Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Graduation Dilemma

I have a plan. I graduate from College on May 15th. I start Princeton's Summer Language Program July 11. It's a two step plan. It should be pretty easy to follow. Or at least, that's what I thought. Turns out that the path to graduation is much more complicated than that. I should have known better, nothing is easy when it comes to me.

I received a letter from the registrar's office informing me that I will not be graduating in May...because I am twelve credits short. My department (Religion/Theology) is notorious for messing up students schedules. They neglect to inform students that you MUST take 16 credits every semester in order to graduate on time. Oh, and if you are a transfer student, good luck. Not all of your credits will transfer in as they are supposed to, even if you are transferring from a higher caliber school. So here I am 45 days until graduation

I'm working on my regular course load and now I've added twelve online credits. I am taking the online classes through another school because my college does not offer online classes. I actually only have 36 days to get all of the online work done. All transfer credits are due May 6th. So I have 36 days to get 12 credits worth of work done. I woke up at 3:30 AM to get work done today. Good bye social life. Good bye procrastination. Good bye weekend plans. Good bye any thoughts of fun stuff. Hello homework. Hello papers. Hello readings. Hello assignments. Hello caffeine. Hello sugar. Good bye sleep. Hello exhaustion.

I have decided that I can collapse due to exhaustion on May 16th. I can sleep for 48 hours straight starting the evening of May 15th if that is what it takes but I need to graduate May 15th. So any suggestions for energy and the ability to cram lots of work into a small amount of time would be greatly appreciated. Princeton's Summer Language Program starts July 11th and AUC summer graduation isn't until July 15th, so that doesn't work. Which all comes back to I MUST graduate May 15th.

Prayers are more than welcomed. Kind words are requested. Caffeine will be graciously accepted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Date Night Conversation

This weekend I had the joy of attending yet another meeting where I was the youngest person in attendance. This time around, I was the youngest person by at least 35 years. When I first started attending Synod and Synod type meetings it bothered me that I was the only young person there. Now, however, it fuels me in a way. As the only young person in attendance I am the only voice for the "youth" of the church that they here.

The Moderator Elect of the Synod of the Northeast is in my Presbytery Partnership Group (PPG). She has some big changes in mind for the Synod Assemblies once she is installed in October. She was telling me about some of the changes she wants to make and I am a huge fan of all of them. I also voiced my opinions on some aspects of Synod and she listened to me. As I have voiced before, I often feel that the young adults of the church go overlooked. But in this meeting everything I had to say was listened to and unlike the actual Synod meeting, in the PPG, I have voice AND vote.

After the New England Presbytery Partnership Group meeting, I went out to dinner with my boyfriend. Considering we are total dorks we don't have normal dinner conversation. Add to the fact that we are religious dorks and it gets worse. David is a religious studies major. He has a minor in Christian-Jewish-Muslim Relations and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Yeah, he is pretty amazing. I'm a religion major but I study theology whereas he studies different religions. David plans to be a professor. I plan to be a minister of the Word and Sacrament. So our dinner conversation covers different theological ideas, classes, current events, the future, acpocalypse, and any number of topics that would be unusual for any other dinner couple.

Talking about the PPG meeting led us into talking about the future. I am a church geek. More specifically, I am a Presbyterian Church Geek. I am a Presbygeek. I hope you figured that much out at this point. I enjoy polity. I read the Book of Order for fun. I am a geek. I recently added a new item to my lsit of life goals: become the youngest Moderator of the General Assembly. The role of the youth in the church and the voice of the youth in the church. I have about 17 years to complete this goal.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Glories of Being Irish

Today I was congratulated for being Irish.  I thought it was weird to congratulate someone for their ethnicity. Congratulations for being Mexican? Congratulations for being African America? Your ethnicity isn't something you really have any control over. In my case: one Irish person met another Irish person and they procreated and then along came me. I don't recall there being a questionnaire asking me what ethnicity I wanted to be. I was informed that St. Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is not a real holiday. It is just an excuse for people to drink alcohol and run around stupid and drunk. I disagree. In my eyes, St. Patrick's Day is the day to celebrate all things Irish and Ireland.

