Those of you who have been accustomed to reading a daily post from me on my blog have probably wondered where I have gone. Truth be told, I just got tired; tired from many duties and tasks, and many responsibilities. When I started blogging a couple of years ago it was very much an avenue for me to express myself. It was in fact a step away from the sense of duty and a place to muse about the many things that ‘pop up’ in day to day ministry. I think that I may have overdone it a little bit, at least in the context of all the other things that have been ‘popping up’ in the parson’s pilgrimage. Sadly what was life-giving for me became another duty. I last blogged in Lent and when Easter arrived I gave myself permission to take the 50 days of Easter off. I felt that a Sabbath from blogging was wise. I think it was. While I stretched a little beyond the 50 days of Lent, I do feel a renewed eagerness to write again. I find writing a free place to express ideas that come to the fore. That being said I submit this little bit tonight as my opportunity to wade back into the pool.
Some of you know that last week I began a Doctorate in Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. I spent my first residency week in Chicago and cannot say enough about the faculty and staff at McCormick. I am thrilled to have accepted there and am looking forward to the next three years of study in this esteemed institution.
I have been considering more formal study for a few years and this past year it became clear that I needed to get back to study in a theological setting. I spent considerable time in the past twelve months praying and discerning what I should study and where I should study. The culmination of all of that heart-searching and soul-searching is the decision to take on this course of study with a concentration in Parish Revitalization. When it comes to the ministry setting, I have been living a charmed existence. I am fortunate to be in a leadership position among a people of God who take their call to discipleship very seriously and who work hard at it. Because of that dedication to ministry I have witnessed the growth and development of a parish that is working hard to be a relevant part of the community around it. At this juncture of my ministry at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake, I feel a great need to take that which I have learned from the people in this church and find a way to share it with others who are seeking to lead the church, in these changing times, to a place of mission and growth for discipleship tomorrow.
On the other hand, I feel the stress of the expectation and responsibility that goes along with a growing church that has just increased its seating by 50%. There is so much more that we need to do and so much more we need to learn about ourselves as a church community and I really want to be equipped as much as possible to help with growth and development of our church community. I am keenly aware that there are people in places of learning with prophetic voices that can help me and help us on our journey. The biblical foundation on which I have been operating is found in Luke 12:48b which reads, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." I have read those words more than once in the past few years. I have read it in many translations and I think the one I like best is the paraphrase known as The Message. It reads like this, "To those whom much has been given, much is expected!" Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!" I first felt the impact of that statement early into my tenure at St. Mark’s. It was clear to me that we had so many gifts present in our community and that those great gifts meant great responsibilities. Now? There are even greater gifts, which mean greater responsibilities. In order to live up to those responsibilities I am praying that further formal study for me will help us on our travail together.
I love learning. Learning is a life-long venture and no ‘program’ of study will ever impart what can only be learned through lived experience. That was a powerful lesson after my studies at Huron College. Ask anyone who has gone to seminary and you will find that a common attitude after leaving the seminary and entering the church a feeling of not having learned enough to be prepared for what takes place on a day to day basis in the church. The real benefit of having studying with my colleagues was getting ready to learn. The real learning takes place when you first have to sit with a dying parishioner, when you first have to stand with a couple who are committing their love for each other, when you first have to stand at the altar and celebrate with the people of God the mystery of the Eucharist, when you have to tend to the needs of those who hunger, or pray without books with those in crises. The learning is constant and it never ends and it is enriching in a way that cannot be easily articulated by a blathering blogger. The important principle is that learning is a lifelong process…
Many times when I am uncertain about an idea, a concept or even a decision I reflect on what my Dad would say, or what my Dad might do. Dad is nearly 93. While he has slowed down of late, one thing remains – he continues to learn. I spoke with him a few nights ago and he told me about one of the many books that he has been reading now that he does not get out as much as he used to. My brother tells me that he cannot keep the books to my dad fast enough. In his inability to learn with his hands and his feet he has discovered time to strengthen his mind and his thoughts. There was a day when Dad would disappear to the workshop. While there, without any drawings or blueprints he would create, and produce crafts, furniture, boats, and so much more – he learned by doing. He has and continues to live fully what Henry Ford said so long ago – ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.’ My Dad is nearly 93 – and you know – he is not old!
I have taken on a course of study hoping that each day I can be reminded that if I stop learning – I might just get old. Dad has never accepted old age and he has never stopped learning. Who knows where this latest trail on this journey of mine will lead. At the moment I am more than content to stand at the mouth of this winding trail and pray for direction as I seek to find God’s love in those around me and in those I have yet to encounter. Someone asked me yesterday, "what will you be when you finish this degree…a doctor?" I answered, "What God created me to be – Kevin."
Pray for me.