Seminary Year in Review + LOTS of pics!
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
December 31, 2019
This blog post is dedicated to my year end review of my seminary experience. I’ve endured many transitions in a short period of time and I’ve learned so much about myself and I hope this blog post gives you a glimpse into my journey thus far. Don’t forget to watch the video and view the pics below. Enjoy!
1. Transitioning from Corporate Career to Academia
I’ve always dreamed about obtaining my Certified Public Accountant license and working for a prestige accounting firm or becoming an FBI forensic accountant. Deep down, I still have a desire to engage in these careers, but I feel called to partake in the chaplaincy ministry. I am a numbers girl by nature, but I’m fascinated by spiritual matters and Christian theology. I can go from teaching you about your taxes to talking about deep complex matters in Revelations really quick! However, pivoting from my day job to theology wasn’t as smooth as I expected. For some reason I thought seminary was going to be a breeze. THAT WAS A LIE! Seminary is very involved from copious reading to the spiritual struggles. My first semester took a hit due to multiple factors from my unrelated military mechanic job, my financial auditing job, middle school small group leader duties, internship, to the master’s program; I was stretched to capacity. I also had to get used to studying and taking exams again. My first Christian church history class comprised 3 exams that were 75-85 questions each including short answer questions, essays, true-false, multiple choice, and fill in the blank. On the other hand, I was running behind on multiple deadlines at work because I wasn’t as focused as I should’ve been.
I was going through this tough season alone and hit a breaking point around November 2018. That was when I stopped and asked others for help on campus. I learned I wasn’t the only one working full time; there were other students graduating the following semester that were also corporate employees. While talking to a student, she advised I stop, breathe, and let go of anything that would impede my success. She recommended prioritizing my schedule and attending study group sessions so that I could receive help from other students. Unfortunately, I implemented her suggestions late in the semester and exited my church history class with a D+. I was so disappointed, but that’s when I knew I needed to make extreme changes otherwise I would be in the same position the following semester. After taking her advice seriously, I made straight A’s the next semester and had a better experience at work! That rough patch was necessary for me to improve my work-school balance.
2. Contextual Education (Seminary Internship)
Contextual Education or ConEd is an internship program my university uses to provide experience for future ministry leaders. In ConEd, the student becomes a Chaplain to a vulnerable population while completing 4 hours a week for the first semester in order to receive a passing grade. My internship was held at a men’s homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta and I served with amazing people. However, my experience was loaded with doubts in ministry yet a heart crying out for the disinherited. During the ConEd orientation, the site supervisor suggested that we reframed our language when referring to people on the street. She said, they aren’t “homeless people”, they are “people experiencing homelessness”. Noticing the difference in this speech allows you to recognize them as people in an unfortunate situation that have a chance to rise again rather than labeling their future as permanent street residents.
In short, I cried almost every week when I left this internship because I questioned God’s plan for those in these tough circumstances. I encountered various types of men who were either young, old, disabled, athletic, intelligent, mentally unstable, college educated, high school dropout, veterans, alcoholic, etc. On cold stormy nights, I met mothers and beautiful children who were seeking shelter which reminded me of my past. I met some people who wore clean new clothing residing in the homeless shelter and they were attending Georgia State University. I met so many people in this desolate situation and wished I could invite them to my place because how was it fair that I was able to go home at the end of the night to my middle class boujie Atlanta-Brookhaven apartment? I was in ministry and I didn’t think I deserved the comfortability. Then God redirected me to Matthew 25: 31-46. While reading, I don’t remember scripture stating that everyone in the world will receive everything they needed, and homelessness would be eradicated. Scripture teaches that it is our duty to care for those who are in need because the way we treat them is a direct reflection of how we view Christ. With that said, I learned to view those experiencing homelessness as an opportunity for me to provide and take care of God’s people. Now, I pray for everyone who encounters these situations around the world and hope that they receive strength to be empowered and grow out of their situation as well. (p.s. I learned so much during this internship and will share other nuggets in future posts.)
