Written and most recently updated on Monday, 15 August 2016.
By now I've been fairly well educated and quite thoroughly immersed in western protestantism and so ready to start a new page on this blog to tell a little more about the more formally theological aspects of my journey.
A university classmate whose husband was a seminarian invited me to a weekend student retreat at Grotonwood where Leander Keck from Yale Divinity School was keynoter and bible study leader! Around the same time I became involved at the church the couple attended—a community whose life, ministry and mission was activist, prayerful, devotional, worshiping, celebrating, biblically reflective, and inclusive. First Mariner's was a small, very urban, American Baptist mission congregation that showed me a model for ministry – especially inner-city, multi-cultural ministry – I'm still running with. Leaving its shelter, support, and especially its spiritual provision left me endlessly yearning and constantly longing for what in my memories has become irreplaceable near-perfection.
At First Mariners I fell in love with the Book of Common Prayer; at First Mariners I first prayed the canonical hours on weekend retreat. I remember going next door to the church to borrow the office books from the discalced Franciscans; I also recall the brothers walking around the snowy urban streets in their sandals, recollect their presence at community and political meetings. I also found myself some weeks at Wednesday morning eucharist at University Lutheran—my pastor had suggested UniLu to me because I was starting to enjoy theology.
For complicated reasons I finished the bachelor of music degree in performance I began right after high school. Particularly during those first two semesters and the following summer, it seemed as if everyone advised me to change from the music to the visual arts division within the School for the Arts or go to a different school altogether, but I'd already done the basics, and for reasons I won't detail here, that second year was far more interesting than the first. Nothing I'd want to continue for decades, but more than tolerable.
Since the beginning I prepared for a lifetime of inner city ministry with carefully planned paid employment and volunteer gigs, a master of social work, a second undergrad degree in economics and urban studies—all 128 credits worth! However… eventually I realized the people who'd told me I needed a theological education had been correct. Formal academic study in almost any field does teach you how to approach the discipline and the varied subjects within that discipline, preparing a foundation for future self-learning. In music school I didn't work through a lot of repertoire with any teacher, but (for example) I learned essentials of north German baroque organ registration, of ornamentation in J.S. Bach's keyboard music. Same thing when a person studies theology. Or any type of design or art. On some level I wanted an academic theology degree rather than the more practical MDiv that necessarily includes a fair amount of academic coursework, but no way could I pay for the degree I desired and I was doing parish ministry, so I entered the candidacy process for ordination to ministry of word and sacrament. I paid some hefty tuition bills, but the denomination, aka "church body" also provided substantial financial support.
Fourteen years ago at this time [twenty years as of 2022] I'd just finished a year-long Certificate in Community Economic Development at San Diego State University. Another credential for urban ministry, needless to say. Not surprisingly, fourteen years post- the CED certificate and now 24 years [make that 30 in 2022] since Sizable Suburban Church recalled me have contained a lot of disappointments and unexpected outcomes; they've also featured building my résumé with new skills and experiences. Tripling my piano repertoire! I've kept on keepin' on in the same direction, either because my sense of call wouldn't quit, or because none of the friends I'd expected to continue on the journey – who could have counseled me – still were in my world. During Lent 2013 I wrote, "I fear more months, years, decades of aimless drifting." The door only can be opened from the other side.
I've described my theology as "quite well examined with a hint of Luther, a slice of Calvin," and so it tends to be with an ongoing emphasis on the redemption and integrity of all creation, placing me within the confessional traditions of the continental European Reformation.
You know I love the sacraments, the liturgy, the city, the desert, the beach, the church, and the world. But have I found a settled place or not? No, not yet, not really. But like so many throughout the centuries, whatever else has been going on, by grace I do whatever I can to participate in at least one Eucharistic liturgy each week. I also consider myself well within the broader traditions of the church because I am within them, sometimes solidly, at other times marginally. As I explained in my blog and review of Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism, "Our Holy-Spirit created individual faith is always the common faith of the church."
And on this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, and he will swallow up death forever. Isaiah 25:6-7