Friday, September 29, 2006

I have to preface this week's Friday Five with a confession: despite being in seminary for a year, when I see "groups" I don't think what normal people thing (a gathering of people or things). No, I think about a mathematical object -- a set with an operation on it such that the operation is associative, and the set has an inverse element and a neutral element.

1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

Not many groups right now. Seminary choir...covenant group...if classes count as groups, then I have more! I used to be involved in a whole slew of stuff; I have no idea now how I found the time for it!

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?

Definitely an "it depends." It depends on how well I know the people in a group. If I know them well (and I mean really well), then I'm energized. But walking into a room of practical total strangers drains the life right out of me.

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?

Let's do this one by process of elimination. I'm not a stunning host, though I've done that from time to time. In a small group (3-4) I tend to fall into the leader role, though in a larger group I tend to let the more assertive people take the reigns and make sure other people's voices are heard. So.....the one I fall more naturally into is the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine.

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

Handshakes at first. Hugs come later...though I'm usually open to a hug pretty soon after I meet a person.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

Depends on the ice breaker. I can't recall any particularly hellish ones off the top of my head (perhaps because I've blocked them out). Generally I find them fun and lighthearted and a great way to build community!

Bonus: If you answered "playful and lighthearted," share your favorite ice breaker.

This one isn't too bad: you mark two ends of the room (one with agree, one with disagree, or something along those lines). Next ask a series of questions (I like the cold, I live in the north, etc...) and people position themselves according to where they fall along the spectrum. We did this occasionally for Christian Fellowship and it's great because if you're going to be talking about something serious in a discussion, you can gradually steer the questions in that direction.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Funeral Thoughts

Granny Franny (so she came to be called) died on Friday at the age of 102. She also was blessed to have the perfect death: peaceful, in her sleep, with her family gathered around her. One of her sons held her hand through that night, and when he woke up, she was dead but her left hand was back by her head, as if she was waving. He marveled at what a gift that had been for him. Truly a perfect death.

Pastor invited me to go with him to the funeral after the church council meeting so I could observe what went on at such a service from a more objective point of view. Actually, I had never before been to a funeral (though I’ve been to a couple memorial services), not even for my own grandfather when he died almost 10 years ago. Walking into the funeral parlor, there wasn’t the oppressively sad air that I had been expecting. Instead, there was a lot of laughter, with a twinge of sadness. People looked fondly at the open casket where Fran lay peacefully, looking exceptionally well for 102 (everyone said that in life, she never ever looked her age). I sat in the back so as not to disturb those who were really there for Fran and the family.

Pastor used the liturgy from the Book of Worship, adapting where necessary, and editing out much of the pain and grief language present. In some ways, this was a very happy occasion – a celebration of her life and a public acknowledgement that she was in heaven. The eulogy was short, as pastor wanted to have plenty of room for her two sons to speak, but pastor did give a short picture of her life along with (what I assume to be) the standard funeral fare and talked about her sharp wit, self-effacing humor, and the feeling that you were always home in her presence. From this, and from the stories that her two sons shared, I sincerely wished that I had had the opportunity to know her.

At one point during his eulogy, I noticed tears running down my face. The scene conjured up for me a time when my own grandfather died out in Ohio during my high school years. I don’t even remember why my siblings and I didn’t go; perhaps my parents didn’t feel like it was appropriate for us to miss school. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a choice made on our part; I don’t remember a choice being given anyway. But in that moment, I felt a powerful sense of the loss of my grandfather and my own personal need for closure. I also felt the powerful sense that one day, I too will have to bury my parents, and this really troubled me.

As a pastor, I will be expected to perform funerals and to comfort people in their time of grief. I will not be able to do that unless I have come to terms with the lingering grief I’m experiencing from my grandfather’s death. If every funeral scene sparks memories of my grandfather and I am unable to lay that aside, I don’t feel like I will be able to be present for the people who need me most at that time. In order for me to more fully grow as a pastoral leader, this is an issue that I will have to deal with. I will also have to learn how to see death as a part of life. While it is true that not all deaths are as perfect nor as peaceful as Fran’s, there was something holy about her death that is present in many other deaths as well. I will have to learn how to see the sacramental in the process of dying – and Fran’s death has given me a perfect start.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Right now, I'm watching the Giants lose miserably (35 to 3 at the half), trying to read my theology reading but getting incredibly distracted by both the game and some guy outside my window playing an African drum. Normally, I would find such a demonstration to be entertaining and amusing, but right now it's imparing my ability to concentrate on the Doctrine of God. Hence, blogging it is.

