Community Connections

Contributors to our blogs are faculty, alumni, and students of Seminary of the Southwest sharing their reflections from the context of a community of faith. We hope you enjoy reading, and we invite your comments.

Preaching the Good News in My Own Voice

Brian Tarver is a senior in the Master of Divinity program at Seminary of the Southwest.  Brian comes to the seminary from the Diocese of Texas.

 

Armed with our best sermons, four classmates and I headed off to Virginia for preaching camp. At least it felt a lot like camp with splitting into groups, meeting new people from other schools, and participating in workshops. The Preaching Excellence Program offers seminarians the opportunity to improve their sermon skills and encounter preachers from other seminaries. While all of the workshops and speakers were of great assistance, the most influential aspect of the PEP conference was the ability to listen to sermons. Some people might cringe at the thought of hearing 20 sermons in four days, but for this church nerd, this preaching festival helped me to understand my own brand of preaching. With a variety of styles and perspectives, I learned techniques from others that would fit into my own style. Also, the feedback on my own preaching opened my eyes to some things I did not know needed changing. When a congregation leaves a service and shakes the hand of the preacher, “good sermon” typically summarizes most of the comments. Getting constructive feedback on preaching can be difficult. The PEP conference structured small group time in a way that allows for each preacher to get helpful feedback.

Languages of Preaching

Micah Jackson (@Micah_SSW) is the Bishop John Hines Associate Professor of Preaching at Seminary of the Southwest.  Micah's interests include homiletic form, the spiritual discipline of preaching, and the postmodern relationship between the preacher and the congregation. 

The students call it “Preaching Camp.” The Episcopal Preaching Foundation calls it “The Preaching Excellence Program.” Either way, it represents one of the few opportunities for seminarians from all around the Church to gather together for a week each summer to extend and deepen their expertise in preaching. This year, five Southwest students and I are engaging the topic of "The Language of Preaching."

Memorial Day Memory

Dave Scheider is the Director of the Loise Henderson Wessendorf Center for Christian Ministry and Vocation at Seminary of the Southwest.  Prior to joining the faculty of Seminary of the Southwest, Dave served as an Army Chaplain for 25 years.

Memorial Day began at the conclusion of the Civil War to commemorate all those who died in that horrific conflict that claimed almost an entire generation of young men. Since the Civil War, the holiday continued as a day to honor all service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. In 25 years of service as an Army chaplain, I gathered countless stories of young men and women who were willing to lay down their lives for others. Each one of them affected me profoundly. This memory is of a young engineer Private.

Transformation

Sarah Kapostasy graduated from Seminary of the Southwest on May 13, 2014 with a Master of Arts in Counseling.  

 

I was really at a crossroads in my life when I decided to pursue my Masters in Counseling. Frankly, I was in a place where I had not been good at forgiving myself and accepting my imperfections, and was experiencing a crisis of confidence.

Entering the Seminary was a bid for control. I figured this would give me a professional path, some letters behind my name. What I discovered, of course, was that this degree was not just about jumping through hoops to achieve the objective of becoming “a Licensed Professional Counselor.” Along the way, I had to let go of control, reflect, and look deep inside myself. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses, which paradoxically were often one in the same. 

A Grateful End, A Grateful Beginning

Jodi Baron is a Senior MDiv student from the Diocese of Western Michigan.  Jodi and her husband Christian graduate from Seminary of the Southwest on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 and will be returning to the Diocese of Western Michigan.

 

Gathered around the campfire for one of the last times with friends my demeanor is no less joyful but it occurs to me that this is my favorite season of the seminary year. Not because of the good-byes, (those are terrible!) but because of the atmosphere of joy and celebration: Juniors celebrating the accomplishment of completing their first year; Middlers celebrating the accomplishment of not only having two very intense years complete, but finishing one of the most challenging semesters of all; and Seniors, well…WE DID IT!!!!! And we’re all getting amazing placements, ordination dates, houses, reunions with family… it’s all coming together.

And I am grateful.

Reflecting on the last three years causes me to pause and breathe in deeply, the joy and beauty of this place, this MDiv program, and my place in it. It reveals, however, that pesky little thing my Spiritual Director told me would happen if I would but embrace the fact that God delights in me; if I was faithful to living into the God Life no matter where that leads.

A Central Texas Gardener

Dr. Claire Colombo has served on the seminary's adjunct faculty since 2012.  As a freelance educational consultant, she develops religion curriculum for Loyola Press of Chicago and is a regular contributor to their Find God magazines and newsletters.

