I am halfway through my first semester of seminary, and I feel like I have finally settled into a routine. Some days I am amazed by how different my life is than when I was working an 8-5 job. I am enjoying myself very much, though.
Outside Cannon ChapelBefore I came to Candler School of Theology
, many people warned me that seminary can be challenging for ones spiritual life, so I have been very intentional about my spiritual practices: setting aside at least 15 minutes in the morning for prayer and worship, reading a chapter of the Bible each night, giving thanks before meals, getting regular exercise, and blessing roadkill that I pass by on my bike.
My typical week looks pretty much like this:First Day: Worship
On Sunday mornings, I have been worshiping with Atlanta Friends Meeting
, a large, unprogrammed meeting in Decatur. My friends Sadie and Chris live just a mile up the road from my apartment, so they usually give me a ride to meeting, which also gives us a chance to catch up. Worship begins at 10am and lasts for an hour of silence and messages, with a few minutes at the end for holding people or other prayer requests in the Light. After getting home from meeting, I often nap and then do any schoolwork I have left for the coming week.Second Day: Prison
One of the unusual things about Candler is that the program includes two years of contextual education. In our first year, all of the first-year M.Div. students spend four hours a week in social ministry or clinical settings. On Mondays, I spend the day with eight of my classmates at Lee Arrendale State Prison
, the largest women's prison in Georgia.
Chaplain Bishop (left) and the Candler chaplain interns
We meet up around 8am to take a van up to the prison, located about 66 miles northeast of Atlanta. I have
been assigned to two dorms in the general population. Two other chaplain interns and I spend about an hour and a half in each dorm, and we meet up with our other classmates for lunch and a 90-minute reflection class in the middle.
Working in the prison is one of the highlights of my week. When I walk in the dorm, I never know what will happen. Sometimes a woman will approach me immediately and I will spend most of my time with her. Other days, I wait in the break room for women to come talk with me. Most of the time I listen as they share their experiences and concerns, and we pray and talk together. Third Day: Classes
Other than the reflection group at the prison, all of my classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The day begins with History of Early Christian Thought (8-9:20am), a large lecture class where we are learning church history from the time of the early church to the Reformation (we will take a class that covers the Reformation to the current day next semester).
Some of my school booksNext is Pastoral Care (9:30-10:50), a smaller class that is designed to complement our contextual education work. My prison group is combined with a group that is working in another prison for a class of fewer than 20 people. We are learning a lot about ministry in the prison setting and pastoral care and counseling for women, and we practice pastoral care with and for each other.
After Pastoral Care, I usually skip chapel so that I can eat some lunch and stop by the on-campus farmers market before choir practice with the Candler Chorale, a one-credit class (12-12:50pm). Our choir is about seven people, and we usually spend our time on Tuesdays preparing the music we will be singing and leading in the Thursday chapel.
My last class of the day is Old Testament (1-2:20pm), another large lecture class. This is also a year-long class, and we are currently working our way through the Pentateuch. We started talking about Leviticus last week and will be moving on to Numbers tomorrow. I think this is the class that many of my classmates have found most theologically challenging, but I am really enjoying learning about the sources of the Old Testament and reading the text more closely than I ever have before.
Pitts Theology LibraryFourth Day: Reading
Thursday is usually my busiest day of classes, so I spend most of Wednesday in the library, reading and preparing for that. I also try to fit in a lunchtime swim at the Emory pool, and in the afternoon, I meet with a therapist in the Emory counseling center. Counseling sessions are free for students (or, rather, included in our tuition and fees), and it has been really great to have someone to meet with each week to help me through all of the transitions.Fifth Day: Classes
My schedule on Thursday is pretty much the same as Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Instead of choir practice, my choir often leads the singing in chapel (11am-12pm). After chapel, I sometimes have another one-credit class called First Year Advising (12-12:50pm). As the name suggests, this is a class that is supposed to help all of us transition into seminary. We meet regularly (though not every week) with our faculty advisor to talk about things like financial literacy and what we need to do to satisfy the M.Div. program requirements.
Inside Cannon ChapelSixth Day: Schoolwork
Friday is another day without classes and it is tempting to take the day off, but I have been trying to get most of my schoolwork done before the weekend. It is also a day when we sometimes have special programs at school (for example, next week I will be taking an afternoon workshop on the Enneagram). Again, I try to fit a run or swimming into the day. In the evening, I might go out to dinner or do something else to unwind after the week.Seventh Day: Sabbath
One of the reasons I try to do so much schoolwork on Friday is because I have set Saturday aside as a no-schoolwork day, a sabbath of sorts. It is amazing to me how tempted I have been to do schoolwork on Saturdays, especially when midterms are looming, but I have managed to stick with it so far.
On Saturday mornings, I have been going to a yoga class at a local ashram
, then I usually spend the rest of the day hanging out with friends, reading (fiction!), or catching up with things around the house. So, it's not a complete sabbath, but at least one day a week when I am not completely focused on school.