I’ve always been pragmatic about school. If I could not see the potential of the end result it was hard to get motivated. In early High School I decided I wanted to be an ornithologist, so I knew college was ahead of me. I graduated 4th among 53. But my life did a course-correction in my senior year and I began studying for Christian ministry. I wasn’t focused on what kind of ministry I wanted to do, or where my particular gifts were, so I dinked around in college and never earned an undergraduate degree. I managed anyway.
I joined a mission that does Bible translation around the world, and found that I could teach. I began teaching classes in intercultural relations and grass-roots development and felt the need for more formation, so I went back to school. I found a place that would accept me for a Masters in Intercultural Administration without a Bachelor’s degree, and completed that program in fine style. I was launched as a missionary trainer.
But then the voice of the Hound of Heaven chased me toward ordained ministry, and I began studying theology in the Bishop’s School in Ecuador, a non-accredited program. I finished the coursework and was duly ordained. I came to the U.S. to find that most of my colleagues had Masters’ of Divinity, and I felt under-trained, under-equipped. But I also had a growing family and responsibilities so I put my nose to the grindstone and did my best, picking up continuing education credits where I could. When I had the chance to do a Master’s in a religious field I jumped at the chance, and at 55 years’ of age, I graduated with a sheepskin in a religious field, a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation. It helped my ministry in incalculable ways, giving me the solid theological framework on which to build ministry that I had only held partially before.
Now, with only 10 years’ to retirement, I have been accepted at the flagship seminary of our Church, Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexander, for a Doctor of Ministry degree. I start in January. I should be done in three years. And for the first time I don’t have a clear focus for my work out there. A lot of Episcopal clergy have D.Min’s. Nonetheless, I’m a little astounded, surprised and chagrined.
Maybe finally questions of inadequacy need not drive my studies, and I can do them for what they are—a chance to delve deeply into the truths of what it means to be a spiritual person in a spiritual community, and how religion can inform, form and guide that process.