As I write this, the PTS community is in the middle of finals week for Term II: the library is full, professors are giving and reading exams, and students are editing papers. All this work, we hope, will give us a clearer idea of what students have learned so far about the texts and traditions and practices of the Christian churches.
Yet, some of the most important learning in a seminary happens beyond any syllabus. Over the course of a master’s program, students also take on the task of discernment, learning to identify their particular gifts and where God might be preparing them to serve. They also take on the task of moving into new identities and roles, learning to relate to those they serve as “pastor” or “minister” rather than simply as “friend.” This is hard work. It can be lonely work. But it’s as necessary a part of preparation for ministry as anything that we’ll test on an exam this week. It prepares us to take the learning we do in classrooms into the work of ministry, as people capable of leading and learning.
I’m grateful for the Student Association’s work in creating ways for us to support each other in discernment and ministerial formation. They’ve invited the staff of Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute to offer three opportunities for student learning and discussion. The first, will be “Owning Your Call: Growing into Your Unique Pastoral Identity,” to help us reflect on our particular strengths for ministry. The second will be “Uncertainty and the Pastoral Role – What if I Don’t Have All the Answers?” to help us think about how we live out pastoral authority as human beings with a limit or two. The third session will be “A Sacred Trust: Boundaries in Pastoral Care,” to help us think through the issues of power and vulnerability involved when people open their lives to us.
These are just three examples of how PTS provides opportunities to gather with others in the community and supports ongoing discernment. And as we begin Lent, may God bless all of us with humility, hope, and fellowship to foster our growth in faith and service.
Deirdre King Hainsworth, Assistant Professor of Ethics and Director of the Center for Business, Religion and Public Life