According to a census conducted in 2008, I am one of 36,278,332 Irish Americans. Eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Irish American and 22 Presidents have been partly Irish (the most famous, obviously being JFK). Descendants of Ireland have produced: Bing Crosby, Walt Disney,Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly,  Maureen O'Hara, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Georgia O'Keeffe, Robert F. Kennedy,  Billy the Kid, Dropkick Murphys, The Decemberists, Flogging Molly and me...amongst others.

Just like almost every other ethnic group there are Irish stereotypes. We drink too much, we're loud, and we fight. Well, those do apply to my family. All Irish are super holy...In my family that only applies to two people. My Nana goes to mass every Saturday and goes to every funeral and wake of anyone who she has ever come across in her life. The other, according to my family, is me. I'm the person in my family that goes to church regularly, is involved with church, and when someone in the family has a question about anything religious,it's me they go to.

Catholicism is huge with us Irish. I'm the only one in the family that didn't make their confirmation in the Catholic Church. (Huge Scandal) When a friend was amazed at the number of first cousins I have, my response was "two words: Irish Catholic". According to Wikipedia: New Light Presbyterians founded the College of New Jersey, later renamed Princeton University, in 1746 in order to train ministers dedicated to their views. The college was the educational and religious capital of Scotch-Irish America. By 1808, loss of confidence in the college within the Presbyterian Church led to the establishment of the separate Princeton Theological Seminary, but deep Presbyterian influence at the college continued through the 1910s, as typified by university president Woodrow Wilson. So as a proper Irish girl it is only proper that I am attending Princeton Theological Seminary in the fall. :)

So tonight I am going to have my corn beef, my cabbage, and my boiled potatoes. Today I proudly wear my green: Shirt, Cami, fingernails, eyeshadow, socks, and sneakers. I rock my protestant orange shoelaces on my bright green sneakers. I will listen to Celtic rock and traditionally Irish folk music on my iPhone at work. I will put my red hair up into pig tails.  I am going to read Irish proverbs and blessings. And I may or may not imbibe a green beverage or two.

"I've never been to Ireland but I know it's in my Blood!"
-Raised on Black and Tans (Gaelic Storm)

Monday, March 7, 2011

20-Somethings in the PCUSA

Something that has been on my mind rather frequently is the role of young adults in the church. I wrote a bit about it in my post about the TAMFS webinar, but it continues to be on my mind so I will focus on it for this post. This topic is regularly on my mind because it affects me a great deal. Being twenty-two years old, in the church, contemplating my future as a possible pastor within the church brings the issue to the forefront of my attention. Additionally, I have been reading Jim Kitchens' book The Postmodern Parish, which I highly recommend and a quote from it has continued my thinking about young adults in the church. Kitchens writes, "We puzzle over why older members want to hold on to forms of church life that may have inspired them when they were young, but that do not meet the needs of today's 20-somethings." I find this to be very true, at least in my area. There are programs for the youth but once you hit a certain age, usually somewhere in the sphere of 20, it is difficult to find a place to belong within the church.

For the children there are Sunday school classes catered to their age level. For the youth there is youth group. For the adults of the church, they have their own Sunday School class and gender specific meetings (at my church [Clinton Presbyterian Church] it is Men's Breakfast and Ladies' Lunch Bunch). But what is there for those that fall in between. Those of us that are too old for a youth group and yet feel to young to be in the same Sunday school class as our 70 year old members? Outside of my congregation is exists as well. There are summer camps and youth retreats for those in middle school and high school, but what of those in college? When there appear to be no interest paid to this range of members how are we to feel?

