I don’t believe my story is unique when observed along with those of my colleagues, but I am happy to share these words. I have always been a student of history. This includes the history of the PC(USA) and its antecedents’ origins. Mainly, I enjoy hearing the stories of colleagues who graduated many years before I did in 2000. Often those recollections include stories of professors whose knowledge of practical theology existed in such close association with the professors’ academic area of specialty that courses seemingly as dry as church history or historical interpretation often provided brilliant insights in more everyday matters like working with sessions, or how to organize a thoughtful service bearing witness to the resurrection.
In my short experience, the Foundation seminars have been not only an opportunity to engage in conversations about theoretical aspects of ministry but also the practical incorporation of theory and practice. Each of us ministers comes prepared and ready to review for the group a portion of the reading for that year’s topic. Although we often deviate from the topic at hand in laughter and tears, relationships are nurtured and calls to ministry are reaffirmed in ways that could never had occurred otherwise. Unlike some higher governing body meetings, energy is not wasted posturing or jockeying for a better seat at the table because through the ministry of Word and through prayer each pastor in the seminar participates simultaneously as both teacher and student.
The goal of Better Preaching, Better Teaching, Better Pastoral Care does not begin only when pastors return home. These goals are realities which manifest themselves among and between seminar members in the context of reading great theology and during group discussions, meals, and even late night serendipitous conversations during the five days our seminar meets together.
My seminar has been a significant blessing not only to me but also to my wife, who also belongs to a Foundation seminar based at her seminary. The Foundation provides opportunity for seminar members to engage in readings that bring out the best of each member. The time away is not vacation. It’s inspiration!