Reflections on Teaching at the School for Ministry
This Saturday, I will be teaching my first course at the new Diocesan School for Ministry at the Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach. I am very excited about it for a number of reasons. On the diocesan level, we’ve been dreaming about having a center and a school. At present, the diocesan office is located in the basement of the cathedral. It’s not easy to get to or to park at and the meeting spaces are few and small; it’s like being in the basement converted to a rec room of your parents’ house. Like the set of the comedy sketch turned movie, “Wayne’s World,” a couple of worn out couches, a pinball machine, and rock posters of Def Leopard and Bon Jovi might actually help us liven up the basement office look. Nevertheless, the Diocese is converting part of the church of the Holy Spirit, Ocean Beach, into a diocesan office. We are also converting the parish hall and church office into the Episcopal Center. There are good meeting spaces, ample parking, and location, location, location, at the outreach center of the diocese. But one part of the dream was still missing, the school.
The mission of our diocese is to support congregational life and vitality, to empower Episcopalians to live into and spread the Good News of Christ, to reach out to people who are in need, and to educate. In our national church, seminary education is undergoing a shift. The age old model of raising someone up for holy orders and sending that person to a 3-year institutional graduate school for education and spiritual formation is becoming more difficult and expensive every year. At the same time, there is a rapidly increasing need for deacons and priests, some of whom will choose to remain in their occupations and serve the Church on a part time basis. The School for Ministry is intended to educate and spiritually form Episcopalians who, for a variety of reasons, cannot travel the traditional path to ordination. In other words, the diocese is going to train people locally to serve God and live into their vocation of holy orders.
This is an electrifying, 21st-century, way to live into God’s mission in the world. But that’s not the whole reason why I am so excited to teach on Saturday.
Starting about ten years ago, I embarked on a journey to discover what God is calling me to do with my life. It’s been an interesting decade to say the least and the journey is not over; I have not fully lived into what God is calling me to be. This does not mean I am unhappy or dissatisfied, only challenged by the Holy Spirit to learn, grow, and do more for God’s mission. Being called to Saint John’s where I serve in both a parochial and academic setting has opened my eyes to further exploration of my vocation, which apparently includes teaching. And there is even more.
My dad is my hero. He was a biology teacher for 25 years and was quite active in church life when I was growing up. He too embarked on a journey into what God was calling him to do with his life. His journey included going to a school for ministry in the Diocese of Olympia (in western Washington State). Today my Dad and Mom own a successful Christian bookstore in Seattle. Their mission is not only selling books but also facilitating spiritual growth in their customers. It seems I am following in the family tradition of education and helping others with their spiritual lives. I am excited about this teaching at the School for Ministry, the manifestation of the Diocese living into its mission, the students living into their spiritual journeys, and my continuing to explore the mission God has in store for me. I am also excited about the opportunity to teach because, even though my dad is in Seattle, I feel like he is with me when I teach – whether it is to my sixth graders, at a Saint John’s Bible study, during a sermon, or teaching a preaching class to soon-to-be deacons and priests. His birthday is this weekend and even though I can’t be with him, I feel like I am celebrating with him.
I pray that God will continue to bless Saint John’s in her mission to proclaim and teach God’s love and lead the Diocese and the School for Ministry to raise up leaders to serve the Lord. And may God bless each of us in our spiritual journeys.