This is a blog to record my experiences around attending seminary (in preparation for entering pastoral ministry) as a young adult Quaker.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Five weeks into Seminary

Here are some pictures of my lovely new home.
(Picture credit goes to Amanda P. and John R.)

I have been a PTS for 5 weeks. I'm sorry about the delay in updating, but for the first little while I was at seminary I could barely keep up with anything.


I am in love.

I LOVE it here. I feel like someone who was starving and who did not realize it until they were fed.

Here is a short list of things that are wonderful about seminary life:

1) Everyone is trying to follow Jesus as best as they know how, consequently most people try to be nice most of the time

2) We have chapel every day (Monday through Friday) and it is ALWAYS good. The sermon quality varies, the music varies, but there is always some part of the experience that I love

3) Princeton is a beautiful place (the town is pretty snobby and upscale, but the university looks like Hogwarts. . . and how could that not be cool??)

4) My classes are GREAT! My professors are some of the best in their fields, and all of the material is super interesting/ relevant to my interests. My classes are challenging, and I love it.

However, seminary is not without its challenges for me. I am currently the only Quaker student on campus, and honestly it gets a little lonely. I am getting very good at explaining my beliefs to people, but honestly, sometimes I get pretty tired of always having to explain myself.

Also I am politically and theologically more liberal then most of the rest of seminary. It doesn't generally bother me, but every once in a while, I wish I could have a conversation about salvation without having to defend what I believe to a table of people who think I am crazy (or heretical). I am beginning to realize how rare Christian universalism is. . .

I am also trying to decide where I want to worship on Sundays. I have visited the nearest Quaker meeting, and I have also been attending a Quaker meeting that is slightly farther away but it part of my Yearly meeting (keeping that connection strong seems important). I have also attended a Presbyterian church and an Episcopal church (won't be going back to the Presbyterians, but the Episcopal seemed pretty cool).

I am not going to lie. . .I love music. And I have a growing appreciation for liturgy. And I find taking communion to be a powerful experience.

If there was a Quaker church near by that would be one thing. . . but as it is, I am not sure where I belong.

I am required to do CPE and also a field education placement as an assistant pastor at a church. I spoke with my advisor and we have decided to place me at a UCC church. I think it will be a pretty good theological match, but part of me wishes I could be at a Quaker church (which wasn't possible).

I feel like an exploration of all of my feelings around my Quaker community would require a separate posting, so stay posted. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Count Down to Seminary

Dear F(f)riends,

The true count down to seminary has begun. I graduated in May, and then I moved to a different part of the country for the summer, but now it is getting close to the time where I will head back to NY, and unpack my boxes, and repack my boxes, and move to a new chapter of my life.

I must say that I am getting a little nervous. In the last six months I have fielded countless questions about my decision to go to seminary, but the one I hear the most often is "why a Presbyterian seminary?" or in other words. Although I have a number of answers that I regularly give, the answer that is closest to the truth is also the least satisfying for the majority of the people I speak to. I am going to Princeton because I am a Quaker, and Quakers do sometimes strange things because they feel that is what God wishes. So the best answer I have is that I am following what I have discerned to be the Divine will. So, so be it. Away I go to Princeton.

On another note, this summer I got engaged to be married. My fiance is also a Quaker (we met at Earlham College) and we will be holding an unprogrammed Quaker wedding in the spring of 2011. We recently met and were cleared by my home meeting, and plans are coming together quickly.

So that is the news for now. I will post again in a little over a month when I begin my studies at Princeton!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So, the update . . . .


I would like to apologize for my long silence (I would especially like to apologize to Carolyn E. who kindly put me into her homepage feed :)). I have been in a holding pattern when it comes to graduate school. After sadly separating myself from my 250.00 deposit, I haven't had much to do with Princeton. I did hear from them that they were going to give me a full tuition scholarship, which was a true blessing.

In the mean time I have been writing my senior thesis (Religion majors at Earlham college need to complete a large paper during their senior year and then 'defend' it orally). I wrote on the process metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead and the works of Quaker mystics: Thomas Kelly and Rufus Jones. I considered the topic of human suffering and theodicy within the works of these three men, and how they can dialogue with each other. Did I pull it off? More or less, I guess. It did receive top marks and I was please with its progression (the first draft was wretched). If you are interested in seeing the final (not wretched) paper, post a comment and I will send you a copy.

Anyway, this final month of school has been filled with blessings. I received two awards, both for my commitment to ministry and religious leadership (one of which was a graduate fellowship. . .Thank you God!). I have also finished putting together a support (anchor) committee to support my time in ministry. I am really excited about all of the wonderful Friends who have felt lead to serve on that committee. It will be an honor and a joy to work with them. Unfortunately, I think I won't be able to meet with them until this fall, because I will be living in a different part of the country this summer. Some of the other things that have blessed my life: the beautiful Indiana spring, the gorgeous sweaters my mother is knitting for me, the care and support of my professors, the fact that I passed my CPR class and can therefore graduate and an unexpected influx of cupcakes in my life. God is good.

