The Intern's Corner: Of ivory towers and care packages

I am living in the confluence of three experiences. I am in seminary. I am an intern at a general agency of the United Methodist Church. I am living in a community new to me. I have experienced similar times in my life, but perhaps not at the same time. In some ways, I feel like a camper who just needs to hear from the folks back home. You are the one who could tie this all together.

 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

First of all, I am in seminary. That’s not new to anyone who has read my blog posts before. Seminary, like other institutes of higher education, can be like an ivory tower separate from the various local churches and parish life of most of the students, and, since the education relates specifically to Christians, separate from its direct community. The topics of discussion and reflection at seminary are related to the life and work of local churches, but they are not always synchronous with where the church is living out its mission. This lack of synchronicity gives seminary the look and feel of an ivory tower,

On top of that fact, mid-term papers were recently due, and the weekly reading and writing obligations continue. Imagine a sponge, having wrung out all the water for the need at hand, and having to take in new, fresh water in order to face the next task. That may be one way of thinking about your favorite seminarian (whoever they may be) as they seem drained of energy right now. (If you don’t have a favorite seminarian, maybe you ought to consider changing this!) Give us a few days or weeks, and we will spring back to full function, particularly since two major holidays are nearly upon us. (A major holiday for many students is anyone that brings days to rest with it.)

 At the time this article was written, GCSRW was in the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St., Chicago

Second, I am an intern at the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW). This agency is engaged in enhancing the life of the church and its people. It is like parish ministry, insofar as the work is thoughtfully engaged and theologically considered. It is like the school, insofar as it provides curriculum and support on topics within its mandate under the Book of Discipline. It is like the legislature, insofar as its advocacy is holistic and seeks to address the underlying rules that protect clergy and laity and provide for a safe worshipping experience. I am familiar with each of these endeavors, and the focus of my time at GCSRW keeps each of these aspects in mind as I do my work.

GCSRW is like an ivory tower insofar as it can seem to be disconnected from the daily life of Christians, specifically United Methodists, whom it serves across the globe. The staff at GCSRW can understand local issues conceptually (they are smart that way), but the local and regional details can best be understood if someone chooses to share them. This is true whether the local person contacts GCSRW or whether GCSRW reaches out. (There are approximately 12.5 million of you, and only seven people on staff at GCSRW.)

Finally, I am away from home. Technically, the only home I own or lease is here in Chicago, and I live here now, but my home church is in central Minnesota, and nearly every person with whom I would choose to spend time, if it were not for my voluntary and deliberate choice to be in Chicago attending Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (in Evanston), are in Minnesota.

All in all, it’s like being away at camp. Care packages, whether they are postcards, e-mails, or long letters from home, are appreciated. Those are not always about the content as they are about relationship and the sense of community that is maintained when distances are foreshortened by such contact. From the perspective of being at GCSRW, responses to these blog posts would be the church-y equivalent of a care package. Again, it’s not about whether your communication rises to ivory tower standards (whatever those are), but that you engage with us. If you have never responded to a blog, this is your chance. (I never had responded to one, either.) Imagine I am the person sent off to camp, complete with snacks, sunscreen, and a hat.

In order to make it easy, I have written a few questions to get us started. I’ll be gone for a few days, catching up on my seminary reading, but I will watch for your responses when I get back! And don’t feel like you have to agree with any of the suggestions within the questions. Tell me about your experience!

  1. If you could change one thing about the physical space at your church, what would it be? And why?
  2. What is one thing you like about the messages you hear in your worship services? Be specific! This could be a short phrase in a prayer, or a Bible verse, something that your pastor says every service, or something totally different. How do these messages touch you?
  3. Consider for a moment one person you know that you would like to attend church with you. What might the church do that would attract that person’s attention to church life?

Pat Trask, a second-year student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, is this year's seminary intern at the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

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