I have had three careers over the course of my life. I taught High School History and Government for 9 years, pastored churches for fourteen years as a United Methodist clergyperson, and have been a seminary professor for four years teaching Preaching and Worship, Ministry Formation and UM courses (among others). In that time I have obviously felt called to move from one place and profession to another. During those times of calling and change – I reflected on my call and how God wanted to use me in the world in new ways. And those reflective times sent me back to graduate school twice – once for a Master of Divinity degree and then for Master and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. But this week I have been blessed with a rare opportunity to reflect on my vocation as a seminary professor and my identity as a theological educator. I was chosen to attend the Wabash Institute’s Consultation for Pre-Tenure Seminary Faculty over the next year (1 week this week, 1 long weekend in January 2012, and 1 week next summer). This is a group of 14 pre-tenure profs and 5 leaders reflecting intentionally on teaching; on our identity in seminary education; and the role of power, gender, and rank in our lives as faculty members.
One of the first things I noticed about our schedule was that there was a lot of free time scheduled. I was perplexed. Shouldn’t we be working the entire time? Shouldn’t this week wear us out? Shouldn’t we have more homework to do? We’re going bowling? We're going on a canoe trip? We’re learning to drum? Seriously?
Then after only 1½ days of us talking together – formally and informally – I know why we have down time. It is exhausting work. But it is work that is so worth it. We are asking BIG questions about our lives as educators, our goals for our students, our values as educators for our students’ learning, and how our courses reflect those goals and values. Taking time to assess our work is important. It is not the first time I have done this – but this guided and collaborative process this week is a gift beyond what I usually do.
Being with other seminary colleagues who are exploring who they are and who they want to be as theological educators is a powerful experience. Getting to know them and hearing their stories and experiences is phenomenal. But I wonder how often folks really take the time to assess their vocation - their work? I wonder how much intentional time people spend discerning why they do that they do in their work? I wonder why it took a week away to ask some of the questions I am asking. But I am so grateful for it?
I needed this time out. I did not know how much I needed it until I got here. So bring on the drumming lessons tonight. I wanna see how this helps me become a better teacher – because I know it will.
I promise to think even more intentionally about what I am doing from now on – but I will also try to remember to take a time out more often. Amazing how great it is.
Try it sometime …