There have also been some challenges. I wrote and edited 30 pages in about 20 hours over two days, and sun burnt (er, lamp burnt?) my hands from spending too much time typing on my computer under my desk lamp. My cell phone is broken (and too expensive to replace) and can now not receive text-messages (a HUGE problem). I spent Easter by myself for the first time in my life and greatly missed being with family and friends on such a sacred and important day. I continuously am challenged with living across the country from my sweatheart (although we visit at least three times a semester). I have also (surprise, surprise) been having a difficult time staying motivated to do my homework. . . .as I keep reminding myself, the cap and gown hanging in my closet won't see the light of day unless I pass all of my classes. . .but still, its hard.

Actually, speaking of homework, I should go and do some. I need to head over the the Friends Collection and do some research on some amazing Quaker Women.

Next time you hear from me, I will most likely be the proud holder of a BA in Religion!

Monday, January 11, 2010


So, over Christmas break I made the decision to go to Princeton Theological. I will be starting the three year MDiv program in the fall. Considerable discernment went into this decision (and a great deal of agonizing and loud moaning), and I feel that my decision is rightly ordered.

My next step will be to create an anchor committee of Friends from my Yearly meeting who will be able to support me through seminary (that and figure out how I am going to buy books for this semester since I sent in my 250.00 deposit to Princeton).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Million Dollar Question (or, "So What's Next for You Margaret?")

I applied to Wesley Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological. And, you might very well wonder why.

I chose not to apply to Earlham School of Religion (for reasons that would probably take too long to explain now, but which I would be happy to post about in the future), so I was forced to look at seminaries outside of my denomination.

As I began my search for the right seminaries to apply to, I quickly found that seminaries fall into four basic categories (of my own making :)):

1) The Places Margaret Would Not Go (these seminaries were disqualified immediately because they required that students sign contracts saying they wouldn't have sex outside of marriage. I objected because this discriminates against Queer persons- or at the very least is thoughtlessly hetro-normative. Also, I wasn't about to go three years without sex.)

2) Places That Are Only Really Suitable For People From One Denomination (I really can't go to a seminary that is only for Episcopalians)

3) Career Seminaries (There are LOTS of seminaries that fall into this category. They emphasis hands-on experience to prepare you for the ministry. Very often the people who go to these seminaries are older and are looking to become ministers as a second career, because of this the level of education is a little bit more basic, and doesn't assume any previous knowledge of religion. Often classes are held in the evenings, and in many cases most students commute to campus, rather then live in campus housing. The emphasis is all on the practical, the hands-on, and the basic knowledge you need to be a pastor.)

4)Seminaries For Academics (This category would include all of the seminaries where academics are emphasized. Many people who are not planning on going on to be ministers, but who instead plan on entering academia as a professor go to these seminaries. Although the hands-on preparation for ministry can be found, the emphasis is on learning, studying, and 'preparing the mind')

Wesley Theological falls into category #3 and Princeton is (naturally!) a prime example of category #4. I chose one from each intentionally. I knew that I wanted the practical experience and knowledge that I would get from a category #3, but I was worried about being bored (I will be graduating in May with a BA in Religion). Category #4 seminaries really get my blood pumping and look super exciting, but I worry about not being as well prepared to take up a pastorship after I graduate.

So, I chose one of each. I chose Princeton because I have a wonderful professor here at Earlham who got his PhD from Princeton, and he encouraged me to apply. I chose Wesley because it was Methodist (and I have warm fuzzy feelings about Methodists), and also because it is in Washington DC where my Significant Other is attending graduate school.

Now you know. :)

What's Happening and Why Should I Care?

Why, Hello!
My fall semester of my senior year at Earlham College is in its death throws (its finals week), and my mind is starting to turn to next semester, my imminent graduation, and the beginning of a new part of my life.

::Cue the opening music from 2001 a space odyssey::

I am a young adult Friend (of the Religious Society of Friends or Quakers) and last year I was blessed with a calling to ministry. I grew up in a small unprogrammed Quaker Meeting on the East Coast of US. My Monthly Meeting (the one I have my membership in) is part of a yearly meeting that is affiliated with both FGC and FUM, but which is predominately unprogrammed (we have four or five programmed meetings). When I went to Earlham College I began attending a semi-programmed FUM Meeting. This all matters because the Calling that I was gifted with is a calling to Pastoral Ministry. This calling, although confusing for me at first (I spent many long months working through it with my Spiritual Director) brought me (brings me!!) enormous joy.

It brought my home faith community significantly less joy. If any Friends out there think that there is no tension in the relationship between Programmed and Unprogrammed Friends, I can speak to the fact that there is tension (huge, gloppy, sloppy globs of it, actually).

However, tenacity, as I like to say, is my middle name. I knew that if I wanted to be a pastor, I first wanted to get a MDiv. (Masters in Divinity), and so my next step would be seminary. At the beginning of this fall I put in my application to my two top choices for seminary: Wesley Theological in Washington D.C. and Princeton Theological. I was accepted at both and I was asked to make my decision quickly (something that is maybe possible for Methodist or Presbyterians, but is much harder for Quakers). I will be making my decision in the beginning of January, and then fall 2010 I will be embarking on a new adventure.

This blog is to chronicle my experiences. It is to tell the story of how a young Quaker women from a unprogrammed meeting becomes a pastor, and to tell the story of a Quaker's experience at a non-Quaker seminary.

I hope you will join me. At the very least it should be hilarious.