Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the "Ground Zero Mosque"

You know what the saddest part is, in my opinion? It was supposed to be a community center. A place where people of the Muslim faith could reach out to the community around them, to New Yorkers of all faiths. And now, by no fault of their own, it has become a nasty debate that is ripping this country further apart. It's almost as if we don't want the bridges to be mended, as if we don't want to heal the wounds. It's hard to say, but can't we move on? Not to forget the past, but to accept it and move forward.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Days

It was raining this morning when I got up, which was a startling surprise. I didn't think it knew how to properly rain in Texas...rain for more than 10 minutes at a time, that is.

Today was my first day of classes here at Brite. I live in the seminary housing, and so it's a little bit of a walk up a hill to campus. It had finally cooled down today (Thank you, God!!!), so the walk up wasn't so bad. During orientation, I had to change clothes completely when I walked back the first day.

I had two classes today - Intro to Theology, and Intro to Ministry Studies. I've never really liked the first few days of school...they're dull and you don't learn anything. We go over the class list and how to pronounce names, then read the syllabus...sometimes line for line. Then we get an assignment for the next class and go home. My first class was like that. My second class, however, was more fun. Probably because it was 2.5 hours...which may not be so fun by the end of the semester.

Overall, things are going well here. I absolutely love being here and really enjoy being in a community of other seminary students. Even though we're all studying the same/similar things, we're a very diverse group. Just in my second class today, for first year students only, we had an age range of 22-75ish. Black, white, hispanic, gay, straight, bi, male, female...and all different denominations. I think that discussion will really benefit from this diversity. I can't wait!

Thursday, August 19, 2010



Brite Divinity School values people of all culture, nationalities, ethnicities, races, and religions, with regard to characteristics such as sex, gender, sexual identities, social class, age, and differing abilities. We are committed to promoting a diverse and just environment, in which language and practices support the achievement of inclusion. Brite seeks to remove all barriers to the maintenance and aspirations of its Mission Statement and Non-discrimination Statement.

is why I'm so glad to be here. Because they spent ten minutes this morning talking to us about the importance of inclusion, and inclusive language. Because this statement includes not only gender, age, and race, but also sex, sexual identities, and differing abilities. Because this statement, this discussion, and the fact that everyone in the room seemed okay with it, makes me feel like I can be myself here, and that is something that is very important to me.

They made certain we know it wasn't just a statement written just so that they have a statement to show people. It seemed to me, sitting in that freezing cold classroom with dozens of other incoming MDiv students, that they actually believed it. They talked to us about Brite's past history with inclusion, how in 1952, before the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Brite decided to accept African American Students. The university told them that they could accept the students, but that the students would not be allowed to eat on the university's campus. So Brite made a kitchen in one of the classrooms, so that everyone could eat together. It's here, it's part of the past, present, and future. And I am so excited for that.

Today was the first real day; the first day of orientation. I met other students today from all over. Some were like me, fresh out of undergraduate; others were much older. I met a woman who could be my grandmother, and she's just as excited as the rest of us. There was so anticipation in that classroom, so many eager souls ready to start and yet terrified at the same time. I've only been here since Saturday, and I haven't even started classes, but I think I love this place already.

Monday, August 9, 2010

More memories...

In packing up my things, I found a floppy, bright red binder with my name on the front. Over the years, I've found and lost this binder. It was given to me when I was baptized on April 16, 2000. It's astonishing to me that this was more than ten years ago, and that I was only twelve years old. I look at the picture included in the folder and barely recognize the girl with the tilted head, long blond hair, and bright green, patch-covered Girl Scout vest who is standing all the way in the back. There were ten of us in that Pastor's Class, and of the ten, only three of us continue to attend this church regularly with our families.

That day was one of the happiest in my life. I remember being dunked under, and then coming up and wanting to see the silver dove that hangs above the baptistery, but not being able to because I didn't have my glasses on. Later that day, I went to my brother's soccer game and swung on the playground, smiling from ear to ear and having no idea why.

