After going to seminary nearly 8 years ago, dropping out after a year, and then returning 5 years later, I have now graduated with my Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies program at Western Theological Seminary. (Sorry for all those links.)
I was also proud and humbled to have been voted by the faculty to receive the Stanley A. Rock award in Pastoral Care and Counseling, “for outstanding work in pastoral care and counseling courses and formation for ministry assignments”.
So what now? Well, first I have to finish my last six weeks of classes before actually getting my actual degree. Then I will need to finish my requirements for ordination as a minister in the Reformed Church in America. After that? I’m still figuring it out.
I’ll still be in Philadelphia. I won’t be looking for a ministerial job outside my own church. I’ll continue my job in social work while other opportunities work themselves out. I still hope to do Ph.D. work in the future, but I’m taking a breather for the immediate moment.
[Click here to see the actual fateful moment or just scroll to 52:40]
In some ways, then, nothing is changing. In so many more meaningful ways, however, so much is changing. I graduated from high school and college without feeling fundamentally different in any way on the other side of those degrees. This feel different, though. I feel a weight on me, a deep joy over the work and opportunities that lie ahead, and a new phase of “adultness”.
(Yes, I acknowledge my use of the word “adultness” undercuts my point.)
I’m looking forward to reading what I choose (any suggestions? I am especially in need of reading some non-religious books), and getting back to blogging here. Thank you to my family, church, friends, and mentors for loving and supporting me well. I look forward to returning the love. A special shout-out goes to those closest to me back in college, for shepherding me into this endeavor when my life was heading towards other places.
On one last note, I would say that if you yourself are interested in seminary, and especially if you are looking for a distance program you can do while you work, I cannot suggest more highly my (now) alma mater. Having experienced a few different types of seminary education, I can say that the Newbigin House of Studies is incredible, effective, formative, and sets the standard for the future of seminary education.
4 thoughts on “Who has a brand new Masters of Divinity degree? This guy.”
Congratulations on graduating from seminary!
I remember well the feeling of freedom I got being able to read whatever I wanted when I graduated from seminary. You asked for book recommendations and recommending books is one of my very most favorite things, so here goes.
On the non-religious, nonfiction front, my top recommendation is Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson; it was really eye-opening to discover how much of what we take for granted in the political realm (e.g., nation states) is both contingent and quite recent in origin. Also highly recommended is The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis, his brilliant academic book on the culture of the middle ages. Also very good are Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper, A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry, The History of White People by Nell Irving Painter, and The Tacit Dimension by Michael Polanyi.
If you decide to read some theology after a while, my suggestion would be On the Orthodox Faith by John of Damascus. The book is pretty short and was enormously influential both East and West but for some reason isn’t read much these days. Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham by Russell L. Friedman is another book you should get around to at some point; it covers an incredible amount of ground in only 200 pages and will go a long way to complicating your picture of medieval theology.
My top recommendation in fiction is R.A. Lafferty, a mid-western author of what can roughly be classified as science fiction. His stories are a strange and wonderful mixture of science fiction, tall tales, native american folklore, and Roman Catholic theology. I would start with his collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers (be warned, he’s mostly out of print). Other authors I’d recommend are Gene Wolfe, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Lois McMaster Bujold. (I also love C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle but I figure you are probably already familiar with their work.) Oh, and if you’ve never read Beowulf, now would be a good time to change that. I recommend the Seamus Heaney translation.
I hope you don’t mind this inordinately long essay I dumped on your blog. Feel free to follow or ignore my suggestions at your leisure.
Congratulations on finishing seminary! I dropped out after two years at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; I had an estimated 5 years to go. I just could not handle the strain on work, finances, and family with little to no help from my denomination with regards to mentorship, support, and encouragement. In any case, I’m moving on to a Masters in Clinical Counseling, which is a wonderful 2 year degree. I admire your resolve, I know it is absolutely exhausting.
With regards to books. When I dropped out I went a little crazy on audio books (Audible) because it was a nice break from books on hermeneutics and systematic theology. Some of my favorites are:
1. This is Water by David Foster Wallace (essay)
2. Just about all of the Harry Bosch mystery novels by Michael Connelly
3. Work Rules! by Laszio Bock (book on Google, business)
4. Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (Fiction/biography)
5. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer (non-fiction)
6. Quiet by Susan Cain (psychology)
7. The Testament by John Grisham (fiction)
8. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (fiction)
9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (not for the faint of heart). (fiction)
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