Oh, my friends, the third year of seminary can sometimes be a vast sea of conflicting currents covered over by a thick fog of assurance about salvation–I mean “vocation.” Yes, it’s job-hunting time, also known as seeking one’s vocation.
At this time of year, as seniors wander the halls, we are stopped frequently by fellow students and professors and deans who ask us very kindly, “So, have you heard? Do you know what you are going to do?” I sense in their questions genuine concern, caritas, a desire for us to be well positioned after graduation. I think that some students in their middler year also want to know what it’s going to be like out there next year, when they too will be looking for their next step.
Those who, at this point, are sure of their next steps are deeply relieved. Some have a job lined up at a church or a nonprofit institution, or they have been accepted into a Ph.D. program that excites them and is workable financially.
I would say that the majority of us graduating students at Yale Divinity School do not yet know our next step, and so the question, “Do you know what you’re doing next year?” can start to weigh heavily. In my case, I truly appreciate the concern. Nevertheless, by retelling my story (which changes day by day as various possibilities arise and disappear), I am forced to look again and again at the fact that I do not yet know where I am going.
I am at times awash in a warm current of vocation that is affirmed right and left by peers. And I read job and program descriptions that seem to describe me to a T, and I think “Ah ha! Here we go!”
And then suddenly I am chilled by a cold undercurrent of various realities and fears: I need a job. I have a college-aged daughter to support. I need benefits. They want someone younger.
Some of my peers have different cold undercurrents, fearing that they will be rejected for their youth, for being female, for being gay, for being black, for having too much or too little experience.
As we tell each other our stories, we often end with the assuring comment, “But I’m sure God has a place for each of us somewhere, and we’ll get there soon.”
I do share that hope, and hope is one of the main messages of the Christian walk. Which is what I have studied and prepared to speak to others about. So, you know, I should live it. Nevertheless, when one is tossing about in the seas of uncertainty, holding onto that lifeline of hope and vocation, one still needs to swim. Even treading water can be exhausting if sustained for a long time.
And so, in the midst of paper deadlines, last chances to spend some time with people we may never seen again, and exams, we send out job applications, interview for places, contact Ph.D. programs about obtaining housing in expensive cities, and try to ignore the fact that we are about to get hit with student loan paperwork from various lenders.
So here is my current answer for “What are you doing?”
- I have ordered the cap and gown.
- My relatives have booked the hotel room to attend my graduation.
- In April, I go to California for the final ordination interview and to celebrate my birthday with family and friends.
- On May 7-May 14, I will visit the Episcopal Church in El Salvador with three other members of my seminary.
- On May 19, I will obtain a Diploma in Anglican Studies from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.
- On May 21, I will be awarded a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University.
- Sometime after this, I am going to Disneyland with my daughter. It’s a tradition.
- On June 16, I will be ordained as a transitional deacon at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, California.
- Then I am taking a brief vacation consisting of beautiful hikes in Northern California, my homeland.
- And then, and then, and then….
It is exciting that you are at this point in heading towards your, “Vocation”! Now, what does God have in mind for you? Maybe it will even include a, “Poker Ministry”. I just know it will be a wonderful for you. Did you know that Kent is retiring? Hummmm. See you in April! Love, Linda
Janine: As someone who has been a priest for over 15 years and sometimes doubted (or unadvisedly accepted) a call to a particular position, let me assure you that your vocation and a call to ministry in a specific place are not the same thing. Your vocation is to be a priest, to do the ABCs (Absolve, Bless, and Consecrate). That will be expressed in many different ways, but is not dependent on receiving a call to a place of full-time ministry. To put it crassly, unemployed priests are still priests.
Thanks, Tom. You make an excellent point.