Life is a blur.
It’s hard for me to believe the summer is gone and I’m already stepping into my second semester at Campbell Divinity School. It’s even harder for me to believe that I have only been a seminarian for about six months; the experiences and lessons I’ve had already seem rich enough to fill a lifetime.
In my first semester, I learned to look at the Bible from a new perspective in Dr. Tony Cartledge’s Old Testament class. I began to understand the complex steps scholars have taken to identify biblical authors based primarily on the unsigned materials they left behind millennia ago (i.e., the Bible). More than anything else though, I have picked up a deep appreciation for the beauty and wisdom that permeates the ancient Hebrew scriptures.
I picked up some more knowledge on how the Bible came to be in its present form in my Introduction to Theological Education class with Dr. Michael Cogdill. I also gained some insight into what it means to be “called” by God to a task, and how people have interpreted and responded to their own calls throughout time. Dr. Cogdill’s class marked the beginning of my own journey of exploration into the classical spiritual disciplines, which have continued to captivate me to the point that I have lead a study on the disciplines with other adults at my church, and continue to find new avenues of application in my own life.
Dr. Daniel Day helped me to discover the difference between an essay and a sermon. As a person who has done a fair amount of writing, I have never been very fond of outlines or strict methodology, but my Ministry of Preaching class with Dr. Day opened my eyes to an entirely different genre of writing — one that is part conversation, part lecture and part prayer. My sermon writing and delivery has improved as a result, and I have found several opportunities to put my preaching lessons into practice over the past few months.
In Worship & Spiritual Formation I gave some serious thought to my own life and tried, as objectively as possible, to chart out the course of spiritual development I have taken over the past 24 years, identifying the major movements, and mentors, that have helped build me into who I am today. I began to understand a little more clearly what Christian fellowship is really all about, and what I can do to help foster that fellowship in all of my interactions with others.
The weekend I spent in downtown Raleigh participating in a poverty simulation pushed me to redefine what it means to be homeless. I walked away from that experience with a keen sense of the value of the personal relationships I hold dear in my own life, and just how illusory our culture’s concept of wealth is.
I signed up for Designing Church Ministries and Programs hoping to get a few pointers on holding Wednesday night youth lessons or putting together a Sunday school lecture, but Drs. Brian Lee and Johnny Ross had plans much deeper than that. Over the course of the semester, our class re-evaluated what it means to be a church in a post-modern culture, and picked up some valuable insights and timeless truths to help keep us focused as we seek to further the Kingdom of God in a rapidly changing world.
Dr. Bruce Powers explained the concepts and principles of servant leadership, as demonstrated by Jesus, in a class called Congregational Leadership — then he proceeded to live out his teachings over the rest of the semester, never missing an opportunity to push us to a new level of thinking as he challenged us to reconsider our preconceived notions of what it means to be a leader, how to identify the relational dynamics in complex situations and how to understand — and even embrace — the paradox of living a life of faith.
As if this whirlwind wasn’t enough, I decided to tack on a summer class: Introduction to Urban and Social Ministries with Professor Stan Yancey. Nearly every Monday in June and July, my fellow students and I visited, observed and discussed projects in place at a variety of very different ministry sites in downtown Raleigh. From homelessness to AIDS; mental illness to chemical addictions; broken families, broken dreams and broken faith; clothes closets, soup kitchens, day cares and emergency shelters — we took it all in, and I would venture to say that not one of us closed out the summer as quite the same person he or she was on June 1.
My first semester at Campbell has been simply incredible. Academically, I have been challenged more than I have by any school experience I have had before; at the same time, I have never felt burdened with work — each experience has truly been a joy. Spiritually, I have been nourished and encouraged beyond anything else I have ever experienced. Every day I walk into class absolutely amazed at how awesome Yahweh is. I continue to be blown away at how my experiences at Campbell keep building directly on the spiritual and academic foundation God has been laying in my life all along.
Here comes the next step.