I realize that I have neglected to say hello to folks popping over via the Methodist Blogroll. *waves* Greetings to all of you!

After my third Sunday in my new "pastor-type" roll, I think I'm settling in quite nicely. It was a big plus that the pastor wanted to ease me in, having knowledge of what it was like to be a student. That was very helpful, and I don't think I could have survived these past few weeks without it.

Even though I can't actually read my theology text at the moment (which really should get done, as I'm not going to do work this evening in favor of friends and the Patriots), I'll ruminate a bit about what we've learned so far in my Systematic Theology class.

Dr. Boesel, first of all, is a great teacher. For someone like me who needs concrete pictures of what is going on, he is fantastic. His basic method of teaching us consists of the construction of two theological paradigms, denoted "A" and "B". As one might imagine, one is more resonant of "conservative" viewpoints, the other is more "liberal" (strictly theologically speaking, not politically so). These broad paradigms (meant to capture the extremes) are further broken down into A1, A2, B1, B2, etc...

Last week, we learned about how these different paradigms view revelation, the notion of God's self-disclosure to humankind. B's take a more "universal presence" form of God's revelation, while A's are more about how God revealed God's self to a particular people/persons at a particular time and space. How these groups integrate the 4 sources of theology (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience) varies even within the broad paradigm.

As far as I am....I don't know where I truly am on the spectrum, or even if I'm on it. Without describing the paradigms (as I am now pressed for time), I can only say that pieces of the A2 and B1 appeal to where I currenly am theologically, but there are elements involved that neither of them take into consideration, and I'm definitely not midway between the two (or if I was, it would be like I was above the midpoint, working off of a slightly different but perhaps parallel paradigm). I think community is important, I think that God's universally present and it is a valid source of revelation, but that God does intervene actively in history. I like Barth in that the Bible is not the revelation, but a witness to it, but I also highly value other sources of theology.

Who knows. Maybe I'll invent my own position...paradigm M.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I remembered about this in time to play today!

1) Are you a baby about small injuries?

Generally, no. If I cut myself, I might freak out a bit, but I generally don't cry or make too much of a scene.

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself?

Well, recently I got this huge bruise on my right shin caused by graceful me triping over one of the weird steps in the choir loft/narthex during the passing of the peace on my first Sunday. Or there was time a few days ago when I was frying bacon, and I put two new slices of bacon into the pan with all the hot bacon grease, and the sizzling hot grease went all over - including a couple drops on my feet and my legs. I still am sporting these lovely burns on my right thigh that look like tear drops because they ran down my legs.

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child?

Mom did, though I hated when I got a splinter. She'd go get a sewing needle, sterilize it, and then get it out. She was good at it, but even at that age I hated somebody poking me with needles.

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos?

I never really had the opportunity to try. Whenever I baby-sat, the kids never got hurt. Now, more often than not, I'm the one getting hurt, and needing to be nursed.

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room?

Probably on Martha's Vineyard. I was with my friends and we were digging clams for dinner. I found one, and it cut me on one of my fingers. It was a pretty deep cut, and I was freaking out because it had sand and grossness in it. It had to be washed and cleaned, but I couldn't do it myself. So one of my friends tended to my wounds, but the whole time I felt like I was going to pass out. It was awful.

I'm sure there are worse injuries; I just can't think of them right now. Suffice it to say, I've never been to the ER. Nor have I ever broken a bone.

OH! I remember one now - my freshman year of high school, I was on the softball team and during practice, we were just throwing around balls, practicing catching. I held out my glove , but my ungloved hand got the ball first and bent my middle finger backwards. It was just a sprain, but I had my right hand taped up for a week or so. Couldn't write well...so I had to dictate my answers to a biology test to the teacher. It was great. The funnier part is for awhile (not so much recently), changes in air pressure really did affect my finger. So I could predict the weather with my bones!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

selfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthing...

