2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Saturday, Game Day

When I was a child, I used to enjoy doing cryptography with my father. We would read the latest issue of “The Cryptogram” together and trying to decode the various messages. Another fond childhood memory was treasure hunts. We would try to find something hidden, whether it was in Highlights magazine, a small silver tea pot that would hide somewhere in the room in plain side, or these complicated treasure hunts where one clue led on to the next. Years later, I became interested in gamification in education.

For me, yesterday was game day at seminary. While one of my professors was busy watching the World Cup, I was busy trying to decode various passages in Hebrew. Later, I went on a great treasure hunt at the library to find texts for my research paper.

I did find some time to also participate in non-schoolwork related gaming, and participated briefly in the Pokemon Go community day.

2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 5 - Fan Girls

“Sunday morning, very bright, I read Your book by colored light
That came in through the pretty window picture.”

Part of the daily schedule is morning and evening prayer. These are important times for me as I process and synthesize all that I am experiencing. So, too, have been these times of writing my reflections.

This morning, as I sit down to write, the words of Noel Paul Stookey’s song “Hymn” come to mind.

Passing conversations where they mentioned Your existence
And the fact that You had been replaced by Your assistants.
The discussion was theology,
And when they smiled and turned to me
All that I could say was "I believe in You.

So, we’re discussing theology. I love a good intellectually stimulating discussion and yet I often find theological discussions troubling. They often feel to me like a bunch of people talking dispassionately about Someone I love deeply. I love a good intellectually stimulating discussion and yet these theological discussions often feel somewhat incomplete to me. While I want to talk about post-colonial, queer, and womanist perspectives, I also want to talk with they people that hang out on the street where I work.

In class we talked about bridging the chasm. We talked about practical theology. For me, it feels like a great chasm and it was great to see glimpses of that bridge.

I visited Your house again on Christmas or Thanksgiving
And a balded man said You were dead,
But the house would go on living.
He recited poetry and as he saw me stand to leave
He shook his head and said I'd never find You.

On Thursday, the St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry showed up, The Rev. Winnie Varghese. I think I first heard Rev. Varghese speak at Missional Voices in 2016. Since then, I have often listened to her sermons online. I was very excited to hear that she would be the visiting professor and would speak to one of the classes I’m in.

A couple of my classmates spoke about being all “fan girl” about Rev. Varghese. I don’t really do the fan girl sort of thing, so I’ll simply say that Rev. Varghese’s voice is, in my mind, one of the most important voices we should be listening to today.

Another such voice is Dean Kelly Brown Douglas. She recently spoke to a bunch of clergy in Connecticut and we’ve been reading some of her articles for class. This is where some of the differences of opinions have shown up. What should our approach be to people from other social locations?

For me, it is important to listen to people from different social locations. One part of that is because this is how we are most likely to hear something new, something challenging. As a cis-het white male, there is also the issue of equity. Voices from my social location have too long dominated the theological discussions. Giving people from other social locations equal time is not enough. It does not balance out the centuries of cis-het white male domination. Instead, we need to point to, amplify, and highlight those voices that have been too long left out of the discussion. Dean Douglas takes this further suggesting that it is the oppressed themselves who are best able to understand and speak about God’s redemptive love.

During one of the sermons this week, a preacher suggested that “every time we draw a line, Jesus is on the other side of that line”. This particularly jumped out at me.

All of this takes me back to one of my foundation stories. Back in college I had a professor who had taken a group of students on the Camino de Santiago. When they returned the students spoke at various alumni association meetings. At one such meeting an elderly alumnus got up, shook his finger at one of the young students and said, “You know what your problem is, it’s that you don’t have any goals.”

The student respond that he did, in fact, have one goal, “to live each moment more fully and more lovingly that the previous”. I have adopted that as my own goal. Too much of my life I fall short of this goal, but it is where theology becomes practical for me.

I love my classmates. It feels like at the deepest levels, they come from places closely related to where I am coming from. One of them has a quote on her Facebook page, “I have a mustard seed, and I’m not afraid to use it.” Another has walked the Camino thanks to a fellowship for John Phillip Newell’s group.

As much as I love Rev. Varghese and Dean Douglas, if I’m going to go all fan girl, it is going to be on these people whose lives feel so connected with my own.

2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 4 - Coffee Before Hebrew

“Coffee before Hebrew,” she said as we left the chapel. The title of various books came to mind, Snow Falling on Cedars, I Know This Much is True, Like Water for Chocolate. Somehow, everything feels heavily laden with meaning in the middle of a Summer Intensive at seminary.

I knew that she was simply saying that she really needed a little coffee to help her wake up before heading off to Hebrew class, but my mind went to parsing different possible meanings. Perhaps she was using the word ‘coffee’ as a verb meaning something along the lines of “to become caffeinated, to get an adequate level of caffeine in the system to function as a normal human being. Perhaps she was making a statement about priorities. In the greater scheme of life, coffee comes before Hebrew. It is more important to enjoy simple pleasures of life, than it is even to learn human languages. Perhaps it was a statement about the order in which things most happen. First you must have coffee, then you must attend your Hebrew class, just as there is a natural order to the days and seasons.

There is a natural order to the day here. The morning waking up rituals, morning prayer, coffee before Hebrew, the morning Hebrew class, lunch, the afternoon ministry class, evening prayer, dinner, studying and unwinding. It is all good. The poem for the day yesterday was “i thank You God for most this amazing” by e. e. cummings. This too, is coffee before Hebrew.

2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 3

They call it the Wednesday Wall. After orientation and two days of classes, you’ve settled into the rhythm: Morning Prayer, class, Eucharist, lunch, class, evening prayer, and then time for dinner, fellowship and studies. It almost has a monastic feel.

The amount of work yet to be done becomes more apparent. You see the stress starting to crack the faces of some of your new-found friends, some to the point where they start leaking around the eyes.

After my afternoon class, I headed back to my room to drop off my books and computer. I was very tired and was trying to decide whether to just go straight to bed, find something to eat, or find someone to eat with. I really just wanted to sit, surrounded by classmates, in prayer.

Then, the chapel bell tolled. I had forgotten about evening prayer. It would be starting in fifteen minutes and was exactly what I needed. I walked over to chapel. I saw the wearied faces of some of my friends who had already arrived. Behind me, I heard a body collapse into a pew with a giant sigh. I let the whole service wash over me, cleanse me, nourish me, and sustain me.

Afterwards, I walked with friends to get food, to share friendship, and to just simply walk. I do my best studying and writing in the mornings, so I went to bed and slept deeply.

2018 Summer Intensive at CDSP: Day 2

My body is starting to adjust to Pacific Time. I’m starting to get my daily rhythm back. Classes are going well as we move past the orientation and introductions. It continues to be a wonderful experience. At the same time I am being reminded of the struggles of life. Recently, two friends have had to have surgery for detached retinas. Two friends have had trees fall on their houses and have had to move. Another friend is being admitted to the hospital. I hold all of these people in my prayers.

I am also struggling with how to engage in intellectual discourse, a favorite activity of mine, in a manner that is part of praying without ceasing and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. It feels easy when I do this in discussions with my family members; it is part of our family culture. But it is a challenge in more academic settings where discourse feels more adversarial and competitive.

There’s a lot more mulling in my mind right now, but I should let it steep for a little bit.

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