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.