The more I think about this gap within the church, the more I pay attention to the different things I attend. Yesterday, at church, I looked around the sanctuary and saw three people under the age of 35. If we raise the age to 40, it only grew be a very small number, which included The Pastor! This is not in just our congregation, according to Presbyterian Research Services, 8 in 10 worshipers in PC(USA) pews are aged 45 or older. I go to Presbytery meetings and look around and I am almost always the youngest person and unless their are seminarians present, the only one under 35. If I take a look at our Middle Governing Bodies, it is the same story. At the Synod of the Northeast meeting back in October, I was the only YAD. No other Presbytery sent a Youth Advisory Delegate, and for some presbyteries it was because they did not bother to ask a youth. At the meeting I stood up and asked who in meeting was under the age of 40. There were two people at the entire Synod meeting...myself and my pastor (Rev. Cindy Kohlmann).

I think it is time for the PCUSA to realize the role that the young adult members are capable of playing. Both the median and mean age of PCUSA members is 60 years old. I am a little over 1/3 of the age of the majority of our members. I wonder if we found a way to include those in that 20-somethings category, if that statistic would change? The Youth are the future of the church and we need a voice in the church. Furthermore, I believe that the Youth of the church need to have a voice and representation. From the chances I have had I have been able to meet people from all over the country. Attending Synod meetings and conferences has allowed me to meet amazing people within the church (like our Former Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow and Vice-Moderator Byron Wade). The young adults of today are the future leaders of our church and I think it is time that the 20-somethings have a chance to show their potential.

*My experience pertains to The Presbytery of Boston and the Synod of the Northeast. For those Presbyteries and Synods that have opportunities for the 20-somethings, that find ways to keep the 20-Somethings involved in church and have found a way to minster directly to them, I applaud you.*

Saturday, March 5, 2011


For mot of the country summer does not really start until July. Children in grades K-11 do not get out of school until the end of June (at least up here in the North East), and those graduating from High School get out at the very end of May or the very beginning on June. Because of this many jobs, like those at summer camps, do not start until the very end of June or very beginning of July. What are college students to do when they get out of school at the beginning or middle of May?

In the past it has not been that difficult for me. I get out of school in May and then work on campus and off campus driving from the house to work and back everyday. This year is different. This year I am graduating from college. After May 15th I can no longer work on campus. That eliminates that income. And this year I have one week from the day I graduate to find a new place to live. So as of May 22, I have one part time job but nowhere to live. I have been searching all over the internet for a solution to my problem. There's a recent development but I am not sure if it is positive or negative. As everyone is well aware I have been accepted to Princeton Theological Seminary for the fall. Princeton has a Summer Language Program where I can take Greek or Hebrew during the summer and just focus on the language. This starts July 11th.

So From May 22-July11 I have to find a place to live and a job to do. Really I can work from May 16-July 11. That's 56 days. I have searched and searched and have yet to find some thing that provides money and a place to stay. I do not need to earn much. Just enough to pay for my car and cell phone...and maybe some books for when I start at Princeton. I'm willing to do almost anything. I would love to find something ministry related but I'm open to anything at this point.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I did It!

In the event that my last post was confusing, allow me to explain: I "have been accepted into candidacy for the Master of Divinity - M.Div. program starting in the Fall Term of the 2011-2012 Academic Year." Last week I had received the letter telling me that it could take up to six weeks to get notification, and I have been checking the website daily, so I was not expecting anything. David's mom came by campus to bring me mail on her way to the library and Low and Behold amongst my mail was a letter from Princeton Theological Seminary! I opened it and once I read the word "Congratulations!" I screamed. I'm not going to say that I had a mature response. I screamed...multiple times. I have been praying and praying for this to happen and oh my goodness my prayers have been answered.

