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Seminary Notes 9: context and company

At the very end of last year, I realized that there were a couple handfuls of women in seminary who followed me on Instagram and they all felt lonely. Most of them, like myself, are doing seminary online and miss the community that can naturally occur in a campus environment. Almost instantly, I realized that I wanted to make a communal space for those women. A woman I met my first quarter of seminary expressed interest and I invited her to join me in the work. (I’m a firm believer that work is always better when done with someone else.) The Order of Junia was born over the next few weeks, and, at times, it feels like an excuse to email women I admire and ask them for an interview. Other times, the internet goes out and you’ve logged into the wrong meeting and you’re not quite sure how the YouTube channel is supposed to work. 

Work is often like that. It’s the best of everything you’ve wanted to do and also constant notes of frustration as tech doesn’t work or the schedule is slightly too full. There is always some background info to learn to make the process easier and I find myself having to say “no” to more and more things because I have the capacity of one specific person. 

I took three classes this past quarter. I loved them all and they melded together in way that were hard to separate into discussion posts. During a class discussion, most of the students admitted that this happened every quarter for them. Even two unrelated classes seem intertwined by the time the quarter ends. I will add that what I’m learning flows out of the classroom context into my daily life and that’s what I want. 

This quarter I wrote a final paper on context and public theology. The setting and events of our life shapes how we respond to the world and what we think is important. In an oversimplification, if you’re hungry, food matters to you. You’re not overly-spiritualizing your faith to something that only exists in eternity. If you’ve never been hungry, hunger seems of minimal importance and it may seem that following Jesus never involves our stomachs. 

Working through that paper reminded me that I need to listen. The perspective that other people have adds to my own. Reading different types of theologies from different places compels me to listen to other people’s stories in my day-to-day life. Suddenly life feels more complicated, problems more complex. That is a good thing. We need nuance and life is rarely simple. 

As Ted Lasso said, “Be curious, not judgmental.” (Though, turns out Snopes declares Whitman did not say this.) Ask many many questions before coming to conclusions. Then hold those conclusions loosely. 

Two slow-moving years through seminary has brought encouragement and that encouragement has helped me continue. My professor returned that paper on public theology with a note that I had the outline of a book or dissertation in the paper. Sometimes when you are doing work in your office that no one else is doing, it is easy to feel like it does not and never will matter. It can lose context outside of community and feel like the continual piles of frustration and never the interviews you’ve always dreamed of. I have to remember it’s both. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a burden and it’s a burden that is also a gift.

I’ll carry that comment from my professor into next quarter’s work, but I’ll also carry it into running The Order of Junia. We need encouragement to keep going. And we need to keep going. The church needs our context.

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