I don't know if I've mentioned it in a previous post (and frankly, right now after my evening cup of Sleepytime tea, I'm too lazy to care), but I dropped a class. Yes, that's right...I am only taking nine credits. Instead of dropping a job, I cut back academically. My rationale for picking the class over the job:

1) I need money. Well, not need, need, but I want to start to save some more so that when Ben and I start our life together, we will have some additional financial backing.

2) I'm ahead of the game when it comes to credits. With 33 already under my belt, I can afford to take only 9 this semester and still be on track to graduate "in time" (i.e., within their idea that the MDiv program takes three years to complete). When you factor in that C.P.E. will be an additional six credits that will happen over the summer, I'm in goooooood shape. (Note to self, start C.P.E. application! All you who read this, harrass me about it, ok?)

The real reason I cut back is due to some serious self-care issues. Something inside of me almost died when I was talking with some people (who shall remain nameless) and upon mentioning how every last moment of my day was scheduled and busy, they said that it was good, and how it should be. Time for self-care and self-nurture is very much a foreign concept, one that I started to learn senior year of college and one that I need to continue learning. I will not be able to be an effective minister if I don't intentionally carve out some time for me.

Secondly, I almost started crying during the mandatory Monday Supervised Ministry meeting when Dean Samuel was talking about the busy life of a seminarian. So: I totaled up all my hours as follows (with 4 classes) upon the general rule of thumb that a for every credit you take, you spend about 3 hours doing work outside of class. Here we go.

Supervised Ministry/Other Jobs - 30 hours max
Time in-class - 12 hours-ish
Work outside of class - 36 hours
Time sleeping (8 hours per night) - 56
Sabbath - 16 hours

This leaves 18 out of 168 hours in a week in which to eat, shower, run errands, have personal devotional time, plan a wedding, and attempt to stay sane. There is little for meaningful relationships of any kind (and I don't think Ben would take kindly to that one) and that more than anything really hurts me, since I wanted this year to be more about forming relationships with people. Sure, I have friends that I hang out with from time to time, but it's rare. And I feel so isolated here in my apartment that aside from my roommates, the only person I see consistently is Ben. I love Ben, but I enjoy spending time with more people too.

There is also no time for me to take a step back and cultivate other areas of my life (such as my more creative side). I'm not a brilliant photographer by any means, but I enjoy going outside and taking pictures of nature or other things that strike my interest. I like cross-stitching. I want to finish the banner I started for a class over January.

I also need time for exercise. No excuse here. If I want to lose weight, I just have to do it. Period.

I've also been overwhelmed lately by other issues in my life (the car is finally fixed, by the way, which eliminates one area of stress) that I'm seriously an emotional wreck. Ask Ben. I'll be reading one moment and the next I'll be crying. Mucho repressed anger has been seeping its way out of my body (thank you to Douglas VW who I deem the catalyst of such a reaction) and while most of the time I'm Ok, there are moments I want to kill the next living thing that moves near me. (I never thought I might need anger management...I'm really not an angry person, I swear!)

I'm sick of living in the space which I have been kept hostage (largely by my own psyche, but my psyche has very good reasons for keeping me in my bedroom, and for the most part, I agree with them). I need some separation in my life (not eating in my bedroom would be a good start to that...and probably so would getting the television out of my bedroom), but I can't because there's no way to do it. I work, eat, sleep - live in this one little bedroom. How did I ever pull it off in college? Please, someone, let me know, because it's not working for me now!

Anyhow, I planned on sharing some pearls of wisdom that I gathered in my Pastoral Care and Counseling class, as well as some severe criticisms of the way They want us to do theological reflection. I also wanted to reflect more on why self-care in general is a good thing, but I'm done for now. Perhaps I'll ruminate more in a later post.

selfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthing...

New Userpic

I love this userpic. I might even have to use it on this site, I love it so much. You can find it over at my livejournal. It's on the first entry there, and it's totally awesome.

Again, I am betraying my dorkishness. :-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

First of all -- thank you to everyone for the well wishes in my new position! Tomorrow, I get to preach my first children's sermon!!

There were two battles raging this past week; one against my car and the other against my computer, both waged by proxy with the institutions that were supposed to be servicing each. One was a victory, while one was a lost.

The victory first: Dell finally consented that yes, something was wrong with my motherboard and yes, they will send a technician over. This technician came over on Thursday (after we played phone tag for a bit) and replaced the motherboard. And....I have no more internet connection issues! Quel shock. I can now put the ethernet cable in and the computer recognizes that a cable is there each and every time. Yay!

