Wednesday, 12 July 2017

4 Lessons Learned from 2 Years of Seminary

I recently completed my 2nd year at the Church of Pakistan Diocesan seminary. 

I enrolled in 2015 as a non-diocesan student with the impression that this is something I will do alongside my job and other daily activities. Something that will not require much effort. Something that will hardly add anything to what I already know about my faith. Something that will give me a prestigious certificate of theology by doing the bare minimum.

How wrong I was! Going to seminary has changed me completely, and I still have a year to go. Here are 4 valuable lessons that I have learned so far:

#1 Patience is a Virtue

A seminary, like any educational institution, brings together people from all walks of life, and in this case, from all kinds of theological backgrounds. This includes both the teachers and students. 

If you lack patience, you will not be able to survive in seminary, where your prior beliefs and assumptions are questioned at every level, and you have to spend day and night with people who don't share and sometimes even oppose your views. 

You then take this patience on the field, where without any prior training you are asked to assist priests in leading the worship. Wine spills, you forget your prayers, you stand when you are supposed to sit and sit where you are supposed to stand. And all this infront of people who do not hesitate pointing your mistakes behind your back as well as in public. 

On a deeper level, we are to be patient because we don't always understand God's plans. Not all prayers are answered and not all theological issues are settled. We just have to trust God and accept His presence and support. That's what patience really means. 

#2 Know your Denomination

I study at an ecumenical seminary and wholeheartedly agree to the philosophy. But achieving inter and intra-denominational unity depends on knowing the history and beliefs of one's denomination. The church in Pakistan is in a mess, where even cults do not know their theology! 

This leads to great confusion and useless debates that can be resolved or at least toned down if people learn to do theology first in their own faith tradition and then in a broader perspective. 

#3 Know How to Hold Controversial Opinions

Every Christian has a theological opinion that fellow believers deem controversial. Many views although supported by scripture are offensive to the established mindset. 

Seminary has taught me firstly how to evaluate my own views in the light of theological methodology, and secondly how to present them causing little or no offence. One helpful tip is to speak your mind only when someone asks you to!

#4 No One Cares

This follows from point #1. Seminary has been a great lesson in humility for me. Being assistant to half a dozen priests has taught me not to think too highly of myself.

No one cares. People forget your mistakes . They also forget your sermons! The moments of glory are far and few between. On most days, things are just routine. May I say boring?

That is why Christian ministry is about faithfulness, not success. This has also enabled to be not too stress over my mistakes, but improve my skills confidently. 

I am a certified introvert (INTJ), but humility has made me comfortable among people. Seminary has definitely changed me for the better, and I thank God for that...