A couple of weeks ago, I leafed through my personal journal and discovered that on March 10, 2015, I received my acceptance letter for seminary. Not a month later, on April 1, 2015, I announced my resignation to Grace UCC Uniontown. I put the worn book in my lap for a second; how could that be? When I started to think about everything that has happened in this last year, I made my head spin.
May 1 will mark the beginning of my ninth month in the Windy City area. For me, that proves difficult to believe as well. Because the last time I updated my friends and family was November, I thought the time had come for a new blog post. I mean, finally, right?
When I first arrived in Elburn, I signed a one-year contract with Community Congregational Church to serve as their Director of Evangelism and Spiritual Growth. Part of my salary comes from a conference LEEAP grant, which can be renewed up to three years. Two months ago, the church received word that the grant had been approved for another year. I will remain working in Elburn, which proves important to me, as I can continue to build relationships with the congregants and continue to do some (hopefully) positive and valuable work here. Our interim pastor has included me in important services such as Thanksgiving Eve, Ash Wednesday, and Maundy Thursday; he even allowed me to help visit shut-ins and serve communion during Holy Week. I led worship at the end of January and helped plan a women-led service in April with the late pastor’s wife, Andrea. We continue to attempt to get an after school program off the ground. I am learning to remain hopeful in failure. I don’t give up easily, my friends!
In early February, I attended a workshop by Kennon Callahan at Ravenswood UCC on the north side. He spoke about his twelve keys to church vitality. Although church vitality always requires more than twelve “keys,” he offered some great insight from his own ministry experience that has been helpful in implementing in Elburn.
I continue to heed my call to associate parish ministry focusing on youth and faith formation, hoping that one day I will be able to intersect that work with some kind of work in Latin American immigration, probably in a local community-type setting. Next year, I will need to complete some field-site work for my degree, and I’m looking forward to either doing that with my current church or with an organization that works with immigrants.
If I tried to tell you this semester has been a breeze, I would be lying. I took four classes: Religion in North America, Interpreting the Hebrew Bible II, Systematic Theology, and Christian Ethics. Let’s just say I will be excited to turn in my finals two weeks from now.
And then year one of seminary will be done.
I’ve learned so much this year! Not only have I created close friendships that have turned into family, I have learned about a variety of topics. Specifically, I know a lot more about liberation theology and hope to explore that more in the next two years. In addition, I watched as a great number of people I care about have gone through their third-year constructive theology project, which includes dialoguing four theologians with a specific topic and context. Needless to say, I plan to do a lot of reading throughout the summer to begin to prepare for said project; I already have a stack of books written by and about Dietrich Bonhoeffer on my summer reading shelf.
A week ago, I was present for a chapel that focused on Latin American immigration, and a couple months ago, I participated in a feminist chapel during women’s history month. These proved moving and inspiring for me. Particularly, I enjoyed the feminist chapel, where we lit candles in honor of the inspiring women in our lives.
Mondays turned into “family dinner” days, where a group of friends go out to a local restaurant in Hyde Park for dinner and conversation together. We have attempted to try a new place each week. Our explorations have allowed our palates to enjoy various foods, including Italian, Indian, Asian fusion, Japanese, Greek, Mediterranean, and a variety of American junk like cheeseburgers and domestic beer.
Despite a busy semester, I attempted to continue to partake in a bit of adventuring. At the end of March, I flew home to surprise my parents and spend a few days in Ohio; what a great respite! I spent a few days during reading week in Oklahoma with Amanda, who has friends there from her time studying at Oklahoma State. On St. Patrick’s Day, we saw the green Chicago River (it gets really, really green!). My seminary BFF, Joey, celebrated his 30th birthday, and I experienced a bar with video games–awesome. Just last week, Belinda and Margaret were in town for the Faith Forward Conference, and it was awesome to see them and host them at my place.
And now, summer is approaching and Chicago will be flourishing. I will do a lot of exploring in the next couple of months and will keep you UPDATED MORE OFTEN on my wanderings! (I’ve been a little busy :)) I also hope to begin devotional writings again, so stay tuned for those.
And now, I must quit the procrastinating. I have four classes, two papers, and three final exams standing between me and four months of relaxation…time to get to it.
Chicago has an awesome theater district! Amanda and I went to see “Potted Potter” right after Christmas.
Some seminary BFFs (Joey and Anthony), but now we need a new picture, as we have some new family members, especially a couple of gems who moved here after Christmas (Gilbert and Wesley).
Feminist Chapel during Women’s History Month
With the family at Christmas.