What Your Reaction to “What Your Seminary Says About You” Says About You: Errata, Elucidations and Updates

Hey, Reverend! Hi! Nice to see you again!

Boy, was I surprised by the sudden wave of traffic my last post received. This blog is a pretty tiny, churchified niche of the Internet, where I tell you what to buy as an ordination gift or how to be a youth pastor if you’re not cool. Most of my posts are only read by desperate seminarians and two of my aunts. (Hi, Aunt Maureen and Aunt Peggy! Love you!)

But it turns out a LOT of us have strong feelings about where we went to seminary. I feel compelled to specify that I’m just a stranger on the Internet. I’m not on an ATS accreditation team or anything. If your school didn’t make the list, the reason is simple: I couldn’t think of a joke about it.

However, having received some helpful tips and corrective feedback, I have a few things I want to clear up:

What Your Seminary Says About You (abridged, with comments)

Virginia Theological Seminary
You are 27 years old and contemplating your first run for bishop.

No one disputed this.

Bexley Seabury
You wanted to go to seminary but you also had other stuff to do, you know?

I was pleased to draw the attention of the former dean of Bexley Seabury, who wrote: “When I presented the revised low-residency curriculum to some people at our accrediting agency, they asked, ‘And who is your targeted audience?’ I actually said, ‘People who have stuff they need to do in addition to following their call.'”

Calvin Theological Seminary
Your last name begins with a V.

Again, no one disputed this.

Harvard Divinity School
You are Unitarian, or wish you were.

I heard from a handful of male HDS grads who patiently explained to me what a Unitarian is and what Harvard Divinity School is like, which in no way replicated any experiences I had during the three years I spent as a student at Harvard Divinity School.

Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
You took great umbrage at the absence of a separate entry for Berkeley in the first draft of this post.

I heard from a LOT of BDS grads who wanted me to know that Berkeley is significantly more special than Yale, which in no way confirmed any of my stereotypes about Berkeley Divinity School.

Trinity School for Ministry
You totally are that kind of evangelical. WANNA FIGHT?!?!?!

One TSM grad politely offered to fight me. I considered it, but since in addition to being nearsighted I am also small, weak, and slow, I don’t like my chances here. I think my best bet is probably to yell something about being a “real Anglican” and then run.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
You are a former InterVarsity staff worker and have the relentless enthusiasm to prove it.

I chose “relentless” because “grating” seemed unkind.

Candler School of Theology at Emory
You have thought long and hard about whether you are an Emily or an Amy.

Unless you are a Don.

School of Theology at Sewanee
You wonder if it would be in poor taste to wear a seersucker alb.

Several Sewanee graduates reached out to let me know that while a seersucker cassock is very practical for summer, a seersucker alb would be unthinkably gauche. I humbly accept this correction and regret the error.

McCormick Theological Seminary
You feel quietly superior to people who went to LSTC.

A number of McCormick graduates confirmed this, leading me to reconsider the “quietly” part.

Starr King School for the Ministry
You are offended when people assume you believe in God, but also offended when they assume you don’t.

Regardless of seminary affiliation, this appears to ring true for Unitarian Universalists everywhere.

Seminary of the Southwest
You spend a lot of time explaining that you went to a real seminary.

I can neither confirm nor deny that anyone has ever attended this school.

Fuller Theological Seminary
You own 18 pairs of flip-flops and an electric guitar.

Apologies to all the Fuller grads who clarified that they actually own acoustic guitars.

North Park Theological Seminary
You are Swedish.

As I now know, some of you are Norwegian.

Multnomah Biblical Seminary
You are not reading this post.

100 points to the sole Multnomah grad who let me know that he read it! For what it’s worth, he said I was probably right.

What Your Seminary Says About You

Hey there, Reverend. I’ll be honest: I’ve spent three months trying to write one encouraging post about “ministry in the age of coronavirus,” and another about “motivating your church to work for racial justice,” and I just don’t have enough in the tank. Maybe you’ll get those when the pandemic is over. Or when I have child care again. Whichever comes first.

I recently attended a compulsory clergy retreat, on the topic of Finding Your Center During a Global Pandemic. By “attended” I mean I turned off my Zoom video and half-listened through headphones while feeding beans to my toddler and then helping her fit the pig, barn, and chicken pieces into her farm puzzle approximately 1,000 times. I only caught the gist, which I believe was “find your center,” but as I pocketed the rejected pieces of the farm puzzle (sheep, goat, horse, cow, and duck), I thought about the three things that help me center my soul instead of letting it spin around like an unsteady top:

  1. Dwelling in the presence of Jesus, who is the light and hope of my life.
  2. The love of my family and friends, even when transmitted over Zoom.
  3. Dumb jokes.

