This coming Sunday is designated in the United Church of Christ as Seminary Sunday/Church Vocations Sunday. Did you know that the UCC actually has six seminaries—Chicago Theological Seminary, Eden Seminary, Lancaster Seminary, Andover Newton at Yale Divinity School, Pacific School of Religion, and United Theological School of the Twin Cities. They are tasked with preparing students for ordained ministry and for other roles in the church. Important work, for our denomination has a strong belief in having educated clergy. It is crucial that we support our seminaries and that in our local church we notice and encourage individuals who have gifts for ministry.
Because of my life circumstances, I wasn’t able to go away to a UCC seminary, but was fortunate to attend a progressive seminary that had close ties to the UCC. I think back on my own time in seminary at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio in Delaware as one of the happiest periods of my life, as well as one of the most challenging. I was fifty years old when I began preparation for my third career as a pastor. Throughout my time at MTSO I served forty hours a week as Student Pastor of a UCC church of over two hundred members while commuting to seminary ninety miles away two days a week for almost four years. In addition to performing all the usual tasks of ministry, I had classes to attend, papers to write, books to read (lots of books!) and projects to complete.
I loved seminary, where the hunger to learn about God, which was very much a part of my call to ministry, was fed. It was a place of peace, intellectual stimulation and growth, and a place that felt like spiritual home. I am so grateful to have had that experience, in spite of what it cost financially. I continue to pay student loans today, twenty years after graduation. Attending seminary wasn’t a smart financial decision, but I’ve never lacked what I needed. God has indeed provided!
And so today, I invite you to appreciate and support our seminaries, for they are islands of God-focused goodness, light, and truth in a world that needs what they have to offer.
In Christ’s love.
Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