Q & R: Seminary ... if? where? too late?
Here's the Q:
I have been a devoted reader for years but only just now found your blog! What a gift! It has been so wonderful to read all the questions and responses! I don't know how you find the time... I had the great pleasure of meeting you [a while back] at the Beatitudes Society event.
So here is my question (and I know you may not be able to answer but thought I'd put it out there):
I almost became an Episcopal priest. Well, that's stretching it. I was "on the path", so to speak. I am in my late thirties and the mother of 3 girls and all of a sudden the prospect of graduate school seemed foolish considering my primary vocation of motherhood. Also, it slowly dawned on me that I was planning to go to an episcopal seminary, then graduate, and the jobs that would become available to me just didn't resonate with the reasons I wanted to become ordained in TEC. I knew I wanted to be part of the paradigm shift that is (hopefully) happening, but lacked female role models and didn't see the education I needed in seminaries. So I dropped out of the process, trusting that God would make it clear when the time was right, as well as the what....
I just read your thoughts on "the episcopal moment" as well as the manifesto by Karen ward and Don Schell and got SO EXCITED. Except that I feel too old (at the age of 38)! :)
So....if you were me and wanted to get a theological education IN CALIFORNIA (preferably southern...I live in Santa Barbara) in order to be a part of the paradigm shift either with an existing parish or in the creation of a new one, where would you go? Claremont? Fuller? I love Karen Ward's very specific suggestions for reform in seminaries, but this hasn't really happened yet and I can't really wait till it does. I also wish there were an emerging community close by that I could learn from!
I know I could be part of this without an mDiv, but I think one would be helpful. The bishop of LA diocese knew I was interested in such things when he "approved" me, but I didn't like the hierarchy I felt I was about to be wedded to.
Any thoughts you have would be most helpful. I so appreciate your words to TEC...I am a transplant from a Presbyterian upbringing and I agree that TEC has a tremendous opportunity right now! I just don't know where to go from here and am somewhat limited geographically due to my young family.
I am so profoundly grateful for your work in the world, your bridge building and your gracious blogging!
My prayers and blessing go with you!
Here's the R:
First, thanks for your note. I'm glad you're finding the website helpful. It's kind of amazing how much information accumulates here over the years!
Second, I'm really glad you've found Karen Ward and her work. I think she has so much to offer (along with Don S and so many others), and I hope more Episcopalians (and others) will get behind her. (If you have a million dollars ... she has million-dollar dreams!)
Third, I should say that I'm on the board of Claremont, so obviously I'm a big fan of what they're doing. But the truth is that there are so many excellent seminaries. I've written more about seminaries here:
I would say to go to the seminary with the most theological breadth that you can ... the last thing you need is to go to a school where certain questions are off limits and certain conclusions are foregone. (That's a recipe for indoctrination, not education.) But the opposite danger is real too - a school that abstracts the study of religion from real-world people and problems, real-world worship and mission, real-world churches and realities. Avoid those two extremes, and I think you'll be in good shape.
Fourth, one of your biggest questions should be economics. Is there a likelihood that once you've accrued expense and/or student debt, there will be paying work waiting for you? Some denominations (including TEC) do a better job of helping prospective seminarians in this discernment process than others. I'd get with your priest, bishop, etc., early on in your process.
Finally, here's a thought. You could put together an individual learning program of conferences, retreats, and cohorts that could take you a long way toward some sort of creative and vital ministry (although not on the ordination track yet ... maybe someday) ... That's one of the reasons I'm thrilled to be working with Life in the Trinity Ministry. We're dreaming about possibilities in this regard and I'll be offering some intensive courses with them in the years ahead. Stay tuned ...
Thanks again for your encouragement!