there is hope spread across

As I walked toward campus yesterday with two bags, a purse and a tea in tow, I pondered “finals” week. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why wait so long on some of those papers that Thanksgiving break, or week 8 could have handled? Why the late nights, lack of sleep, crabbiness, giddyness, and all those other things I dare not mention. 

I’m not sure if its just Fuller students responses in direct correlation to the hell that is the quarter system with intensives to make summer “fly by,” but I’ll be honest here: I am burned out, overworked, underpaid, stressed and quite frankly – sick of never stopping. It was a reality as I walked onto campus that I am still not close to be done with seminary, regardless of completing over 120 credits now. 120. Do you know how many classes that is? I’ll tell you, with a few 2 credit classes and one zero, I’m at 31 different classes at Fuller. With 4 next quarter, 3 the following and still about 4 more before I’m ever done after that. 

During a committee meeting earlier this week, I was asked as the student rep, “what is the number one stress of students?” I sat there for a moment and looked down at a sheet of paper filled with numbers regarding costs, etc. for an MDiv. My eyes welled up with tears and I had to tuck them back in – I was, of course, in a room with some major faculty members who, under no shadow of a doubt,  would not want to see me cry. 

“Money. Finances. However you want to define this. I made a choice two and a half years ago to come to a school that would clearly cost me more money to learn from people in specific disciplines that I knew I would not receive elsewhere. I get money to go here, I work 2 jobs, I don’t get enough sleep, I am embarrassed occasionally when I turn in my papers. Finals week is a black hole of sleepless nights while still trying to be a good employee, all the while trying to honor the call God placed on me. And what happens by Friday? My guilt complex takes over because I just couldn’t do it all as well as I know I could have.”

Maybe I have it all wrong. But here’s my feeling – there’s got to be a better way to prepare future pastors and theologians for the church. And if I’m a part of an institution that purportedly is leading the way, we need to start asking some of these questions with more frequency, humility and grace than we have in the past.

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4 responses to “there is hope spread across

  1. Hi there,

    I finished my time at Fuller just last December, and what you have written really resonates with my experience. I came in with the hopes of focusing solely on studies. Of course by my second quarter, I was forced to find a job if I wanted to survive in LA. Eventually I had to cut my classes to part time so that I could work more and more to afford rent and bills, still coming up short more often than I would like to admit.

    As many blessings are to be had from the location of Fuller’s Campus, the cost of living is a serious barrier for students who are unable to receive denominational funding or full scholarships or some other way of meeting costs. Like you, I decided the monetary sacrifice was worth it for the instructional benefit, however, knowing that never made it any easier.

    If the money side of things were taken out of the equation, I am not sure I would be as bothered by the hectic pace on its own. When I wasn’t working, I found the course load to be quite manageable, but once students are forced to take up 20-40+ hours of their week to earn the money to stay in school, then that is quite a lot of time they are not focusing on what many feel is their call. Especially for those who are not able to find jobs which help to reinforce what they are doing in the classroom (How many students are working retail and food service as opposed to in a church for example?)

    Sadly I have no solution to offer with my opinions. The one thing that did help me going though, was the level of instruction and more importantly how often I found my faith strengthened, encouraged and even questioned by the community at Fuller. There is no reason that this should be used as a reason to avoid seeking answers and new approaches, but it certainly can be enough to bring the comfort in the midst of seeking.

    That said, I wish you luck in the final day of your finals!

  2. I like that you are honest. You are right. The current state of theological education needs a massive paradigm shift. I would like to see FTS lead the way in some of this, but I doubt any of the schools but SIS has the freedom to start to do so anytime soon…

    I started in the MAGL in SIS from Portugal. MAGL is an online dialogue/experience-based program. To start out we read books by Jane Vella, etc. about how dialogue-based education is a radical shift in the way we learn. We eked out a monastic rule of life for ourselves and our little cohort. (We took the first 10 or so MAGL courses together. Just us.)

    The community cohort experience in that program literally saved my emotional/spiritual/theological life for a time. I learned just as much from the reflective experience of the people in my cohort as I did in the books/lectures.

    I keep waiting to experience something similar in SOT, now that I’m on campus. Notsomuch.

  3. And then there’s the whole problem of our education being so horrifically cerebral…

  4. Thanks for the thoughts. I’m just here to say you’ve got what it takes to get through it all and then to initiate change (obama will be soooo proud!) 🙂

    seriously, libbs, i am so proud of you and inspired by you. you are one of those people that will truly effect change (and already has, i am sure). also, f the guilt—you are incredible!!!!!!!!!!!

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