Thursday, January 25, 2007

The End Has Come

At the end of the third (and final) week of this seminary focus session. How do I feel? Good.

As I left the Temple tonight, I felt a tremendous gratitude to all those who went before me and funded the building of the Temple (a still-new building not even two decades old). Such a mammoth task undertaken by such a small community, the fact that it exists - so bold in design and mission - is a miracle. And I felt gratitude for the Seminary - still brand-new at just five years old. To build more than another internal, inwardly-focused, unaccountable (to the outside world) education "program" ... that's a daring and risky venture for any small and traditionally insular community, let alone one in the midst of such reshaping of thought and theology as ours. And then there's all those back home in Washington State who, with tithes and sacrifice, fund and promote my job and education. They are giving me a gift and opportunity of immense and unspeakable value, and the church's confidence in me is extraordinarily humbling.

I also feel a sense of connectedness to my heritage - both that of my peculiar denomination and that of the longer and more diverse heritage of the larger Christian community through the centuries. I am not alone in this strange adventure of ministry - though I sail my ship tethered directly to few others, we all set sail from the same harbor, and we can see the masts of others just beyond the horizon.

This makes me think of my great-great-grandfather and -grandmother. I walked past a painting of their sailboat in the Temple this afternoon, the Evanelia. It is legend in our religious tradition - an old sea-captain and his wife converted, then bought a small boat and sailed up and down the west coasts of North and South America, missionaries of the infant faith. (My grandfather and father would follow roughly in their footsteps, spending time in South and Central America on religious ventures.) Although their faith would be foreign to me - even though we belong to the same church just a century apart - we share a special heritage, we struggle with the same narratives, hold the some of the same tools in our belt, speak sometimes with the same accent (even if we talk about different things). Our worlds and our selves are almost entirely different, but there's something the same there, underneath it all. And I feel like I might be honoring them with my new occupation.

I am also really excited about returning home - to see my wife and friends again, but also to start working. This is a vocation, after all - I'm being stuffed with all kinds of facts and perspectives and tools, and I feel full to overflowing. I'm anxious to get into the field and see what bubbles up through the foam, to see what I grab hold of and draw out. Most of all, I
just want to see my church family again, tell them what I've learned, share stories and challenges with them, hear their concerns and look with them for some degree of answer.

If there's one thing I've learned from History of Christian Thought this past month, it has been how rich the conversations are that we are engaged in. We're not alone in this. Not by a long shot.

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  • This makes me think of my great-great-grandfather and -grandmother.

    I understand what you mean when you feel connected/tethered to your great-great grandparents. That you want to make them proud. That you feel that maybe, if they were here today, they'd be proud of you and you could have rich and profound conversations. I never knew my grandfather. He died while my mom was still a kid. But his picture hangs in my house. You know the one, Christian. The one by the kitchen where he's a dapper dandy at the beach in a three piece suit and fine hat. Anyway, I don't know why, but I always feel like I write for him. Sure, I write for myself, and my family and friends, but I think, I have no idea why, really, that he'd appreciate what I'm doing, that we'd be friends if we had known one another, that we would have some sort of kinship that I've never had with any of my other older relatives. We're connected through my mom and that's a wondrous thing really.

    Anyway, I'm blathering on. I look forward to seeing you soon, fella.

    By Blogger Jonathan S., at 9:38 AM  

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