It is in the spirit of this last item that I present to you the following list. If your seminary is not included, it’s probably because I don’t know enough about it to come up with any sweeping generalizations, but if you mention it in the comments I’ll make one up.

I hope you will take this list in good fun (and perhaps comment to let me know whether I got your seminary right). We’re in this together, Reverend. Hang in there.

Updated 6/28/20 to add: SFTS, Mundelein, Loyola Chicago, Lancaster, Starr King, Union Presbyterian, Columbia, Andover Newton, Berkeley at Yale, Boston University, Asbury, Candler, Starr King, Meadville Lombard, Brite, Vanderbilt, Northern, Austin Presbyterian, Garrett-Evangelical, and Chicago Theological Seminary. Keep the suggestions coming!

Updated 6/29/20 to add: Bangor, Gordon-Conwell, LSTP, LSTG, United, Dallas, Perkins, Moravian, Seabury-Western, and Bexley Hall. I’m going to stop adding to this post lest it become unfunnily long, but will continue to reply to the comments.

What Your Seminary Says About You

Virginia Theological Seminary
You are 27 years old and contemplating your first run for bishop.

Church Divinity School of the Pacific
You own at least one article of clothing made out of hemp.

San Francisco Theological Seminary
You got into CDSP, but hemp makes you itch.

Philadelphia Divinity School
You are old.

Seabury-Western Theological Seminary
You don’t understand why people say the North Shore is out of touch.

Bexley Hall
You don’t really mind that no one has heard of you.

Bexley Seabury
You wanted to go to seminary but you also had other stuff to do, you know?

Calvin Theological Seminary
Your last name begins with a V.

Nashotah House
You are exploring your call toward celibacy.

Pacific School of Religion
You are exploring your call toward polyamory.

University of Chicago Divinity School
You are exploring your call toward getting an unemployable Ph.D.

Episcopal Divinity School (pre-EDS at Union)
You feel most at home in settings that replicate your dysfunctional family of origin.

General Theological Seminary
You have seriously considered pursuing a career as a vestment model.

Episcopal Divinity School (post-EDS at Union)
You don’t care that much about vestments, but you still thought it would be cool to go to seminary in New York.

Union Theological Seminary
You wonder why your friends reach for their drinks every time you say the word “praxis.”

Union Presbyterian Seminary
You are tempted to reach for your own drink every time you say, “No, the other Union.”

Harvard Divinity School
You are Unitarian, or wish you were.

Yale Divinity School
You are Episcopalian, or wish you were.

Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
You took great umbrage at the absence of a separate entry for Berkeley in the first draft of this post.

Andover Newton (pre- or post-Yale)
You’re still not sure whether it’s technically true that you went to Yale.

Catholic Theological Union
You’re not that kind of Catholic.

Mundelein Seminary
You are that kind of Catholic.

Boston University School of Theology
You’re not Catholic. That’s Boston College.

Loyola University Chicago
You’re not Catholic but Loyola gave you pretty good financial aid, so.

Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
You believe with all your heart that the Catholic Church will start ordaining women any day now.

Princeton Theological Seminary
You’re not that kind of evangelical.

Portland Seminary
You totally are that kind of evangelical, but you also love trees.

Trinity School for Ministry
You totally are that kind of evangelical. WANNA FIGHT?!?!?!

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
You are not an evangelical. Well, it depends on what you mean by “evangelical.” It’s complicated.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
You are a former InterVarsity staff worker and have the relentless enthusiasm to prove it.

Episcopal Theological Seminary
You are old.

Northern Seminary
You see no reason not to say you went to seminary in Chicago.

Bangor Theological Seminary
You can ride a moose, but you don’t make a big deal about it.

Moravian Theological Seminary
You no longer bother to correct people who assume you are from Moravia, the country.

United ____________ Seminary
You can’t understand how two financially unstable seminaries managed to consolidate into one equally financially unstable seminary.

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
You really wish people would stop asking you about Ravi Zacharias.

Iliff School of Theology
You really wish people would stop asking you about Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Duke Divinity School
You really wish people would stop asking you about the Traditional Plan.

Asbury Theological Seminary
You really wish people would START asking you about the Traditional Plan.

Luther Seminary
You really wish people would stop mimicking the way you say “about.”

Candler School of Theology at Emory
You have thought long and hard about whether you are an Emily or an Amy.

Wesley Theological Seminary
You believe that roads have middles for a reason.

Lancaster Theological Seminary
You spend a lot of time saying, “No, it’s LANK-uh-stir.”

Perkins School of Theology
You’re not from THAT seminary in Dallas.

Dallas Theological Seminary
You are only aware of one seminary in Dallas.

Columbia Theological Seminary
You have an impeccable wardrobe and a quiet sense of judgment.