3. Learning How to Write Papers the Right Way
Whewwww! SOOOO yes, I’m a blogger but that doesn’t mean I’m a good writer. I’m safely assuming you’ve probably been judging my grammar, spelling errors, subject verb agreements, and more! I’m so sorry but disclaimer, I never claimed to be an audacious writer lol! I know I need a lot of help formulating sentences and developing concrete ideas that flow on paper. However, I’ve become a better writer due to Candler School of Theology’s library and specific writing course. The librarians were very helpful, and some carved out time to review parts of my paper but next semester, I’m going to the writing center to receive personal time with a popular campus editor. Also, I took a “writing as a theological practice” course and it was phenomenal! I recommend all career transitioning students to take that class if they need help with their writing. I had an excellent professor who intentionally tailored each class session seamlessly. I learned how to write a 20-page research paper, prioritize a writing schedule and peer review session, the importance of citing, and more. I think my writing will improve as my time in grad school progresses. Thank you for being patient with me!
4. Struggle with Faith vs. Theology
a. This was a huge struggle my first semester but as the year progressed, I’ve accepted that it isn’t totally necessary to emphasize the meticulous formation of the physical Bible. I believe it’s important to understand God’s nature in the text and how the God self is revealed to the people in the ancient near east. Some people say that spirituality is independent from theology and I disagree. I believe it works in relation to one another. However, you must always recognize that God provides the wisdom and is the only being that knows the ins and outs of every situation. Someone once said that the Master of Divinity does not mean one has “mastered divinity”. Academia is space to learn historical information in a specific way in order to be informed on why the church has become the way it is today. My faith isn’t in the academy teaching me about the formation and historicity in the Bible; my faith is in God that reveled Jesus Christ to the world in a documented text that has been passed down for generations. Please follow my journey as I continue to unpack these thoughts while in Seminary…
5. Learning History is Important
a. I’ve learned so much about history more than I ever expected. I thought I would be in school solely reading the Bible and becoming ultra-spiritual, but I found myself learning about ancient near east history, African American history, and more. Understanding history allows us to truly understand the verse when it says, “Nothing is new under the sun.” I do believe that even in the information age we can still encounter new discoveries but usually we are entering conversations held by those set before us. It’s naïve to believe our thoughts can simply fix a situation if we do not carefully understand the circumstances involved. I will dive deeper into this segment another time but just know I have a greater appreciation for what I’ve learned about history because it shows me God’s nature in the best and worst cases that I wouldn’t have admitted to otherwise. I’m humbled by the past yet look forward to the future using the knowledge of the past to provide perspective.
6. Study Groups Became My Best Friends
a. Initially I was weary on joining a study group because I thought it would turn out like undergrad where study groups turned into party sessions, however, grad school proved to be totally different. I was a part of two amazing study groups that were organized by other students in the class. I had two study groups because one offered a breakdown on the reading material and the other did a great job overviewing the study guide and homework assignments. Either way both allowed me to ask questions and engage in meaningful dialogue with my peers. Study groups created the opportunity for me to learn from others that were passionate about a certain topic I didn’t understand. The teaching moment is widely available in study groups which enhances learning and comprehension. I made my best grades while attending study groups and I will not look back!
a. I’ve prayed for mentorship for a while and God blessed me with individuals that carried qualities I admired, but the relationship wasn’t as close as I’d liked. I’ve never been interested in forcing relationships and designing fictious bonds for the sake of saying I had a mentor, so I waited for a mentor to grace my presence organically. I didn’t know I would soon meet a woman that is full of light, love, wisdom, and spiritual vigor. Dr. Nichole Phillips is my professor and mentor that has encouraged me on this seminary journey. I can laugh out loud with her about our cultural backgrounds and have tough conversations about spirituality or Black American history. I can say so much more about this gem but I’ll keep it short and say, I am so grateful I chose Emory so that I could meet her!
Soror Allison Henderson-Brooks & I at the Howard Thurman Lecture (Swipe left)
Whewwww, I know that was a lot but thank you for reading this mini recap on my Seminary journey! Check out the video below where I discuss the five things I learned after my first year in Seminary.
Until Next Time,
Peace & Blessings, XOXO