Grading 1st semester

Standard

Grades are in. I did alright. I think I proved worthy of this adventure at seminary in the classroom. I hope the next semester or five I’ll prove worthy of this adventure at seminary both in and out of the classroom. I made a decision as I started here that I wouldn’t take on extra responsibilities. I wanted to focus on the schooling part of school because in college, I was over-committed, unfocused and seldom disciplined. I (rightfully) assumed seminary level work would require more of me.

But 1st semester is over. Now I need to move on and maybe consider adding in a few more things. Ministry won’t take place in a bubble. I’ll never be able to isolate church work in a vacuum without family, friends and other real-life demands. I think the next few months will be the next few steps of me continuing to grow in balancing priorities. I’m a little nervous about some of the spring semester classes. Fortunately I get a warm up into them with a J term class on Reformed Worship. In fact, as I blog, I should instead by writing my first paper for that class.

Side note: That a J term class has a paper due during the “preload” period and that paper is worth 25% of the course grade still sort of blows my mind. I’m genuinely interested in the topic of the paper and it does seem like good prep work for this class, but still… 25%? Grad school is so much cooler than undergrad.

Anyway. I started a torrid love affair with New Testament Greek, I gained a surprising-to-me appreciation for early and medieval church history, I enjoyed Intro to Worship and I befriended the Old Testament. I also loved Spiritual Formation Group– our group has such a beautiful blend of people and personalities. That’s all the class stuff. The other snapshots I want to remember are these:

*The day we practiced presiding over communion in class was strangely moving. I fought tears through most of that class period as I watched classmates say the words of institution over our practice loaves and pretend wine. I laughed as each of us took turns pretending to be parents of a baby being baptized. Some of us were awkward, some of us showed grace, and all of us show promise in ministry. I looked around our room and marveled at the idea that all of us come from different places and have converged in one place for a semester. How many people will we be able to shepherd? How many people will be able to share communion with? How many will we baptize? How soon will all of this feel real and less like “playing pastor?”

*I loved writing dialogues for Church History. I, an avid reader my whole life, never thought of writing as a voice. I had never thought of original sources as being a voice. I had never thought of conversations that different texts could have with each other. I learned in high school debate that you need to get at the warrant of writing. You need to figure out the agenda someone might have behind their words. This in the context of original sources spanning centuries was eye opening. I find myself wanting to pair all kinds of writers together. What would Madeleine L’Engle say to Anne Frank? I can’t believe I never pictured that before. The idea of Scripture as a living, breathing text blows my mind.

* I know earlier I blogged about the community aspect. I am thankful for the community here. It’s different for me, I think. College was so, so, so good to me. Lifelong friendships were born at Northwestern between fall of 1997 and spring of 2002. I don’t know that one heart can hold many more friendships of that caliber. I felt like anything would pale in comparison to the community and fellowship I felt during those days. This community is completely different from that one for me. Maybe I’m different. I’m probably not making sense. With a couple exceptions, I’m not as close to classmates now. I still love and appreciate them. I think our attentions are split between classroom demands, work situations and family but I find it comforting that many of us are going through similar things at similar times. If I’m stressed because I don’t feel good enough or I just can’t handle one more reading response or I need to skip chapel and just calm down with coffee…. someone else is probably there, too.

* Lastly, the other thing I want to remember about 1st semester of seminary is how amazing it is to have someone 1000% in my corner. I made the man move from near the Missouri River to the Mississippi River. I asked him to leave a job he enjoyed and was great at not just once when we got married, but then again when I wanted to come to Dubuque. As cheesy as it feels for me to admit this, I am so thankful for having Steve in my life. He is the voice of reason, the cause of laughter, and I love him. I’m glad he’s along with me for this kind of crazy life. He is so good at helping me have the balance between focus and fun. He’s nervous I won’t get my Reformed Worship paper done before we leave to go visit my mom. I hope he’ll forgive me for blogging before starting to write the paper.

Happy New Year, by the way. I anticipate being around more. I’m a sucker for new year’s resolutions and one of them is to check in here weekly instead of weakly.

About SaraBSutter

I serve as the pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, Iowa. My husband Steve and I are excited to be in a friendly small town and look forward to the years ahead. In addition to nerdy church stuff, I love reading books, writing, good coffee, cats, and football.

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