When it became clear that I probably wouldn’t be traveling to Tennessee this summer, I decide to look for good ways to frame my time. Vacations are always a little tricky for me: I tend to do best when I’ve got purpose and structure (which travel often provides). Thanks for social media, I got wind of an alumni-audit class at Union University taught by my Pastoral Epistles professor from back in the day. The course? Portraits of Pastoral Ministry in Modern Novels. Right up my alley on a couple of different levels. And coming off of about three years of balancing teaching with chapel/camp stuff, I thought it might be a nice way of recharging . . . and revisiting a kind of Christian intellectual culture that has really formed me all those years ago.
So this weekend I (re)read Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. I tried reading it soon after it’s release but couldn’t get past the first few pages because it felt b-o-r-i-n-g. I tried to read it again a few years later and found it to be one of the most beautiful books I had ever read. It’s the first book on the syllabus, so I knew I could give it a little less time. But even I was surprised to find myself able to finish it in just over two days.
As excited as I am about the chance to read some novels, three of which I had never cracked open before, I think I’m more excited about the opportunity to do some writing. We’ve got five papers to write: one for each novel and one as a summary of things learned over the course. There are also about four short responses to write, too. So I’m kind of hoping to weave in some things that I’ve been thinking about over the last few years to see if any connections exist.
I spent a decent chunk of this afternoon watching the video lectures that go along with the online course. It’s a nice turning of the tables for me, as I spent the last quarter trying to teach online. I imagine all of the joys and frustrations of the quarter will be transferable. And if we have to go online again sometime, I’ll have a better sense of what it’s like on the student end. There was good comfort in lectures presented by a professor from my past. And there was good comfort to see that we hold some key beliefs in common about the pastoral ministry, both from the roots in the biblical text but also in some of the practical implications for life today.
I’m going to try and spend some time each week here writing out some things that I’ve been meaning to articulate for a while now. And I also hope to share some things that I’m learning in the here-and-now. It should be a nice change of pace after a couple of weeks’ worth of television and comic strip posts. (That’s where I go when the days are packed and I just can’t focus much). I’ll also share some pertinent quotes from the books we are reading.
So it’s back to class for me, at least for a little bit each day for the rest of my summer. I’m looking forward to learning.
Also, after many months, I finally finished Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. More on that some other time.