Friday, April 25, 2014

Seminary Snapshots: A New Series

St Paul's has a number of seminarians studying for the priesthood, at traditional seminaries and at our new School for Ministry.  We're introducing a new series here, "Seminary Snapshots", to hear from them about their seminary experience.  Do keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they pursue their studies! 

Jackie Bray writes us from Virginia Theological Seminary:

VTS Administration building
At Virginia Theological Seminary, I take about 15 units a semester and have classes Monday through Friday. Attending one worship service a day is strongly encouraged (with the two principal services Monday morning and Wednesday noon Eucharist) and faculty, staff and students all attempt to each lunch together. I also work 10 hours a week at our Welcome Center as part of my work study/financial aid agreement. My class schedule this semester has included: Biblical Hebrew, Old Testament, New Testament, Basic Musicianship, Constructions of Youth & Youth Ministries and Evangelism, Public Witness and Church Planting.

On Mondays, the student body gathers for morning prayer at 8:15am. At 9:00am I have my class on Evangelism, Public Witness and Church Planting. This class attempts to help us build foundational habits for natural evangelism like intentional listening and sharing ones story. We also focus on models of outreach, advocacy, social action and church planting. That class gets out at 11:45am, in which I head to lunch! No classes are scheduled between 12pm-2pm to allow students to attend eucharist every day, but also to facilitate fellowship around food. From 2pm-5pm I work at the Welcome Center. Here I keep coffee continually stocked for students and faculty, welcome all guests and transfer phone calls. After work at the Welcome Center, I head to dinner on campus. After dinner, I work on some homework and study. At 8pm or 9pm on Mondays, I have a soccer game with some other VTS students in a co-ed recreational league in DC.

What's the biggest challenge?
Weather has been the biggest challenge! I know that sounds silly, but as someone raised in Palm Springs, moving to San Diego for undergrad was cold enough for me, so moving to Virginia was a shock. We had 6 snow days this year, public schools has 10. More than just the cold, though, is the lack of sun! I didn’t realize how much I took the glorious sunlight in San Diego for granted. On days in Virginia, you wake up and its cloudy, and it shocks me when its still cloudy after the point at which it would have “burned off” in San Diego. This past weekend, it rained for 4 days straight, without stopping, and at one point turned to snow and sleet.

Snow man in the chapel garden
One thing to be aware of at a seminary like Virginia Theological Seminary is to not over extend yourself. We have incredible resources and opportunities at this seminary. This is not limited to incredible lectures by our own very published professors, but outside scholars as well. We also have flag football, soccer and frisbee. We have volunteer opportunities for any organization you could fathom. It is very easy to over extend yourself. Making sure to take time for my own spiritual development has been important in making sure that I am not signing up for too much.

What is scary?
Soccer team, after their first win of the season
I was very scared to live in community with people. I never lived in the dorms during undergrad, so this is my first dorm experience. We have our own rooms and bathrooms, but share all of our meals in a large cafeteria that is in-between all the dorms. In my dorm there lives 17 students, age ranges from 23-55. We have a common room (living room) with a dining room table and we have a full kitchen. We have group events like picnics together, and a constant area to work on puzzles.

Sometimes it can feel all too close, like when I can hear my neighbor on his Skype calls, yet so far apart, like Spring Break when you don’t see anyone for days. I think living in community with other students has really strengthened the bonds I have with these people. A good friend of mine lives two doors down and we can be commonly seen sitting in the hallway working on our computers. Living in close quarters has allowed us to have an opportunity to really be present through each others struggles and celebrations and be fully present in each others lives.

I have enjoyed living in the dorms so much that I have applied to live in an intentional living community for next year. This situation is 7 people living in one house together; sharing bathrooms, making meals together and doing volunteer work together. This will be taking the community living up a notch, but I think it will offer me the opportunity to build great bonds with these classmates and friends.

Jackie and her mom at the White House

1 comment:

Gillian said...

Great to hear your experience at VTS. I can empathize with the biggest issue being the cloudy weather. I grew up just an hour east of VTS, but after 7 years in San Diego it was the same shock for me! The intentional living community option didn't exist my year--I think it came into being the following year. Very cool. Oh--the other biggest adjustment for me? The speed limit Va. being 25 unless posted otherwise. I don't think my car ever went as slow as 25 the whole time I lived in San Diego.