The loss: the car. I don't know how long I want to draw this out, but it started last Thursday, when I was supposed to go up to meet with my pastor to talk with him about what I would be doing on my first Sunday. I didn't get two miles before the check engine light came on and I had to drop it off at the dealership a few towns away. Since my car was undriveable (for the most part), a fellow seminary friend drove me to church that Sunday (for which I will be forever grateful!). I took the car in this past Monday...waited three hours...and found out that in addition to the check engine light stuff, I had $3500 of work to do on it. Including the brakes and the radiator. I took it to Midas to do the brakes (because they were cheaper and they do a better job), and then dropped the car of on Thursday to do selected items like the check engine light stuff and the CV boot (it's cheaper to do the radiator stuff in Maine).

I picked the car up on Friday and.....the alignment is OMGsh bad. Not slightly bad. But "steering-wheel-at-thirty-degrees-below-vertical-to-go-straight" bad. I called them from the road (which is illegal in New Jersey, but oh well) and told them it was their fault, and they said there was nothing they could do; the place was already closed for service and on Saturday they didn't have anybody in who could do it. The guy couldn't even figure out why I would have any alignment problems. Grr. So I called my parents, and got in touch with them this morning about how to proceed. I called the dealership back because I feel very unsafe driving this car and didn't want to spend an hour-and-a-half on the road getting to church and back tomorrow. I couldn't get a loaner because the company they use closed at 12 (I was calling, no joke, at 12:03), and their other loaner cars hadn't returned yet. I asked if there was another company they could refer me to to get a rental, and the guy said he didn't have the authorization to do that.

After much angst and calling the parents and venting to Ben and Ben calling his parents, we decided to go to the dealership prepared to leave the car there, ask for a manager who could authorize a rental from another company and if they wouldn't, to ask for the number of their district managing office to register a complaint. We drove to the place (in separate cars), and I got there without any incident.

However, I think it's a state law or something that in New Jersey, no driveway can be at the same level as the road. I swear it's illegal or something. So I was making a left turn into the dealership on one of these lousy raised driveways with a bumb, and something on the front end of my car drops and starts scraping up against the road. I mean, loud screechy scraping. Definitely unsafe to drive. By this point, I was enraged. Very, very enraged. I pulled into a parking spot, shut the door of the car, and started swearing that they better fix the car. I was mad. I pretty much stormed into the office (which was open still, thank goodness), and when the guy asked me how I was, I said "not good" in a tone that implied that he wasn't going to be feeling very good either if I didn't get some service. To make a long story short, one of their loaner cars had come in and I was able to get it. Ben said the expression on the guy's face was one of "please let the loaner car be in" because the guy knew that I was ready to make his life miserable if it wasn't.

So, the car is at the dealership again, and they better gosh darn fix it for free, else I'm going to register a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. What an awful way to spend my Sabbath day. But it's over, and I have transportation so I can get to church tomorrow. And right now, that's all I really care about.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day One

I stood at the lectern on Sunday morning, looking out at the faces of my new congregation. Mostly strangers stared back at me – strangers that would come to know me first as a student pastor before anything else. I took a deep breath and said, “Good morning and welcome. My name is Melissa Yosua, and I will be serving as your new student pastor. I am a second year Masters of Divinity Student at Drew University, and I am looking forward to working with you during my time here.” Pause. “Let us rise and join together in the Call to Worship, found in your bulletin.” And we were off.

I knew from the second I stood up there that this time reading as a lay liturgist would be completely different from any other time I have ever served as such. Sure, I had read scripture and been the lay leader many times over the course of my lifetime. Yet this time, something was profoundly different. As soon as the words “student pastor” escaped my lips, I was no longer “just another lay person.” I entered into that amorphous phase of “not laity, but not yet clergy” – just like a teenager who is not a child anymore, but not yet an adult.

I see my time with them as such – a gangly and awkward teenage-type pastor, struggling to find her footing and herself in the great, big world of ministry. I imagine there will be growing pains, times that I will struggle for independence, and times that I will need to be “grounded,” so to speak – sent back to my room for reflection, contemplation, and a rerooting myself in the familiar. There will be times when I can’t wait to fly, full and confident, and situations where I will revert to a shy and insecure pastor-in-training, unsure yet wanting to try.

