REVerberations —– March 2014

I loved my time at Andover Newton Theological School! I was there for three years working on my Master of Divinity degree. For two of those years I lived on campus which is quite near Boston where I had lived before and had many friends. My experience provided a chance to make new friends, to study hard, to reflect deeply on what I was doing in seminary in the first place, and to take my next official steps toward ordained ministry. The professors were so personally involved in students’ lives and I developed some very meaningful mentoring relationships with some of them.

Andover Newton provided a context in which I could flourish. I was even the first Unitarian Universalist student in the history of the school to be elected president of the Student Association – and then to be re-elected. Most transformatively, perhaps, it was during my time at Andover Newton that I discovered the United Church of Christ and “converted” from the UUA to the UCC, which has been a better fit for me. I will forever be grateful to Andover Newton for aiding me on my journey to ministry.

When I decided to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree soon after I arrived at St. Paul’s, it just made sense for me to explore ways that I might be able to re-engage with Andover Newton through various avenues of distance learning and select times on campus. But that was not possible. So with much-appreciated support from this congregation, I began to consider Lancaster Theological Seminary as a place for my doctoral studies.

I remember showing up on campus for the first time and being struck by its simple beauty, the sun brightly bouncing off the orange brick main building. People were friendly and quite welcoming. Lancaster was no Andover Newton, but it could do in a pinch, I thought at the time. I assumed Lancaster could be where I got my doctorate but I knew that Andover Newton would always be “my seminary.”

Then a funny thing happened… As I immersed myself in the first years of the program, I began to understand the regional treasure the seminary really is. And it eventually captured my heart. I watched professors – brilliant, internationally respected scholars – share their wisdom with great skill, character, and commitment.

I met staff who are intensely dedicated to the mission of the school and the lives of its students. I saw colleagues coming from all over a broad area to enhance their ministries, struggle with big questions, and enliven their work in the world. I felt the ways the program made me a better scholar and a better pastor – exactly what the program aims to do. For the last two years of the program, I delighted in the opportunity to invest myself in a major project/dissertation about which I still have great passion, and I was surrounded by enthusiastic support so that I could make the most of the experience.

When I completed my degree, I was asked, much to my surprise, to join the faculty as adjunct instructor for the Doctor of Ministry Seminar, a six-hour per week, full-year seminar required of all incoming doctoral students. I am now in my third year of leading that seminar and I have had the chance to teach a couple of classes based on my dissertation work as well. I have enjoyed becoming more involved with the seminary through work on various committees and through student advising.

Now, most weeks from September to May, I get to engage in what surely amounts to the finest kind of continuing education, even as I watch the seminary step boldly into the challenges of contemporary theological education and provide leadership for the church in a new age. There is a life-giving vibrancy on campus that emanates out into churches and communities near and far; what happens in that one small place truly bears the potential to change the world. In the context of a wonderfully dynamic atmosphere, diversity abounds, yet all with opportunities to celebrate life together and move toward life more abundant through conversations about important things. No doubt lives are changed, as mine continues to be. And, dare I say it? Lancaster Theological Seminary has become “my seminary.”

So it is with great excitement that I invite you to meet Dr. Carol Lytch, president of Lancaster Theological Seminary, when she leads us in worship at both the 8:30 and 10:45 services on Sunday, March 23. I hope you will also plan to attend a reception in Fellowship Hall following the late service. We will have a chance to celebrate this congregation’s long history of involvement with the seminary which includes past Board leadership provided by Bernie Zerkel, Wayne Lockard and, currently, Marjorie Lohnes. And if you are so moved, there will be opportunities for you to become a friend of the seminary in whatever ways you are able to do that. Please join us!

Many Blessings, Marty

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