Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quiet Day

Today is Quiet Day on the VTS campus. Nobody is speaking from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

As I wander around the campus prayerfully, I'm also revisiting things I've written in the past. Here are two poems I wrote many years ago that speak to me today.

August 26, 1996

How do I focus on you, Lord?
How do I drop the statistics and snippets of songs,
Regretted past actions and various wrongs
And point my face upward to you?

Right now, I feel only like kneeling.
But if I look down, I’ll see footprints to follow,
Reminding me that my intentions are hollow,
Well-thought, but devoid of you.
After all, you see through.

But if I raise my face to the overcast sky
And await your grace, I’ll just wish I could cry
For my frivolous habits and self-centered goals,
And I’ll doubt once again in refillable holes.
I’ll retreat to routine and accomplish so little!
Only you know how I can get.
I’ll look up and feel further regret.

So all that remains is inside.
Whether it’s strict meditation (no hope of success)
Or more rumination (redundant, I guess),
In myself I will find no peace.
I’m helpless, to say the least.
So focus me, Lord! Remind me whom I serve
And promise me more than I truly deserve.
You’ve done it before, as I’m finding.
Sometimes, I just need some reminding.

September 14, 1999

And God wove a melody line,
A simple, seven-note theme
Which He proceeded to sing
As He weeded His garden.

And Satan came along
And loused up the melody
And sang four clashing notes
And thus created dissonance.

And God said, “Hey!
That could really be beautiful.”
And He allowed the dissonance
And created resolution.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Greetings from the Hoslers ... an update

Dear friends at St. Thomas, and other friends and family as well:

A few days ago I received in the mail a copy of the St. Thomas Skagit Valley pilgrims’ stockholder report. I’ve been bursting with pride ever since; I’ve carried the report around with me to show to all my seminary friends, especially those who have been youth group leaders in the past. Not only was the booklet beautiful, but the words the pilgrims wrote leave me feeling great about Brian’s ministry among y’all at St. Thomas. (I’m in the South now, so I’m allowed to say “y’all.” Actually, that term comes in very handy when I’m trying to conjugate verbs in Hebrew.)

It seems like ages since we embarked on our 11-day road trip from Seattle. Most of the story is chronicled on my blog, http://episcopop.blogspot.com/, and I hope most of you will continue to follow the Hoslers’ adventures there.

Even before we left Seattle, I had begun to meet some of my classmates through Facebook. And my overall impression of them is that I am humbled by their accomplishments. From the young, dedicated political campaign worker, the evangelical missionary to Mongolia, the D.C. medical examiner, the Iraq War vet and army hospice chaplain, the outspoken priest from Liberia, and many others, I continue to hear stories that remind me that my own accomplishments, while not meager, are part of a much larger tapestry of Christian witness and sacrifice.

We are getting settled. Sarah is in first grade now, and she enjoys spending time with the children of some of my classmates, especially 8-year-old Neeley, 7-year-old Brynn, and 5-year-old twins Robert and Jacob, whom she calls “the boys.” VTS works very hard to support families, and we families work hard to support each other. Those of us in the Braddock Lee Apartments make up the critical mass, along with a bunch of couples without children. We’re a mere 16-minute walk from campus, which makes for good morning and afternoon exercise.

In addition to my classes, I am working on campus ten hours per week on a Lilly-funded project for the seminary: an extensive study that follows clergy from a number of denominations in their first few years out of seminary, especially tracking whether they took part in a transition-into-ministry program of some sort and trying to assess how successful these programs are. So far most of my efforts have gone into forcing spreadsheets to submit to my will, something I enjoy doing very much. I may also become part of the process of coding some of the qualitative data we collect.

While Christy has enjoyed her several months of unemployment, she’s ready to get back to work too. Christy will begin a job at the Cokesbury book store on campus this Monday. She believes (and I concur) that it will help her become more enmeshed in the seminary community on her own terms, rather than as my appendage. Plus, we’ll get to eat lunch together sometimes!