This past Sunday marked a significant shift in the way others perceive me, and in the way I perceive myself. I am in a new phase of life, new phase of ministry, and a new phase of the calling that God has placed upon my soul. I became “the Student Assistant Pastor” (lovingly called, the “sap”), and I am blessed to be with a congregation and a pastor who is as excited about the journey as I am. I am excited, scared, fascinated, thrilled, and nervous about the process, but together we will learn and grow into the people that God has called us to be.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Seminary Choir

I joined the seminary choir this semester. I'm not taking it for credit; I feel like that won't allow me to skip out on a week or two should I need to take some time off. I certainly plan on being there every chance I get, however!

We rehearse after chapel on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the chapel itself. We were learning this gospel song that Mark had written, and there was this one part with some neat harmonies so Mark decided to bring us outside of the chapel too the very resonant lobby on the second floor. We all nailed our parts and it sounded fantastic...except for when one irate undergraduate student (an older gentleman) came out of the classroom and yelled at us. "We can't hear the professor! The professor can't even think! There is a class going on in there, don't you know any better?" Mark, being Mark, poked his head in afterwards to apologize, and in typical fashion said, "If any of you want to join the choir..." I guess Mark didn't realize that Seminary Hall, now that it is fully accessible, can be used by the college for classes and there are a lot more undergrads floating around the building than there were before. I don't think any of the students (aside from the one and the professor) took it badly -- most of them were laughing away.

Still, it was rather funny as we meekly turned around and marched ourselves back to the chapel.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Going Retro!

I totally want this.

In other news, my fight with Dell Tech Support is nearly over...I finally got them to the point where the said, "yeah, it might be a loose connection to the motherboard" (which is what I had been saying all along), after two separate conversations totaling two and a half hours and three people (I finally said after the woman told me that it wasn't in her jurisdiction to dispatch a technician...which is in my warranty service...because it "wasn't a hardware issue" and I told her I wanted to speak to someone who does have that authority).

Oy....today I work from 9 - 11, have chapel and rehearsal until 1:15, class from 1:15 - 3:45, run to the post office to mail some books I sold, and then meet my pastor at 5.

I need to cut something out of my life. I can't survive like this all semester long...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Orientation

One week ago today, a team of 14 hardened Drew Theological School veterans, the school's deans, and other Drew administrative staff effectively (or so we hope) oriented about 70 new students to the Theological School. All in all, orientation went smoothly, and I loved meeting all of the first-year students, including Kristen, who I met first in cyberspace via the RevGalBlogPal blog ring! I had delightful conversations with so many people. I love hearing their stories, and what brought them to Drew. We have students who have served in the Marine Corps, work as a wedding photographer, love dogs so much they want to start a petition to allow them in student housing, come from teeny tiny towns in the Midwest...you name it, we've got it! This class is wonderfully diverse - ethnically, age-wise, geographically -- it's great!

Most of the hang-ups around orientation were due to events beyond our control. For example, the #2 reason I hate Drew (their Facilities department) took 7 or 8 hours to plunge all three men's toilets in Seminary Hall. For a better part of the day, the men had to go elsewhere to use the toilet because ours was all clogged, and Facilities was apparently too incompetent to handle the job. (Additionally, as we were moving students into their housing at Drew, one woman opened her door to find that Facilities was using her room as a storage area and had three beds, four desks, etc....and they hadn't cleaned it out in time for her arrival, and one student we greeted found out that he didn't have a bed yet in his room. Welcome to Drew!)

Some people giving presentations decided not to show up, like Telecom, who decided they were too busy to take 15 minutes out of their schedule - 15 minutes that they had known about for several weeks - to talk to the students living on campus about their phone service. Basically, they just created a whole heck of a lot more work for themselves because now everyone is going to be talking to them one-on-one to have all their questions answered.

Some presentations were just awful, and there was nothing redeeming about them. I will not mention which ones here; those at orientation know which presentation(s) I'm referencing.

Apparently, the administration raved about how well things went, and about how well the first-years took to heart a lot of the presentations the deans and faculty made about such topics as community and the importance of critical thinking in religious study. I'm really looking forward to getting to know them more - both in and outside of the classroom setting!