Friday, April 2, 2010

Boundary Crossing

(students and faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School attending a presentation on the now not so new educational model that emphasizes the integration of theory and practice and moves our students out into the community.)

Who would have thought that a vision/mission to transition from a four year Masters of Divinity program to a three year program would be so controversial. And yet in the approximately 2-3 years since its inception we have accomplished the following: increased our admissions rate and Full Time Enrollment (FTE) by inadvertently tapping a constituency previously denied access to theological education and pushed and challenged our imaginations including: board, faculty, staff, students and ministers. There have been some casualties but primarily we are approaching the shores of this new world and vision of theological education and its bright with possibilities.

It is April 2 and the faculty at our small seminary where I am employed as the Director of Contextual Ministry is preparing to meet with the faculty of another seminary to determine if what we currently mutually excel at what (theological education and preparing ministers for our respective denominations) can be done in a mutually compatible partnership that would allow us to move to the next level. The world of theological education has become fiercely competitive. One must excel in the production of knowledge, the preparation and shaping of ministers all while maintaining fiscal viability. And then in the midst of all this become adept at boundary crossing. Boundary crossing for those of you that may have missed the phenomenon is the ability to move between paradigms; between communities; between cultures. While some individuals have acquired the skill sets by virtue of their lived experiences, those of us in theological education have to cast our pastoral imagination upon the waters of life and contrive curricula that simulate learning experiences that allow our seminarians to become border crossers.

Our seminary believes that it is and can do this. While we have come late to multiracial competence and curricula driven by the integration of theory and practice we have demonstrated an amazing agility and mastery in a very short time. The corporate world better understands profit margins and downsizing in times of economic leanness and the need to respond quickly to conditions and circumstances on a dime. However, in the world of non profits and particularly theological education we tend to be less savvy and attuned to such needs. Instead we pride ourselves on tradition, devotion to values of collaboration and authenticity and justice making. Meanwhile, corporations continue to exploit globalization, making the big bucks and relocating its sweat shops when public outcry demands justice in developing nations.

Here in Chicago, Illinois it is Friday, April 2 and much of the Christian world here and around the world is preparing for Easter, the event that symbolizes Christianity's greatest love story. The cruxifiction and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice of a loving Father dedicating the only Son for the forgiveness and completion of the Children. For a sacrifice is required to wash the sins of humanity and the world away.

Regardless of our faith traditions may we recognize that the only power that springs forth sufficiently strong to free all is that which springs from the love and compassion that we have for the weakest among us; the oppressed and marginalized and that the forces of humanity working to heal itself and bring itself into right relations must examine itself in these times. There are some things in our lies that we have to kill and something that we have to to heal. If church is the place James Luther Adams, a Unitarian Universalist theologian, contends where we get to practice what it means to be human - may we take this most holy of Christian traditions to reflect on what it means to be human as boundary crossers in a world sorely in need of individuals not constrained by denominational affiliation; not constrained by what we call or do not name the Holy and Sacred.

I close with excerpts from the Covenant of my Housing Coop:

God, having covenanted with us to be a people for all people and for all life

We covenant together to be such a people... to see a way to be free to care
for each other
for the life of the community
for the larger immediate community
for the resources of the land
and for the beauty of nature

We covenant all this in such a way that we are at once bound together and free to be our own deepest selves.

May it be so and blessed be!

Q. What is your passion? How can you apply your authenticity and push your godness/goodness/your humanity and grow your soul to meet the demands of a world in pain and looking for hope and the good news of rebirth and resurrection?

Blessings on this Good Friday! Rev. Qiyamah