I had already drafted a whole ‘nother blog post. It was about radical hospitality as the making of a poem out of whatever surprising thing comes our way. (See www.typewriterrodeo.com for the general idea.)

But on Sunday morning, as I was driving to church, I stopped for a red light at an intersection. There, I saw a neighbor of mine. He’s a neighbor because he’s always at this particular intersection near my home. If you define neighbor as one who occupies a nearby residence, however, he wouldn’t qualify, because he’s homeless.

Walking with the Risen Christ

Cynthia Briggs Kittredge (@cbkittredge) is the 8th Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest and professor of New Testament.  Dean Kittredge holds degrees from Williams College and Harvard Divinity School.  

I was ordained on the Wednesday of Easter Week in 1985. The deacon, my friend Louise, processed down the aisle of St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts and read Luke 24:13-35, the story of how the risen Jesus appeared to two of his former students when they were walking and talking along the road. The man looked like a curious stranger until he began to speak about scripture. He began at the beginning, and he wove the strands together, and he displayed how what they thought was a failed mission was the way it was meant to be. I love imagining Jesus, with all the scripture in his mind and his mouth, juxtaposing the images, sketching the patterns, chanting the prayers, and giving the seminar that elucidated his words about the words on the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Triduum: Celebrating the Mystery of Easter

Nathan Jennings came to Seminary of the Southwest in 2005, returning to his hometown.  Currently, Nathan serves as the J. Milton Richardson Associate Professor of Liturgics and Anglican Studies.  Nathan's academic interests include liturgical theology, dogmatic theology, ascetical theology, and theological hermeneutics.

This year will be the third year that we, as a community, will be celebrating the “Triduum” together. In the past, we have expected students to attend their field parishes for formation in the Triduum. We decided to give it a go for a few years here at Seminary of the Southwest, to see if the Triduum might not become for us an important part of our own formative traditions.

But what is the “Triduum,” anyway? It is not a word found in our Prayer Book. It is Latin for “The Three Days.” These “Three Days” refer to the three focal days of Holy Week surrounding Christ’s Last Supper, betrayal, death, burial and resurrection. It comprises four services over three days. The four services are: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the Great Vigil of Easter. These take place from Thursday evening before Easter Sunday through Saturday night (or, in some places the Great Vigil occurs just before sunrise on Easter Sunday itself).

Leaving Lent

Greg Garret (@Greg1Garrett) currently serves as the Writer-in-Residence at Seminary of the Southwest.  As a member of the adjunct faculty of the seminary, Greg helps future leaders of the Church to write, interpret, and communicate effectively. 

I had such big plans for this Lent. After past seasons where I temporarily renounced things (Diet Coke, meat, dessert) or took on things (like the Lent when Cathy Boyd, Billy Tweedie, and I decided to take on bluegrass as a spiritual discipline), I had isolated a practice I thought would be a good fit for this stage of my life, one full of joy and difficulty: I was going to read and re-read the Psalms, and simultaneously to read N. T. Wright’s book The Case for the Psalms, a book on praying and living the Psalms back into the center of our spiritual lives.

That, at least, was my plan.

April Fools

Austin Rios is an alumnus of Seminary of the Southwest currently serving as the rector for St. Paul's Within-the-Walls, Rome, Italy.  Austin was born in Texas and grew up in Texas, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.  Austin describes his life's journey as a journey in "adapting to new cultures and growing in faith through the Episcopal Church in all its wonderful manifestations."

Over the last few weeks, Italy and the world have been abuzz about Suor Cristina Scuccia, a 25 year old Sicilian nun, whose YouTube clip is the new world record holder for “fastest to 10,000,000 views.” Her rendition of Alicia Keys’ No One on the Italian version of The Voice passed that mark in a mere 3 days, and has risen to over 38 million views since March 19. It’s hard to tell if viewers are drawn to the clip because of its popularity, are impressed by the performance itself, or simply intrigued by the format of the show. In this first, “blind,” stage of competition, judges were positioned with their backs to the habit-clad nun about to erupt on stage, unaware of her true identity. Once the judges decided that they liked Suor Cristina’s voice, they turned their chairs around and came face to face with the diminutive, R & B belting sister. They stared. Their mouths hung open. And when they interviewed her, asking why a real nun would choose to sing on The Voice, she responded by saying that Pope Francis “says we should go out and evangelize, proclaiming that God doesn’t want to rob us of things, but to give us more.” In short, Suor Cristina felt bold enough to risk making a fool of herself because she was convinced that spreading the Gospel widely was worth that risk.

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