Thursday, June 09, 2005

Thinking theologically

One of my darkest memories from seminary is the sense that I missed the boat on studying theology. That is not to say that my theological education was a miss. Far from it. I had a great education...with work that has continued to guide me in my priesthood. I studied scripture, ethics, liturgics, Ancient Greek, ascetic theology, church history, church and society, pastoral and liturgical theology. I have had the opportunity to continue learning in that fashion ever since.

Theologically, I feel I am well-trained.

As for studying theology, I sometimes feel like I missed the boat. We had a professor that was great on the advanced work, but did not in my opinion treat us well on the basics. Basic theology was a tutorial format, with senior students functioning as seminar leaders, the professor giving weekly lectures and we students doing work from sampler readers during the week. I read bits of many thinkers, but as to learning how to do theology, I was left in a bit of a pickle.

As an anthropology major in college, I was formed as a student of the art to be one who was continually practicing the study of human behavior and the way it integrated in the whole of a culture's understanding of itself. I was not able to get a sense of that when I was studying theology. It felt abstract, distant. This theology was something I read about people doing. Theology itself was something I accepted as a prepared product of work done by people smarter, and in most cases more historic (read, dead) than I was then, am now or desire to be in the future. Some of them, really, were down right depressing. Others, I never could quite come to understand. All of them advocated a systematic approach to gaining a deeper understanding of God.

So now, as a rector responsible for leading a parish in the Church of God, I find myself coming back to the idea of theology. The study of God. How do I lead a parish in doing, really-being, theology when I feel I was only partially formed in the art?

The reality is that there is always a start-point. There is always a first step in every journey. In order to really, truly begin to sense where God is leading us as a church, we need to start doing theology. We need to think about God, wonder about God, seek God's Will for us in what we are doing and where we hope to go as a people.

That means being willing to ask, seek, knock, etc.

This weekend, I will sit with the vestry and staff and ask them to join me in doing theology. How we embrace that will begin to effect change in the parish around us. How we live that process out will shape the church in the years to come.

In doing theology, I think, we are beginning also to write with God the story of what will be here in Solebury.

1 comment:

  1. As a relatively new member of Trinity, my impression of the process of calling a new rector is that this must be a way of “doing theology”. I come from the Roman Catholic tradition so this process was new to me. It works well!

    From my interactions with you so far, I have a strong sense that you are continually practicing the study of God’s behavior and leading us also to this awareness. Your wish to “do theology” with even more awareness and intention and in community can only be very good for this parish.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts this way.

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