I love the rhythm of my day and of my week. Now that school has started for Sarah, we get her up at 6:00 a.m. so she can eat and catch the bus on time. Most of her seminary friends wait at the same bus stop. After she gets on the bus, I walk to campus and spend twenty minutes in prayer in a small oratory in the academic building. Depending on my day, I may attend Morning Prayer after that, or I may work or study and attend Noon Eucharist instead. I am taking Hebrew, Church History, and Introduction to the Theology and Practice of Ministry, and I am also in the seminary choir. So far, this is enough; I fended off several people’s invitations to run for elected student office.

We have visited a different church nearly every week since June, but for two weeks in a row we attended Eucharist at Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring, home parish of the Hoskins family, formerly of St. Thomas! Christy and Sarah may decide to settle there; they have a children’s choir and Godly Play, both great attractions. As for me, I am scouting out potential field education sites, so this Sunday I plan to take the Metro to some church or other. We sold our second car when we moved here, but I imagine we’ll have to get another one somehow when I do Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) next summer and begin field education in the fall.

For my Theology and Practice of Ministry class (TPM), I am doing some volunteer work with a hospice called Capital Caring. Visiting people in the final stages of life is a really is a new field for me. It requires a real “ministry of presence”: not worrying about what to say or what to do, but simply to be there. It’s teaching me that there is real value in listening more and speaking less. I’m also learning a lot about the fact that “being brought up short” is the way we learn just about everything in life.

We miss you all so much. How I wish we could have been in attendance at the Skagit pilgrimage dinner! But we are where we need to be right now, “being brought up short,” learning, and growing.

In Christ,

Josh Hosler

Monday, September 19, 2011

Some thoughts on science and religion

The conflict between science and religion, in a nutshell:

1)      Historical facts happened.
2)      A profound reality resulted.
3)      The historical facts were forgotten.
4)      Over time, the people realized that the profound reality was even more profound than they had realized.
5)      Profound realities can only be understood through stories.
6)      The historical facts were no longer available to the storytellers.
7)      Over time, new stories developed to help people understand the old, profound realities, which are themselves far more important than the historical facts.
8)      The new stories gradually became old stories.
9)      Because the stories continued to help people understand the profound realities, the stories became sacred and indispensable.
10)  Some important historical facts were recovered, and others were understood for the first time. They didn’t match the sacred stories.
11)  Some people concluded that since the sacred stories didn’t match the historical facts, the sacred stories must be worthless.
12)  Other people concluded that since the historical facts didn’t illuminate the profound reality in a way they could recognize, the historical facts must be incorrect.
13)  Most people forgot that neither the historical facts nor the sacred stories are as important as the profound realities, which arose from mostly forgotten historical facts, but which can be best understood through the sacred stories.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Lunch with Old Friends

When we first began looking at seminaries, we thought we knew nobody in the D.C. area. As our decision-making process continued, however, we discovered more and more connections around here, so that by the time we were ready to go, we knew there were a number of friends waiting for us out here. Chief among them are the Hoskinses, a family who were also part of St. Thomas in our time there.

We visited their church this weekend and went out to lunch afterward. In all the rush of getting settled in a new place and meeting many, many new people, it's great to find very familiar faces and talk about old times.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School!

It's the first day of school! Well, I'm just transitioning from August term to fall semester, but it's Sarah's first day of first grade. So we got our picture taken together!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Between Terms

Our August term ended on Thursday, just before Labor Day weekend. On Friday eight other new students and I participated in a training to become hospice volunteers for a place called Capital Caring. But first came our August term finals in Greek and Hebrew (I'm studying Hebrew after having taken some Greek at Seattle University). In addition, the international students, working to overcome a language barrier as they have come to study with us, were preparing a final paper for their August term.

To help relieve the stress of getting ready for these finals, our three groups got together one morning last week to serenade each other in the rotunda of the academic building. Pictured are the Greek students singing to us; you can hear their song here.

We Hebrew students listened from below. We also had our turn, and we sang two songs: "Shalom Chaverim" and "Kol HaN'shamah." I think we should call our singing group Hag'Goyim [The Gentiles]!
The international students also sang us a song.

The fall semester begins tomorrow morning ... and so does Sarah's first day of first grade! Here are the texts I'm studying up on tonight. Not everyone out there might want to tackle Hebrew, but I do highly recommend Diarmaid McCullouch's Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Its scope looks daunting, but it's a very enjoyable read.