Tuesday, November 26, 2013
It's a Long Story . . . Part Two
I began seminary in September of 1992, and entered candidacy at the same time. The first year was difficult -- we learned a full year of Koine Greek in one month, did weekly translations from Greek to English, studied Bible, church history, Christian education, liturgy, and other subjects. I felt as though I was treading water, struggling to keep afloat in these foreign courses. It wasn't until second semester when we studied pastoral care that I felt comfortable.
The summer following that first year was the summer of CPE, clinical pastoral education. I spent ten weeks at a major inner city teaching hospital that was also home to a high level trauma unit and regional spinal cord injury center. There were six of us in the group, diverse by gender, ethnicity, age and religious preference. We worked hard: Every sixth night I was on call, spending the night in the hospital and hoping for sleep. Every sixth weekend there was a 24-hour shift. I learned a lot. I sat with the dying, contacted families for drive-by shootings and other kinds of gunshot injuries, spent time with an HIV-positive new mother of twins, performed emergency baptisms, stayed with people whose diving accidents had rendered them quadriplegic.
It was exhausting. And I loved every bit of it.
As I moved through the candidacy process, I came to understand that my denomination would not -- at that time, at least -- permit an individual to complete a degree with a goal of chaplaincy. They required that a person become ordained and serve a congregation as a parish pastor for a minimum of three years. While I did not feel that I had been called to be a parish pastor -- I had no interest in presiding, marrying, burying -- I was aware that ten years earlier I had no inkling of being a hospital chaplain, so I pursued the path laid out for me until I came to the internship year. While working at a nearby church as a paid intern (half-time for two years; the other half-time was seminary classes), I knew for certain that this was not what I was supposed to do, that pursuing ordination and using a congregation for three years for my own purposes was just wrong.
I resigned the internship, withdrew from the candidacy process and met with the dean at Seminary who laid out an alternative path for me to complete the M.Div. and I graduated with my class, with no idea what I would do next.
Posted by Nancy Stevens on Tuesday, November 26, 2013