the coin is that after 7 years on a Synodical campus and 1 year of internship (vicarage to the insiders), the Church knew me pretty well, too. They knew my strengths and my many weaknesses. When it came time for placement, the wisdom of the Church, the judgment of the Bishop, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit placed me exactly where I was supposed to be. When I told my wife we might be there two years, the Lord made it nearly thirteen. And they were thirteen very good years, looking back on it all.

I also had the benefit of a Bishop who came to my office and to my home several times a year to see how I was doing, to teach me in conversations I did not realize were classrooms, and who stood by me even when I made foolish mistakes.

I also had the benefit of a very diverse circuit of Pastors who shared in common their concern for me, their welcome to me, their fellowship for me, and their help to make me a better Pastor.

What they did not teach me at Seminary came to me through these people and through the faithful folks in my vicarage congregation and in my first congregation (and those in my current congregation who are still teaching me).

It is this kind of support that filled in what they did not teach me at Seminary... so that if I did not learn from this, it was my fault, not theirs...

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