Please stop asking when I’m going to seminary.

I know it seems counter-intuitive – after all, I talk about it all the time on my blog so I must want to talk about it all the time with individuals, right?

But the truth is that I’m scared. I am scared that I can’t do it. That I can’t get into any halfway decent school because I’m not smart/don’t test well/went to a weird school for undergrad. I’m scared that nowhere will want me and the plan I’ve been building up for my future will be shot down before it even gets started and I won’t know what to do. I’m scared that just through the admissions process they will somehow see “the real me” that even I don’t know about and just intuitively know I am “not minister material.”

I’m terrified that even if I did get in I wouldn’t be able to afford it because of my crappy finances and student loan troubles. That I’d have to give up on it because I won’t be able to scrape together the money to pull it off.

And what if those two hurdles disappear, and I realize I can’t do it? I can’t “do” the biblical history classes or the polity classes or whatever and I just fail? What if I’m just simply not smart enough to do it all and I realize it’s not for me.

Are we sensing a theme here, folks?

So many things terrify me about the whole process. Pretty much every step terrifies me. Beyond what I’ve mentioned above…

The idea of the RSCC terrifies me – that I could go through almost 2 years of school and then have them say “yeah, no, you suck.” The MFC terrifies me – that, hell, I could finish school, have completed all or nearly all the steps and still be told, “No.” It terrifies me that at nearly every step that there is one group or even one person who can decide “yes” or “no” and have that be, essentially, the final answer.

And it scares me beyond what I can articulate that I may be able to get through all of that, with the applications and the paperwork and the committees and the internship and the actual school part of it and then, just… not have a place to work.

My identity is still a big barrier for a lot of folks and I recognize and even appreciate that. But it scares me. Just like every other step of this process, it scares me.

It’s pretty much recognized and accepted among friends (and I suppose most who read this blog regularly) that I intend to go into ministry. That is true, I do. I have stopped using “maybe” because, really, I wasn’t fooling anybody. I want to do it; if other things or people stand in my way then I may not, but it won’t be because I don’t want it or decide against it at this point. But the blocks do seem stacked against me.

But what I said above? That’s not what people want to hear when they ask where I am in my discernment process. They don’t want to hear “well… here are the seventeen and a half itemized reasons it won’t work complete with subcategories and footnotes.” At least, I assume that they don’t and even if they do I don’t really want to go through it with every person. Because I don’t want to hear, “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Or “everyone is nervous when they start out!” or any other platitudes that don’t carry meaning. You don’t know that I’ll be fine, that I’ll find the money somewhere, that I’d be great in ministry, that a congregation will call me, that a school will accept me, that I’ll find an internship or any of the other myriad of things you’ve promised me. You don’t know that. You may have faith that I will, but you don’t know it.

Thank you so much for caring; for asking where I am and what I need. But what I need right now needs to come from within.

(also, do you REALLY think you won’t all know immediately?  I mean, really – through some combination of twitter, facebook, this blog, texting, emails, or (for a very select few) exuberant phone calls… I promise, you’ll know)

6 Comments to “Please stop asking when I’m going to seminary.”

  1. Actually, the only platitude I can think of (that seems appropriate and honest) is “That sounds about right.” Truth is, I’m still terrified, Andrew. And I do it anyway. Because it’s what I’m called to do.

  2. What Sean said. When it’s right, it will happen. Discern away for as long as you like. And as far as I can tell, those fears are pretty universal among the people I know who are going into ministry. So yeah. That DOES sound about right. I’ve got to level my oven first, but I should be able to make brownies next week. Let’s hang out when you get a chance.

  3. Yes, it’s just as hard as you’re imagining. I’m seeing the MFC next month. This is what I know: although I would be devastated to be told “yeah, no, you suck” by the MFC, and it would definitely take me a while to process that feedback and come to grips with it, that would not mean that the journey of the past few years had not been worth taking. I am a changed person, a better person, a happier person for having gone to seminary and pursued this dream. If I’m not to be a parish minister, then the next step would be to figure out how to answer my call, which is not really to be a parish minister but to make the world a better place.

    For me, seminary was the next step on my life’s journey. The next step remains to be seen, and the MFC gets a say in what that next step might be. But no matter what happens, my journey won’t end in Boston next month.

    I can’t reassure you about any of the worries you have. You’re right, I don’t know what will happen for you, just as I didn’t know for me. But what I can tell you is that, when you’re ready, the journey is worth taking.

  4. After reading your “And a small cupcake will guide them,” I think you will be a wonderful minister whom a congregation would be truly blessed to have.

  5. Have several friends who have gone to seminary. All of them went after they had gone to college and entered the working world. One was a band teacher and a great one at that. Just felt he should be doing something else and is now a pastor at a church.

    Next one got her teaching degree but started working at the local church as the Education Director. Enjoyed the work but decided in order to get any advancement she needed to go to seminary. Served as pastor for a number of years, married a former priest, moved to another town and now works for a non-profit ministry.

    One went to seminary after teaching and another went after working in a hospital lab. Both had worked their jobs for a number of years before the change. After meeting in seminary they married each other and are back to their previous careers after things did not gel for ministry positions. Have never heard either of them say they regretted going.

    Your question is like the ‘When are you going to get married?’ question so many get asked. The timing is different for everyone and one needs to be comfortable that the decision is the right one. When the time is right you will know it. If you hit a block somewhere, re-evaluate and go another direction.

    A pastor once told me life is like a river. It flows along until it hits a big rock and must divide to keep going. Sometimes there is a push to go one direction or the other and sometimes it takes a bit to decide which way to go. The idea is not to hit the rock too hard. So, go with the flow and everything will work out.

    PS: agree with Ursyl.

  6. New reader, so I haven’t read everything you’ve had to say about going into ministry, but I want to say this: ministry happens in and out of churches, and you don’t have to be an ordained pastor to be a minister.

    When I was 17, I wanted to get ordained and go to seminary, and I planned on doing that right after college. Life happened, and I didn’t go back to college until I was almost 29. In that in-between time, I learned a lot about me, about ministry, and about seminary. In college, I kept thinking about where I was called and what I was supposed to do with my life. When I went to grad school, a year after I graduated from college, I got a Master’s Degree in Environmental Writing and Stewardship, with a heavy emphasis on spiritual stewardship (christian, specifically). I consider that MA my seminary degree, and I do ministry by taking care of the people God has called me to take care of.

    So, seminary or not, you can still be a minister. And by the looks of what I’ve read so far, it sounds like you are already doing that. So keep it up. 😀

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