Thursday, May 2, 2013
The month of transitions. The month of parties and celebrations and barbecues. And not to mention lots of nerves and excitement. The month of hope.
My husband Stephen graduates from seminary in just a few short weeks.
Stephen and I both will be graduates of Trinity Lutheran Seminary. A place near and dear to both our hearts. How could it not be - for we met at seminary. We met right outside the doors of the chapel (that's my memory anyway, you'll have to ask Stephen his memory of our first meeting!)
We fell in love. We got married at the seminary. And now we're both almost alums.
So in the midst of the transitions, the hope for our future together, and the gifts passed on through the years of learning, I find it fitting to write a love letter of sorts to the place that shaped me for leadership in the church.
Dear Trinity Lutheran Seminary,
I remember our first meeting. You greeted me with your tree-lined, winding walkway. It was a summer day and I was scared. I was a sixteen year old walking towards three weeks away from my family. A sixteen year old filled with fear, worry, and excitment. I would be attending the Summer Seminary Sampler. Three weeks with other high schoolers and seminary counselors learning about God and vocation and serving the world.
There I went up the walkway towards the beginning of our relationship.
I would have been the first one to tell you that I would never go to seminary to be a pastor. Never. But I would go to seminary to be with other high schoolers, to take classes, to serve the Columbus community, and to learn from mentors. I would go to seminary to expand my definition of God and community.
So, first of all, Trinity, thank you for opening your doors to a searching and thirsty high schooler in need of knowing that God loves me. Loves all of us. Thank you for showing me that faith and questions of God are meant to be discussed and laughed over and shared late-at-night in a dark chapel or over a picnic dinner. Thank you for sparking a fire within me.
Following the Seminary Sampler program, Trinity continued to shape me in the relationships I developed with the professors and the campus pastor. Through college you kept in touch with me and reminded me that my gifts were valuable. You encouraged me to see the whole world as a place to share God's love. And when I decided that just maybe, maybe, seminary would be a place for me, you were there with a variety of programs and ways to be a leader in the church. You were there to welcome me and my specific gifts.
Following college and Peace Corps service, I once again found myself meeting you with your tree-lined, winding walkway. Yet, then, at 24, I no longer was uncertain as to what I would find behind the entrance. Of course I had questions about theological education and my classmates and the classes and all the requirements that had to be done. But I also knew that I was walking towards a place of welcome and hope, and challenge.
Thank you for introducing me to a wide variety of leaders in the church. For my classmates and colleagues. For the late nights singing together, for the early morning classes, for praying before each class, for the talent shows, and the daily worship, and wondering about how God could call such diverse people, for the endless readings and papers, for the chance to practice our prayer positions and presiding at weddings and funerals, for the cookouts and bonfires, and for all the children in the courtyard.
Yes, thank you for the children in the courtyard. And that pogo stick. Yes, you know what I'm talking about. Those early mornings and those late nights and all the time in between bouncing on the pogo stick trying to get the most hops. If it wasn't for those children and that pogo stick I might not be as patient of a pastor as I am. If it wasn't for those children and that pogo stick I might not know what it is to play as a form of ministry.
Thank you Trinity for all the frustrations that come from living in community. You know, all the miscommunication, all the hurt feelings, all the comparisons, and all those who think they know exactly how everything should be done. There was never a dull moment! Yet, when we gathered around the table for bread and wine, water and word, in our diversity we were gathered by a God, a triune God, who welcomed and continues to welcome each of us. Dirty, messy, hopeful, striving, searching, and beloved community.
I wouldn't be where I am today if not for you, dear Trinity.
Keep opening your doors. Keep welcoming. And keep believing in the God who walks with each us; who marks us with the sign of the cross; who forms and shapes us to be sent into the world bearing the love of redeeming and healing grace.