"Don't be afraid to let the Holy Spirit surprise you." Famous last words, indeed! Our priest at St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego shared this encouragement with my wife Laurel and I as we considered which seminary to attend two years ago. Embracing the adventure and uncertainty of our first extended stay in the South, we enrolled that fall at the School of Theology at the University of the South.
We couldn't be happier to have made the choice to try something new, thanks to the Spirit's prompting, by becoming Masters of Divinity students in Sewanee, Tennessee. But seminary life is no breezy glass of sweet tea: it's challenging, rewarding, and at times, stressful. And that's just the academics! Our household financial situation became more complicated as well, especially given the marvelous gift at the birth of our daughter Robin during our first fall semester.
Gratefully our financial situation pencils out through a combination of support from our diocese, parish, seminary, outside scholarships, and the Society for the Increase of the Ministry (SIM). In particular, SIM makes possible our child care. Laurel and I are both students, so we need to use the seminary's preschool about twenty hours a week. While we sometimes feel guilty for leaving Robin for so long, she loves all the playtime with her friends! (Sewanee is very family friendly.)
Thanks to SIM, Laurel and I will be able to graduate Sewanee, and hopefully be ordained next June (fingers crossed!), without the debilitating debt that constrains the ministry options of many newly minted priests who need to prioritize the paying back of their loans. We feel a call to parish and missionary work in struggling communities, and this is a call we'll be able to follow due to the generosity of SIM's donors. What a blessing to our family, and to the larger church!