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Heading to seminary? Here’s some good advice

Heading to seminary? Here’s some good advice

The Rev. Laurie Brock posts on her blog a wise list of suggestions for those entering seminary. While she notes that “thinking you will learn most of what you need to be a priest (or pastor or minister) in your seminary classes is akin to thinking you can learn to ride a horse only by reading books and going to lectures,” she urges seminarians to make the most of their training. Her list includes:

3. Learn about mental illness. Learn as much as you can about mental illness. If your seminary is on top of things and has classes that offer education in this area, take as many classes as you can. My seminary offered one, and it was almost ignored by seminarians on the ordination tract. I took it and still felt woefully unprepared for working with parishioners who struggle with mental illness and how their illnesses impact a community.

6. None of us were called to ordained ministry because we are awesome. Somehow in God’s economy, our wounds and scars are what God sees as valuable. So begin the hard, hard process of tearing down all the false awesomeness and letting your wounds and scars be exposed. A caveat – don’t become that person who is only known by his/her wounds and scars. That’s just another way of hiding behind false awesomeness. One way to do this (and I say it repeatedly): therapy.

9. For the Episcopalians reading this: READ, LEARN, and INWARDLY DIGEST the Book of Common Prayer. Know the rubrics. Believe rubrics are your friend. Read them again and again until you can recite many from memory. Some months ago, when talking with a priest from another diocese, he asked, “Do you use the Nicene Creed every Sunday? I find it takes away from the sermon.” I wish, at that moment, I was that priest who carried a flask of bourbon with her at all times. Contrary to my Kentucky reputation, I am not, so I took a deep breath instead and died a bit inside. I cannot stress this enough: bad liturgy is akin to bad pastoral care.

Read the complete list here.

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Eric Bonetti

I like the comment about, “If you are surrounded by jerks, you are the jerk.” To that, I’d add:

– Learn to read people. The world is full of confusing, quirky people, and relating to them is tough, even for the most extroverted.

– Think about relationships. Just as in a marriage there are things you can say or do for which you can be forgiven, but having said or done them, you will have caused irreparable harm, so too as a priest are there mistakes you can make that cause lasting damage.

– Learn early on to use your role as a force for good. It’s not enough to give great sermons and provide awesome pastoral care–you need to stand against injustice and oppression of every sort.

– If you land a full-time calling after ordination, don’t forget just how hard your parish works to make that possible. You may be working 10-12 hour days, but consider: Your parishioners often have worked equally long days before they ever even set foot in church, and many forego things like vacations in order to give sacrificially to the church. We want you to live a comfortable life–we just don’t want you to take that for granted.

Thomas Skillings

25 years into ordained ministry I echo the need for self awareness and an acknowledgement of our wounds 1000%. I would add that an understanding of your true gifts is also helpful.

I’m a little less taken with the love of rubrics. While I would agree that “good” liturgy is more than subjective, to judge liturgy by what was deemed “good” in one book (our 40+ year old

BCP) is a little narrow for good liturgical practice. As with pastoral care, it is good to learn standard theory and practice, but then to know how to use that knowledge in diverse situations.

I’m reminded of the joke. What’s the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist? Answer : you can negotiate with a terrorist.

Thomas Skillings

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