I've been out of town for several weeks, three to be exact. I only missed one Sunday because after the first week I came home to Charlotte to pick up the family to join me. Where was I? I went home to Sewanee, AKA the School of Theology at the University of the South. The way that my very happy childhood shook out, I somehow emerged without a sense of place, without a place that I call home. So when I visit my parents, I visit them, I don't go "home." That house was sold my senior year of high school. Years later we went to seminary at Sewanee. It's a beautiful place, take a look:
Not only is it beautiful but the faculty and staff of the school of theology basically formed me into a priest, and a Christian. So this place feels like home. It's got it's problems, but knowing about those (it's racist founding (which they openly acknowledge and face down), its relationship with the surrounding community, etc.) means that Sewanee is a real place, not a fantasy. So Sewanee is my spiritual home. Earlier this year on a trip to Jerusalem I was struck by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which, for me, is the perfect icon of the broken Body of Christ. On that trip my heart became magnetized to that strange place. But in Sewanee, I'm fed spiritually just being there.
I was there to start a new course of study. I'm doing what is called a STM, a Masters of Sacred Theology. I have no idea why they don't call it a MST. I've been told that the STM is the most academic degree they offer, even more than the MDiv. I am hear to report that this seems to be the case. I take classes along with the Dmin (doctor of ministry) students. A DMin is not a PhD, but it is an advanced degree that is more practical in nature, at least in what they produce at the end. The DMin students, for their program, must do a project related to the parish. The STM students write a thesis, 120 pp. So... there's that.
Students take two courses at a time, for three weeks, five days a week, two hours per day per class. It was intense. They basically take a semester's worth of work into three weeks. The first few days I thought I had made a horrible mistake, I certainly felt like a total slacker. My reading and thinking had gotten a little flabby, but as the days went on I was able to run with the big boys and girls. I was reading about 150 pages of content per day for the classes, plus a little wikipedia for the stuff I didn't understand. So when there is a theologian writing about the grave mistake of the epistimology of Dun Scotus, you have to do some quick reading on what the heck that is!
I'll highlight what I read later, but suffice it to say for now that the course of study was amazing. It was hard at times to remember, with my family there, that I was not on vacation. I found myself resentful of all the work, but kept repeating: I. Am. Not. On. Vacation.
I'm so grateful to the parish for supporting this study. For me, I am greatly fed by this high level kind of study and it is a joy for me to make it intelligible to the parish through our programming and my preaching. More to come!