The first person to know was Jenn (David's mother) because she was there when I opened it. I then called David and left a voicemail. Once he called me back I did a little more celebrating. I told my two best friends on campus and then my favorite professor, Mr. Adam Ingano. He wrote one of my recommendation letters so I went and interrupted his class to tell him. I called my grandmother's house and left a message for my mother and grandmother. Then I told David's father and sister. I called my brother and told him and then I called my sister.  I figured I had all of the people who would skin my alive if they had to find out second hand or by facebook, so I posted it online. After that started the texts.: My boss, Alexander (see previous post about the only other person applying to grad school), the Dean of Students (he has asked every day if I had heard), my advisor (who was in the hospital and appreciated the text), my uncle, one of the people in Boston I used to live with, a few on campus friends, my camp friends, and a few other random people. I also emailed the secretary of my CPM to let CPM know. I also emailed someone that I am close to on Boston's COM who has been in conversation with me about seminary options. Hopefully I covered everyone.

Possibly the best reaction I received as from my friend Kelly. Kelly is a senior in high school and has been like a little sister to me for years. She got accepted to an amazing music college in NYC and we had talked about the very real possibility of getting together regularly if I got into Princeton. I sent her a text to let her know that I got in and that we are going to have fun together next year and her response was "HOLY BALLS CONGRATULATIOOOOOOONS! Oh man I can't wait for next Year!!" Clearly the best response.

For the first time I feel that my family is actually proud of me. I've always felt like an outcast in my family and that they never were really proud of anything I have done. I'm going into ministry and as a much of lapsed catholics they do not really understand that. They pretty much want me to get a job that will pay. If I had decided to go to Louisville or some other seminary they would probably pretend to be supportive but the fact that Princeton is a name that people know is something that they can be proud of. My mother can now say that her daughter is going to Princeton. When I told my brother yesterday he said "we always knew  the smart one." When we were younger that was used to make fun of me, but now it's morphed into an actual complement. When he said it there was no sarcasm or malice. My mother said (via text) "I always knew u was the smartest!" and "so proud of u luv u" and "It is all u girl u did it by urself and u deserve it". It made me feel good to read that! I have worked for this and I achieved it. I haven't had the best relationship with my mother, but I'm working on it. To hear that she is proud of me is something I've needed to hear for years.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Role at AUC

One of the big problems I have with being a Presbyterian at a Seventh-day Adventist college is theological difference. The main things are the same, because we are protestant denominations, but the extra things, and mainly the lifestyle things, are very different. Presbyterians and Adventists both believe in Jesus and the trinity, and we use the same bible. Presbyterians use the creeds and we are a more reformed tradition. Adventists have a prophet, not found in the bible. Her name is Ellen Gould White. She wrote books about how to live properly. She saw visions from God and because of her writings and visions she is a prophet within the church.

When I met with the Committee on Preparation for Ministry last week one of the questions they asked me was about what difficulties I have had as a Presbyterian in this environment. I told them about some of the theological differences I have faced and what I have felt when certain topics have come up. One of the real touchy subjects that come up is homosexuality. This tends to be a touchy subject no matter where you are, however being in an über conservative Christian setting the tension is only exemplified. The general consensus over here is that homosexuality is evil, all homosexuals are going against the bible and they need to convert to the straight life. I, on the other hand, disagree with this sentiment. For the most part I keep my views to myself. When things I do not agree with get mentioned in class I just keep my head down because I do not feel like dealing with the debate that would come up when I say what I believe. Homosexuality is not one of the topics that I stay quiet through. Even though it gets me glares and often I do not feel safe after speaking up I do anyway. If I do not speak up, no one will.

I skipped my New Testament Epistles class on Thursday but during the class one of my classmates told be everything that was taken place (via facebook chat) and once again the topic turned to homosexuality. I was not there to give the nonjudgmental viewpoint. While I was glad that I was not present to have to listen to all of the homophobic things being said I realized that I have a role in this place. I am the person who stands up for others. Even though those others have not made themselves known, I stand up for them. If I did not say what I feel needs to be said I would not serve my role.