Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

5/15 2014

Things I wish I would have learned in seminary

The question provided to prompt this blog post was, “now that you are working in ministry, what is one thing you wish you would have been told or would have learned to prepare you?”

Even though I only started ministry in October 2013 and am very new to ordained ministry, I have already been greatly enriched, encouraged, challenged, stretched, discouraged, blessed, and baffled by God’s abundant grace. I loved my time at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and believe my time began to prepare me for ministry.  I say “began” because ministry is truly a unique calling where something new is learned every day.

Therefore, narrowing down what I wish I would have been told or learned to better prepare me for ministry is difficult. Ministry really does require life-long learning. Theology books should not be closed and packed away after graduation. Keep a collective list of all books (including non-theology books) you have read and a brief summary. You would be surprised with how helpful this can be for sermon preparation. Try to learn something new daily.

Other bonus tidbits of potentially helpful advice:

1) C.P.E-Even if you are not required to do a unit; do one anyway. Yes, I truly believe lots of pastoral care skills can only really be learned in the field. I do think it is possible to be a pastoral leader without having a C.P.E unit.  However, chances are as you visit parishioners in their homes or hospitals you will not have the chance to reflect theologically with either your senior pastor or others. It is a benefit I wish I had after driving home from the nursing home to visit an elderly and lonely parishioner.  I am currently looking into using continuing education to complete a unit of congregational C.P.E, but while you are in seminary go ahead and do C.P.E.

2) Administrative/ business type tasks– Administrative tasks also vary from day to day. Be prepared for anything and everything. I have done lots various tasks that end with me laughing and saying “I didn’t learn this in seminary!” Also, I am not great with numbers and I wish someone would have suggested to take a class which teaches administrative, budgets, numbers, how to run a business, etc.

3) Estimated Taxes– Check and see if there are any withholdings from your check and ask if you are not sure. Please do yourselves a favor and learn about estimated taxes. I am grateful my senior pastor filled me in on the process but I have had friends who went a while without budgeting for estimated quarterly taxes who ended up owing tons of money to the Federal and State governments.

I’m sure if asked in another month or day, I would have more to add to this list. But above all, remember to rely on our Lord, who created, called, and sustains us. Remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Maybe even post these verses somewhere in your future offices or work spaces and read them whenever you face trials.

Blessings and prayers for each of you on your journeys,

Written by The Rev. Amanda Maguire ’13, Associate Pastor at Graham Presbyterian Church in Graham, NC.


3/20 2014

Go. Just Go.

As the seminary community rounds the corner into finals, spring break, and the last term of the year, the Juniors are finally getting adjusted to this crazy life that we call seminary, the Middlers just want this year to be over so they can be Seniors, and Seniors like myself become flooded with very conflicting emotions. On the one hand, if we have to write one more paper, take one more test, read one more interesting but extremely dry book, or sit for another three hour lecture on subjects that we are supposed to understand by now but really just make our brains hurt, we might just run away screaming. On the other, graduation is exciting, but it means that we are going to have to leave this place soon. We don’t want to say goodbye to all of our friends and move out of our campus housing, and go to… go to… well, we have really no idea where we are headed because we have circulated our PIFs and resumes and done a few interviews but have no offers so far, or our bishop hasn’t appointed us anywhere yet.

But while my own internal monologue has been in a similar panic, I am reminded of Abraham: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’… So Abram went.” (Genesis 12:1, 4a). Did Abram know where he was going, or why, or what he was going to do when he got there? No. Did he relish the idea of leaving the familiar things behind? Probably not. Still, “Abram went.” Now nearing the end of our journey, Seniors are called to go from this campus community and go to the land that God hasn’t yet shown to us. So we will go. It will not be easy.

When I was preparing to graduate from undergrad, I had very specific plans. I was going to go to seminary (a different one) right away (it was 5 years later), and graduate in 3 years (I’m doing it in 4) finish the ordination process (I’m staying lay), and be in full-time ministry before I turned 30 (I’ll be 31 in March). As you can see, NONE of those plans came true exactly the way I wanted them to! This time around, things are much different. I have no plans, trusting this promise: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). I just know I have to go.

I hope that Seniors know that somewhere out there, there is a call for us. There is a congregation, a home, and new friends ready for us there. God is preparing places for us, even as God is preparing us for those places. So until then, Lord, keep our hope alive and faith strong!

Written by: Heather Runser, recent MDiv graduate at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.


2/27 2014

Call to the Service

I have always been drawn to the idea of serving in the military but never knew exactly how that fit in with all of the other goals I had in my life. That all changed when a chaplain with the United State Air Force was standing in the rotunda of Long Hall. After speaking with him, with my wife and praying over it I knew God was calling me into military chaplaincy. After many months of paperwork, I was accepted into the United States Air Force Reserve chaplain candidate program. This program is specially designed for seminary students to complete training during the summer while still attending classes during the academic year.

This past summer, I had the pleasure of spending 12 weeks training and traveling to various military bases with a group of other candidates to see what the work of a chaplain looks like. During these twelve weeks, we were able to see God’s work in so many different ways. It was also a great time where I was also able to grow in faith, and encounter God in ways that I never had before.

While this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life it was also one that tested my calling. There were times when I was sure that this was not where I was supposed to be and that I seriously doubted my calling into military chaplaincy. It was during these times that I would make sure to turn to Scripture and prayer to look for affirmation that I had made a mistake, but that’s not what I heard. I was constantly reminded that in times of turmoil or struggling God is there and that God’s plans are greater than anything we can imagine in our brokenness.

As with any calling in our life, it is important to go through these times of trial while still relying on God to guide us so that we can come through them stronger and better equipped to serve others. If we just move through our ministry while tuning out God in these times of adversity, then we are setting ourselves up for depression, burn-out, and just overall poor spiritual health. It is imperative that during these times of trial and adversity that we make sure that we are open to where God is guiding us and to be extra aware that while it may not seem like our plan is working out how we want, if we are open to God’s calling in our life and in our ministry then it is ultimately God that is working through us for the betterment of God’s people.

Written by: Tyler J. Bayless, 2Lt, USAFR, Chaplain Candidate, and current middler MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

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