As we near the end of what is for some of us our first semester in seminary and for others the first semester of their second or last year, I sense a great level of stress and burn out from a number of my colleagues. Whereas many began this journey excited, eager to fulfill their call to be at Candler, and confident in their ability to think and write critically, many are now doubting their competence and are trying to cope with the fact that they may not be receiving the grades in which they are use to receiving. Have we become so consumed with academics, meeting our own high expectations, making A’s, and passing exams at the expense of our well being that we have forgotten the very thing that we should be critically attentive to on this journey? “Self.”
I along with several of my colleagues have been privileged to take Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling with a master practitioner and constructivist Dr. Gregory Ellison. This class has played an integral part in rejuvenating my personal faith, regenerating hope, and transforming my spiritual life. One of the most powerful components of this course is the contemplative journey that we embark upon as a class to become more self-aware and reflective as caregivers who consciously give care to self and others. As we go on pilgrimage with individuals that we know and many of whom we are getting to know while engaging readings surrounding theories and practices of care in pastoral care and related disciplines, students are challenged to not only develop models of care for the unacknowledged groups in which we will serve in ministry, but to begin to be attentive to their own voice and establish for themselves healthy practices of self-care.
Seminary should be a time in which we begin to foster and nurture a rich life in which we can draw strength. Self-awareness and self-care is critical to how pastors and leaders best serve others. One puts themselves and others at risk when self-care is not a priority. In carrying out our preoccupations whether in ministry, studying, or other work, we can divert our attention to the point where there is literally no time for the essential experience of being attentive to self. Yet, the truth is that in order to flourish in our studies, ministry, and other endeavors, we must make time for the experience of centering down and caring for self.
The journey of a Seminarian does not solely involve thinking critically and theologically, wrestling with difficult texts, and developing and critiquing arguments, its also involves one’s intentionality to create moments where they participate in leisure activities and develop spiritual disciplines that will empower them for the tasks above.
For those who are in Dr. Ellison’s course, we know that we are on the last part of our journey where we are returning home, which is symbolic for returning back to familiar places and familiar material, but looking at it with a different perspective. Some of us return home with a profound appreciation for some of the things and people that we left behind on the journey. As I return home for the holidays, I would like to share some of the wisdom that I received while on pilgrimage in this course. Hopefully this will help the rest of my fellow colleagues endure the race until the end of the semester.
- Our greatest glory is not in ever falling, but in rising every time we fall. (Confucius)
- It is one thing to be informed about the things that heal you, but it is another thing to give yourself liberally or freely to them.
- Vocation is a response that a person makes with his or her total self to the address of God and to the calling to partnership. (Katherine Turpin)
- While ability is important, ones willingness and capacity to be tenacious is what helps them to succeed.
- So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap a harvest time, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)
Remember to care for yourself!!!
Ashley is a first year MDiv student from Atlanta and a Student Ambassador.