School of Theology at Sewanee
You wonder if it would be in poor taste to wear a seersucker alb.

Lutheran School of Theology at Gettysburg
You’re not here for the drama.

Lutheran School of Theology at Philadelphia
You are SO here for the drama.

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
You pronounce each letter of “LGBTQ+” as a separate word.

McCormick Theological Seminary
You feel quietly superior to people who went to LSTC.

Chicago Theological Seminary
You believe that chanting the words “community organizing” counts as community organizing.

Starr King School for the Ministry
You are offended when people assume you believe in God, but also offended when they assume you don’t.

Meadville Lombard Theological School
You spend a lot of time riding public transit.

Vanderbilt Divinity School
You claim to know Amy-Jill Levine personally, even if you don’t.

Brite Divinity School
You are startled by the assumptions people make when they learn that you went to seminary in Fort Worth.

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
You have three hobbies: drinking craft beer, discussing craft beer, and thinking up catchy names for worship services held in bars.

Seminary of the Southwest
You spend a lot of time explaining that you went to a real seminary.

Fuller Theological Seminary
You own 18 pairs of flip-flops and an electric guitar.

North Park Theological Seminary
You are Swedish.

Multnomah Biblical Seminary
You are not reading this post.

How to Write a Kickass Ember Day Letter

Greetings, my fellow Episcopalians!

So you’ve been admitted to postulancy for Holy Orders. Congratulations! Time to get to work brainstorming your first Ember Day letter.

Ember Days are special occasions when the church is invited to pray for all those preparing for a life in ministry. If you yourself are preparing for a life in ministry, and by chance you have picked the ordained kind, Ember Days seem like they should be a chance for everyone to dote on you. Nope! Instead, they are a chance for you to do a little extra work.

By canon law, if you are in the ordination process as a postulant (step 1) or candidate (step 2), you are required to “report” to your bishop four times a year — during, you got it, the Ember Days. I will just go ahead and tell you when they are, because as far as I am concerned there is no earthly way you could guess. Continue reading

Every Single Book I Read in 2019 and What I Thought of Each: An Exhaustive List

Hello, Reverend! I recognize that 2019 was a quiet year on this blog, in large part because it was not quiet anywhere else. With my family, I moved cross-country, bought a house, started a new call at a new church, and adjusted to life with a tiny baby … who is now a not-so-tiny, joyful, rambunctious toddler. Nobody warned me that every cliché about how fast they grow up is true.

IMG-7573

She also helps unload the dishwasher.

In the midst of all that chaos, I did manage to read a few books. Not nearly as many as in past yearsI’ve kept a running list of every book I’ve read since 2007but enough to keep me sane amidst the chaos of ministry and parenthood. If you need a book to do the same for you, allow me to present the following 17 micro-reviews as a small encouragement to read something non-work-related in 2020. Woman cannot live on Feasting on the Word alone. Continue reading

Youth Pastor Ken (or: On Being Uncool in Youth Ministry)

Good morning, Reverend! Is this a busy week, or what?

Here in my neck of the woods, we’re getting ready for Homecoming Sunday. I am hard at work prepping my sermon, trying to recruit that final leader for seventh-grade Sunday school (why is it always the hardest position in the church to fill?!?!), and counting the days until I get to see my beloved high school youth group kids again.

I have two words about high school youth group: GIANT JENGA.

Actually, I also have a little story. Consider it a pep talk as you launch into this crazy time of year, at least if you are resolutely uncool like me. Continue reading

Spiritual Strengths Inventory (for when your faith is down in the dumps)

Hey there, Reverend! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. If you ever choose to go public with your thoughts about sexual harassment or sexual violence in the church, I suggest building in several months off afterward to deal with all the mail.

On a not wholly unrelated note: I don’t know about you, but I found my seminary training to be a bit lacking in the pastoral counseling department. I did take one class on something called “spiritual care,” during which I learned a great deal about the love lives of my classmates and very little else. If I am ever again in a position to counsel someone who is heartbroken after desertion by a paramour from the back row of Old Testament II: Histories & Prophets, I will be ready to roll.

Somehow, though, I had a feeling that my friends in the mental health field were developing skills a bit more sophisticated than “mirroring” and “active listening.” They were learning to notice their clients’ thinking errors and challenge them, directly but kindly. They were learning how to help people name their struggles and — even more important — start to imagine being able to overcome or endure them. Continue reading

Rock That Collar: Featured on Beauty Tips for Ministers!

I’m a longtime fan of Beauty Tips for Ministers, a blog by PeaceBang, otherwise known as my fellow Massachusetts clergywoman the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein. She writes about clergy image and style, offering plenty of beauty tips but also so much more:

So you can only imagine my pure giddiness at being featured on BTFM. Continue reading