Tag Archives: Seminary

PIPELINED by Mary Wiggins, M.Div. Middler

One of my mentors, someone very dear to me, my campus pastor, holds the theory that we aren’t fully adults until we are thirty; that young adulthood is a decade phase of liminality between the threshold of youth-hood and adulthood. In many ways I agree, considering I feel I have a lot of growing up to do and often I feel like I am constantly in-between. At twenty-three years old, a few months shy of my college graduation I felt a calling to pastoral ministry and by twenty-nine, I hope to be an ordained pastor. I am a part of the group of seminarians that used to be much larger, those that will be ordained or consecrated before the age of 30. I am going to be a young clergy person. So I ask the question “Is someone too young to go to seminary?”

There were several reasons why I began to explore this question, but none of them matter nearly as much as the question itself. Today, there are far fewer pipeliners in seminary than there used to be. Maybe part of it has to do with the times. Or it could be the encouragement of more second-career seminarians. Or maybe it is the strong persuasion to do anything else you possibly can, such as an old trend in some denominations to encourage candidates to live a little bit first.

So my answer, unsurprisingly, is, “No. I don’t think, within reason, that anyone is too young to go to seminary.” Yes, I still agree that most candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree first, even though many pipeliners feel called much earlier. And yes, I believe some pipeliners are developmentally less mature than others and are obliviously less developmentally mature than our older classmates. And yes, we have many challenges ahead of us, including amount of growth, issues in establishing our authority (both with parishioners and colleagues), and finding a witty yet tactful comeback to being questioned on our age on a regular basis.

But you see, despite all of this, we are called. God calls all types of people. And some of us may actually end up being called “the pastor that looks like she’s twelve.” We may grow beards, cut our hair short, buy more “grown up clothes” to establish authority, but we are called none-the-less. You see because it’s not entirely ourselves and the things we do that give us authority to pursue this calling and to be pastors. It is also the people to whom we minster. It is the college student taking to her mom on her cell phone on the way to a retreat who calls the Wartburg intern, her pastor. Or it’s the woman who called the CPE student, the chaplain. Or it is the man who asks the very green 25 year-old seminarian, “How long have you been in ministry?” and then pours out his heart. It is these people who recognize who we are and prove that no one is too young to go to seminary.

ISSUES OF JUSTICE, FAMILY, AND THE SINGLE PERSON By Jenn Collins, M.Div. Senior

“Now that I’m good at staying in the lines—I’m staying in the lines for you.”

My nephew, Ben, who is six years old, told me these words while he colored a picture that he called “grassy pickle.” What he drew looked nothing like a pickle, and the colors he chose were purple and orange. But I didn’t care. When he was done coloring the “grassy pickle,” he cut the picture in half and said, “you write your name on half and I’ll write my name on half.”

I don’t know what it is to be part of a couple. But I do know what it is to have relationships that are sustaining and meaningful. Ben stayed in the lines for me. My nephew Ben and I met when he was born—May 25, 2005. I held him and told him that I loved him. This was the first time I remember an instant connection with another human being. When I left for internship, Ben had just turned five and had started kindergarten. I told him that I was going to school in Colorado, so I wouldn’t see him until the first grade. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I had ever done. Over the year, I would talk to him on the phone and he knew exactly where I was. “How are you doing in Colorado?” he would ask. When I came home from internship, Ben called out my name and leapt into my arms for a huge hug.

Why do I tell you this? 

Throughout my seminary experience and into the ministry of the congregation, I have experienced a new kind of definition for family. I get the impression that the definition of family in the church is the family that is created through marriage. Specifically, a man and a woman who marry and have children. Here are some examples of statements I have heard and read.

  1. In the entrance form for candidacy there is an entire page labeled, “family information.” The only thing I needed to do on that page was mark the bubble for “single.” 
  2. When we say, “families are included” at Wartburg, what is implied is, “families who are here”—which in most cases includes only partners, spouses and children.
  3. In our society there is primacy in the spousal relationship. If you are not a spouse, your relationship with any given person is not priority. (This makes sense to me, completely. But it also means, for me, that I am no one’s priority).
  4. In my previous lay ministry experience, I worked the holidays because, “I didn’t have family.”
  5. I have been told/asked, “I don’t understand why you’re single. Don’t worry, you’ll find someone,” “You need to just jump back into dating—have you thought about meeting someone on-line?” And then the question that all single people in ministry are faced with, “Are you sure you’re not gay?”
  6. People assume that I’m lonely.

I feel like I need to apologize for even writing this because I don’t want to be perceived as another single person who is unhappy in life.

Seminary is hard for anyone—and there are different challenges to being married, being parents, or being single. But the single voice isn’t one that is often heard, understood, or given much real concern. I wonder where is the injustice in the church that comes about based on marital (or single) status? Where is the actual injustice that takes place for the single person? In the call process? With regard to financial aid, internship income, insurance, etc? And perhaps the macro question is, “How does marital status impact our life together here at seminary and in the church at large?” I’m hoping to spend January thinking about this in an independent study. 

But here is a call for now, beloved church: Please remember that just because I am not married—this does not mean that I am without family. After all, Ben colors in the lines—for me. 

25th INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE CONVOCATION by Rod Wiese, second year M.A.; forward by Norma Cook Everist

The Wartburg Seminary has addressed the topic of the use of inclusive language in a community-wide convocation each Fall for 25 years. That in itself is a milestone to be celebrated, and yet a sad commentary on society that it is still necessary. Some parts of church and society have been slow to learn and yet the seminary is persistent that the full use of inclusive language for humankind and expansive language for God is good, right and healthy. Once again the Wartburg community gathered and heard male and female voices address this topic, followed by much table conversation. Here are the words of Rod Wiese, second year M.A. student:

Before seminary, in the words I chose to speak about God, I defined God in a very narrow and convenient way that made sense to me. It was a little like putting God in a box. Now, it was a nice box; not too much decoration and just the right size. It was a good Lutheran box. It stored quite nicely on a shelf or in a closet. I could even bring it out on those occasions when I needed God. I could get that box, put God in the midst of my trouble and say, “Go to it God!” This was “my” God inside “my” box. The problem was that in my language for God, I not only defined God, I confined God, and God will not be confined by my thoughts, words, or deeds.

I realize now that my language about God matters. Through inclusive language, God breaks open the box in which I tried to keep God, or more accurately the box in which I tried to keep God to myself. Inclusive language reminds me that God, in Christ Jesus, came so that all might be saved, not just all people, but all of creation. For my words to properly proclaim the Gospel of Christ, I need inclusive language so that all people are part of the conversation. For when truly all are welcome, the kingdom of God begins to come here, in this place and in this time.