But more than the smiles, more than anything else, I remember the words that were spoken to me that day, which are captured forever on the page thoughtfully included in my bright red binder. The reminder to read the Bible rings in my ear to this day.

I'd forgotten the last paragraph, though, and it seems, in a way, almost the perfect send-off, because the hope of my pastor is the hope that I have for myself as I go off to seminary. He wrote, those ten years ago:

"May you continue to hone your skills as a reader and as a musician, seeking always to offer the gifts of your intellect and imagination and musicianship in the service of our Lord and Savior."

And this simple hope is exactly what I want to achieve.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Memorable books

Packed my books today. I'm not taking as many as I'd thought. I think my mom's constant reminder to "take as little as possible" is having some effect on my packing.

It was interesting to see which books were chosen. I didn't think about it too hard, just tossed them in the "yes" or "no" piles. A lot of the books I went through were school books...books from literature classes. I think being a writing major doubled my library! Makes me glad I had a major that required books that were worth keeping.

Most of the lit books were English literature. I've apparently gotten over being tired of Jane Austen, because her entire works went in. As did many Bronte books (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey). I didn't put in Villette, but then again I never finished it, and most of the books I chose to take were ones I finished. Or at least tried very hard to finish. Or ones that I want to read someday. Like Hard Times.

Faulkner was completely left out. Much as I love the man, I need a little more time to recover from having an entire class on him. The same thing happened with Austen...I've just had a little more time. Moby Dick is also staying here. A lot of American literature is staying, actually. I don't know what I have against it, but it just isn't my favorite. However, I am taking Crime and Punishment, because it was one of my favorites from high school, and I have delusions that I'll actually reread it and figure out which of the characters has lavender gloves (one of the quiz questions).

I also went through the drawers under my bed, and almost all of them are empty. I found all of the papers I ever wrote in college, which is a little telling about how much of a packrat I am. I'm pretty embarrassed at some of the ones I threw together at the last minute. I'd like to go back in time and kick my freshman/sophomore self and tell her to write them a week earlier!! I could have gotten straight As. But I did read over one of them (on Alice in Wonderland, a poem by Kipling, and Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market) that could have been good if I'd...oh, I don't over it before handing in? Sigh. I'm going to try to get better at this procrastination issue, but considering I'm leaving in ten days for Texas and I haven't even finished reading the required book yet...well, I might need to try a little harder.

There are a lot of memories in my books. Not just physical things in the books, like dried flowers and notes written in the margins, but memories that only reappear when I open the pages and read the words that I probably only skimmed before. Sometimes when I'm reading over a passage, I can hear the conversation that was going on around me, or I remember what music was playing when I was reading the first time. The words are like little time capsules to the past. Too bad they only connect me to my past. I suppose the author's is in there somewhere...

Someday I want to reread these books. Austen, Faulkner, Melville...okay, maybe not Melville. But I do want to reread the books I was "forced" to read. So many times, it's the second time through that the book clicks finally for me. It was like that with The Sound and the Fury. We read it as seniors in college, part of Modern Literature. It was an epic undertaking, as any reading of Faulkner is, and my copy of the book has the battle scars to prove it. Highlighting, pen and pencil marks, scribbles at the ends and beginnings of chapters. I loved it the first time through, but the second time, I understood it. And I loved it more. (The third time through I was sick of it, but probably only because I needed more break time. That's the problem with being a lit get repeat books, and sometimes even repeat discussions. I think I had three of those. The Sound and the Fury, Pride and Prejudice, and....something American by either Hemingway or Fitzgerald.)

(I feel the need to add that not all of my books fall under the category of "literature." I packed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which is perfectly fluffy fiction, as well as three of David Sedaris' books. Which probably do fall under the category of "literature," but they are hilarious and books I would read any day or night without complaint. Unlike Moby Dick. Or anything by Fitzgerald.)

Long post. Sorry about that. I always get excited when it comes to books. Can you blame me?