Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why Academia, Part 2(c) -- YDS

By far the best thing about my three years at Yale was the opportunity for historical study. As you might recall, I entered the M.Div. program wanting to "leave the doors open" as far as ultimate career tracks were concerned. However, it didn't take me very long to fall in love with my historical theology classes -- especially those related to the Early Church.

I had some excellent teachers at YDS who began opening up to me the path I would eventually follow. I remember with particular gratitude the courses I took on the early development of Trinitarian doctrine, the history of worship and liturgy, the writings of Origen (a third century biblical scholar), and preaching in the early and medieval church. Well before the end of my first semester, I had joined the North American Patristics Society (my field's professional organization) and begun investigating doctoral programs in church history/historical theology. I can't forget a noteworthy class I took outside of my primary field, though -- The Life & Thought of Jonathan Edwards. Because Yale is home to the Jonathan Edwards Center and some of the premier Edwards scholars, it's a great place to study him. And since the university's Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds most of his papers, I had the chance to see and touch the original copies of some of his famous works, as well as his extensively marked homemade study Bible. WHERE ELSE but Yale could I have gotten to do something so marvelous?

I was also part of some wonderful communities at YDS. If I had not felt so alienated at YDS (of which more later), I might not have sought out and identified so strongly with these unique groups. One was the Overseas Ministries Study Center, a residential campus where missionaries from around the world spend a year resting and studying in community. I was blessed to be the OMSC's student intern during my third year of seminary (I got away with this as my "supervised ministry" placement), which meant that I basically got to spend a year hanging out with and writing the stories of individuals, couples, and families from all parts of the globe, who, despite their various ecclesiastical backgrounds, shared a common passion for evangelism. It was a passion YDS mostly lacked -- and it was a refreshing exposure to "ecumenism" of a different form than that which Yale was ostensibly all about. I'm grateful I had the chance to learn a little bit about the global church and to be introduced to the lively study and practice of missiology. And the people, both staff and residents, were lovely and welcoming.

Another much-loved community was the nearby Episcopal parish I attended for three years. My relationship with Anglicanism/the Episcopal church could be a separate post in itself. However, this unique congregation of mostly evangelicals was the place where I began to learn what worship and fellowship are about. It was my saving grace at times when I wasn't sure what else was keeping me at Yale.

A similar safe haven, on the YDS campus itself, was the Evangelical Fellowship, a somewhat motley group of students who shared many of my ambivalent attitudes toward the div school experience. We were not just a disaffected group defining itself against the majority, however; for me, at least, it provided a context for piecing together a positive evangelical identity as well. I made my closest friends there, and our regular worship nights were a great comfort.

I am getting a bit off track. But I wanted to show that there were experiences -- academic, social, and spiritual -- that made Yale a wonderful place more often than not. Thanks to these classes, libraries, and people, I began to come into my own in a lot of ways. I became more confident socially, developed a better idea of what I wanted to study, and began to find my place in the Church. And of course I met my husband!

I'm not trying to drag out the suspense (haha), but I think I'll put the rest in another post. We're about to eat a late dinner, and besides, this is getting plenty long. This time, I'll try to follow up with the next post in a day or two, instead of making everyone wait a week. :-)

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