Saturday, June 12, 2010

community @ The Seminary

by Tim K. Snyder

I'm doubtful that I could even come up with precisely what it means to live "in community." But at the very least it is my own (and others) gut-level response to a society that values the individual over our shared identity, obligations to one another, and our very interdependent existence. I know...I know...for not blogging much lately this is awfully existential. Well, for whatever we might mean by "community," maybe it's enough to say that it is the experience of being known, of knowing others; simply the moments when we know we aren't alone on our journeys. Yeah, that'll do for now.

So given that my journey has brought me to seminary...that strange place where church leaders are cultivated, teachers discover their passion for learning, and all kinds of people figure out what it means to live into vocations as followers of Jesus, I guess I thought this would be a place that does "community" well. And it does, in the institutional, campus schedule, show up for chapel, community meals ( meals if you show up), kind of way. But it's still hard to cultivate community in a place where everyone has too much going on, where uncertainty about the future is highlighted but rarely made meaningful, where specialized degree programs, cohorts, and ministry tracks often create silos of belonging more than they celebrate the diversity they represent.

I wish seminary were a laboratory for healthy Christian community; a school for spiritual practices that gave way to both significant learning and spiritual discipline. Less bureaucratic-academic crucible; more of a discipleship dojo.

It's not that...but under the surface of branding campaigns, strategic plans, academic schedules and coursework there is something — a ground swell I hope — that is happening here that does resemble that as-yet-unrealized dream of mine.

What does it look like? simple meals for each other and opening our lives to another through out the long summer evenings.
...sitting in a professor's backyard going over a paper you're trying to get published while he waits for his kids to get home.
...having your adviser interrupt your walk home from the corner grocery to make sure everything is good before they go on sabbatical
...text messages from a professor making sure you stop by the parish nurses office rides filled with folks from North America, Africa and Asia...on our way to a conference...but the car ride is really where it is at.
...the United Nations (that's my nickname for it) playground where kids from God knows how many countries play together
...welcoming newly arriving students (who you went to undergrad with); giving them the tour of cool local places (Mannings, Hampden Park Food Co-Op, etc) and cheese parties with the distributed learning Dean Martison's house. conversations explaining how crazy life is and so your posts for the online course will be late.
...Facebook wall posts, messages, events and chats with the Norwegian exchange students that you waved good by to days mom waved you off to second grade.
...helping a professor get on Facebook
...being on a professor's internet radio show; then going with them to celebrate a promotion over drinks
...weddings, graduations, new babies, funerals, baptisms and all those sacred moments

And that's just what I've noticed in the past three weeks or so. "Community" may be elusive here at the Seminary; it certainly falls short...but it is here in the spaces in-between.

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