Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Why Feminary?

I've decided to keep this blog to track my journey through seminary. At the moment I am thinking I'd like to keep this anonymous, although I am sure that eventually the identity of my school, and even myself, will become obvious to those paying attention.

Nearly a decade after finishing my BA I've decided to go back to school. This in and of itself is a big step in life, but what I've chosen to study--theology--takes it to a different level altogether. And yet, this is the only thing that I could study. I never wanted to get a graduate degree because I feared getting bored with my subject. But God, being eternal and boundless and bottomless, seemed to be a topic that could hold my attention throughout life.

There are other reasons, of course, than just this practicality. I come from a line of preachers. Grandpa had a doctorate and pastored a church for 33 years. Dad went to Dallas Theological Seminary, was ordained Southern Baptist, then went into youth ministry for 20 years and has only just taken on his own church within the last 10 years. Nobody in my generation seemed to be picking up the baton, as it were, and since I already felt "called", I obliged.

The idea had been buzzing around my brain, in fact, for many years. Now and then it would come strongly, when I had an idea for a sermon, or a church service, or counseled someone. Last year it became intense. I visited a monk for spiritual direction and he wasn't shocked by the idea: point 1. Then I went on retreat and was remarkable all weekend. What I mean by this is that words were coming out of my mouth and I don't know where they were coming from, but somehow I kept knowing exactly what to say to people. I was able to talk to their situation even when I didn't know it. People kept marveling at my wisdom, and I myself was amazed. This was a great feeling. I wanted to keep doing it.

And so shortly after that experience, I spoke to my favorite priest, who said he could see the call on my life. He called me a colleague. That's a goosebumpy thing to hear.

I applied, I got in, and now here I am. I haven't nearly gone into all the details of why I chose the particular school I am at, or why I even chose to go at all. But I'm on the verge of boring myself, so I am going to move on to the next topic. Which is...

Why am I calling this Feminary?

See, I am, I think, a feminist. At least in the sense that I believe women and men are equal. And in the sense that I believe women are still repressed in many ways. And in the sense that I believe many women don't care enough to change that and that saddens me.

Besides being a cute name, proclaiming my studies "Feminary" is putting front-and-center my attitude, the objections I've heard or perceived, the goals I hope to accomplish, and the motivation which will fuel many of my choices. Everything I do in seminary will be informed by my voice as a woman. I can't help but be constantly aware of my femininity as I start this adventure. How does my double-x chromosome fit into a calling to ministry? Why must I be hyper aware of my girliness?

I was raised in a church that repressed women. My father's church still argues over whether women can be ushers. Despite whatever gains have been made, it seems that in much of the country, and especially the world, the church is still a patriarchial society. I must be aware of what I can do to reform this.

My brother works as a music minister at a church, and occasionally preaches. Somehow, from my dad at least, I get the feeling that my brother is the "minister" in the family. I am afraid this will not change, even when I have a piece of paper that says Master of Divinity. I want to carry on the mantle. But will I be recognized as the one?

At school, I see many men, but also many women around me. I can't help but wonder, how many of these women will get their MDiv then go on to do nothing with it? They will get jobs doing something less than their calling. And they may not even realize that they are not living up to their potential. Why? Because women so often see their calling as serving others. Serving our families is noble, to be sure, but I can't help but wonder if it has become so because of what the Bible teaches or what culture has instilled.

It was only recently that I caught myself almost giving this degree (that I want so badly) up in favor of my husband's life. Thankfully, he told me to do my thing and he would sacrifice for me. Wow! After 8 years of putting him through school, I had become so used to being the breadwinner that I'd forgotten that I was neglecting myself. My sense of responsibility for my family was trumping my own inner voice, which was crying out for stimulation and purpose. Thanks be to God for giving me a man in my life who honors my calling.

This seems to be getting rather random, and I am sure I will have more thoughts as things progress, so I will stop now.

No comments: