Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life Transitions: Boston University, Coffee, and a Chihuahua

A number of things have caused me to think about transitions in life as of late. 2013 has already been a big year for my family and I, and it will continue to be from here on. I'll go in order with some of the bigger things:

1. We got a dog for Christmas. Pardon me: we got a Chihuahua for Christmas. Just this morning little Mocha - and I do mean little: he weighed in at a whopping four pounds today - had a little bit of life transition of his own. He shall not procure any pups on this side of the eternal Kingdom. Poor guy. But he sure has changed our household. He's awesome.

2. I stopped drinking soda. Other than one forgetful half cup of orange soda at my brother's place for one of the Patriots play-off game, I've not had even my ever-favorite Diet Coke. I didn't really plan this and I'm not sure how long it'll go, but for now, it's good that all the sugar and fake-sugar isn't in my system (not to mention that I don't mind not paying for it).

3. Speaking of beverages, I am now caffeinated coffee-free. Didn't really plan on this one either, but Meghan had us on a three day cleanse several weeks ago, and after 72 hours of incredible headaches, I just couldn't figure out why I'd go back on coffee. It took several more days to get over the headaches. I sure do miss it (way more than soda), but I can't stand depending on it. So I'm drinking one cup of green tea in the morning and a cup of decaf tea in the afternoon. We'll see how long this lasts.

4. Our afore-mentioned sabbatical is well into its planning (but I have much to do!). More on this at other points.

5. I quit teaching for the Adult Studies program at Eastern Nazarene College. I loved what I did, though I couldn't stand the distance traveled and the elimination of one night a week (teaching usually took up from 2:00-11:30 PM on Tuesdays, not including correcting time, email, etc.). It was a wonderful experience: I learned a lot about teaching the scriptures and a lot about teaching the scriptures to completely biblical-illiterate adults. Even more enjoyable to me than teaching the Bible was teaching church history. I will not forget most of the people I met and their stories of joy and heartache come to my mind often. I loved the experience, but the time spent teaching is shifting to...

6. I'm going back to school in the fall.

I applied and was accepted to study at Boston University's School of Theology to study for a Master of Sacred Theology degree. While I have an M.Div., I have been longing for the seminary classroom since a few minutes after I crossed the platform to receive that M.Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary.

Why am I going back to school? Good question. Here are some thoughts from my application:

I began college with the intent of being a high school history teacher, hoping to stay single at least through my early 30s while free to travel and thrill-seek during the summer. Today I am 32, pastoring an evangelical church, approaching my 10th wedding anniversary, and have four children. My path has taken unexpected turns and sometimes unwelcomed ones. But I would not trade what I am doing today for any other path. While the surprising turns and delights of the past caution me to be wary of making predictions about future vocational endeavors, I will at least offer the following.
I absolutely love serving as pastor of the North Street Community Church of the Nazarene in Hingham, MA. Despite not being in front of a high school classroom, teaching and teaching via preaching have brought at least portions of the spirit of my early vocational desires to fruition. Having the opportunity and responsibility of forming people to a specific end is incredible. The subject has shifted and the end has become less trivial and more spiritual. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My own faith and life, surely deeply affected by marriage and child-rearing, has become more about the subject as impactive of the object. As my father often reminds me, “Education is one’s journey from dogmatic ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.”
When I mention to people that I may be headed back to school, their first question is most often whether or not I hope to be a professor. While I would not say that I have never considered or aspired to such a thought, at the moment my desire and intent is both personally- and pastorally-driven. (This is not to mention the fact that there seem to be about a million of my peers seeking such things and I just don't see much of a market for it. The local parish seems to be my place, station, and call.)
The community and the structure of the classroom has been a means of grace for me and I look forward to her challenge. And I believe that the specific subjects into which I hope to dive (postliberalism, ethics, and practical ecclesiology, amongst others) are important both in my setting on the south shore of Boston and in the changing face of the Church in the coming years.
However, I have indeed enjoyed teaching undergraduate classes alongside pastoring. Teaching in the adult learners classroom has been rewarding both personally and in shaping who I am as a pastor in a nonreligious society.
More specifically in terms of study:
Since being exposed to postliberalism during my first graduate work, I have been unable to escape the notion that the nonviolent nature of Jesus Christ in the story of the New Testament is normative for his followers. This journey through peaceableness has not been easy in the parish setting, perhaps particularly in a wealthy suburb. Despite efforts to preach and teach that nonviolence has daily implications in our relationships with others, most talk of nonviolence brings to the minds of most the likes of conscientious objection, Vietnam, or John Lennon and not any ecclesiology or discipleship in Christ.  
I hope to do better.
So this quest is both of my own theological formation and in the hopes of effecting a local ecclesiology of peaceableness.

When I return home in the late summer from sabbatical, I'll be jumping into this degree (part-time). There are still a few things to work out (including how to pay for this), but I'm hopeful and greatly looking forward to it.

My kids think it's funny that Daddy's going back to school.

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