Thursday, January 26, 2012

Back to School

Here's a current picture of Sarah. For all of you who were excited to watch her grow up on the internet over the next three years, you'll be dismayed to learn that she has hit a camera-shy phase.

Sarah may be camera-shy, but we were just given a hand-me-down kids' digital camera for her, so you may start seeing some of her photos here ... like this one, of a scene from the kids' game show she and I like to watch together, "Fetch!" (Expect better photos when the weather warms up and we can get some natural light into the camera.)

Actually, the title of this blog is misleading. I have been in school for the past two weeks, taking week-long intensive classes on writing and structuring curriculum. It's a lot more interesting than it sounds. I even got to create my own pre-baptism curriculum for parents and godparents, which may get published on the Web somewhere soon; I'll let you know. But as of now, with that assignment emailed in, January term is over.

The spring semester begins on Monday. This quarter I will continue Church History, Old Testament, and Hebrew, while adding a class on Youth Ministry. ALL FOUR CLASSES meet for the first time this Monday. Yikes!

Already I can feel the panicked tug of that little voice saying, "You don't have time to do all this and still do it justice."

"OK, little voice," I reply. "Then I will either do it all, and not do it justice, or I will do most of it pretty well. Last semester worked out fine, and this semester will, too."

See? Perfectionist in recovery. It's easy to say NOW ... before things have really gotten rolling, and I can't sleep at night, or I wake up at 3:30 a.m.

Actually, the thing I'm looking forward to most is the February Conference on Ministry, which is a high-falutin' way of saying "prospective students weekend." I've always been enamored of newcomers and potential newcomers in every situation, so I'll be right there in the cheering section, showing people around and encouraging them to come to VTS.

Included in that weekend is the big Variety Show. Now, I'll be honest: When Christy and I visited VTS two years ago, it was the Variety Show that really clinched it for me. This is a student body that knows how to have fun. Among many other things, a game show called Episcopal Idol and a Madonna spoof called "Episcopal Girl" made that year's show fantabulous. And this year, I get to contribute something myself, with the help of a few friends. Mwa-ha-ha-ha!!!

I don't think I blogged about this, but in November, we had a variety show just for ourselves ... no prospective students. Inspired by a recent trend in some churches to render the Eucharistic prayer into Dr. Seuss-ian rhyme (and yes, to channel Dave Barry, I SWEAR I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP), a few of us called in the Spanish Inquisition to do away with these heretics.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Church Went to Me

I went to church today. Or, rather, church went to me. The thing is, I didn’t expect to find myself at church … but there I was. No, I didn’t wander unsuspectingly into the National Cathedral for its observance of the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., though that would have been a great thing to do.

Instead, I found myself at the Smithsonian American History Museum, where my family and I listened to a young man reading passages from some of Dr. King’s speeches. He opened by singing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” A few of us in the crowd sang along. Then he gave a brief biography of Dr. King, interspersed with recitations from his speeches and, sometimes, recordings of speeches punctuated with applause. Interestingly, after applauding for “Precious Lord,” nobody in the multi-generational, multi-racial crowd applauded the speeches. It was as if these speeches were holy—you know, the way we don’t applaud in church because we’re participating in a sacrament. It was like that with Dr. King’s speeches today.

After recounting the bus strike and the actions that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the young man went on to talk about Dr. King’s commitment to nonviolence and his opposition to the war in Vietnam. He noted that it was at this point that fewer people found themselves able to get on board with Dr. King’s agenda—to be opposed to war, even on Christian principles, was simply going too far. And then, we got up to April 4, 1968.

I wasn’t born yet in 1968, but my own family has stories about the day. My mother remembers holding her roommate from Zaire while the young woman sobbed. They were both wearing shorts that warm spring day. In that moment, my mother hated the color of her skin and wished she could change it for the sake of her friend.

The young man read a selection from Dr. King’s final speech, and then he invited us all to stand, join hands with our neighbors, and sing “We Shall Overcome.” I looked over and found a young black girl standing next to me—she might have been about eight years old. She didn’t hesitate to take my hand while we sang. I looked down and her little sister, on the other side of her, was smiling up at me.

I remembered that on the train on the way downtown today, Sarah had shyly caught the attention of a black sister and brother about her age. She had tried to make friends with them. The hesitation on her part and theirs was merely the hesitation of strangers who have not yet become friends; there wasn’t the slightest overtone of racial suspicion on the children’s part or on the part of their mother, who smiled at us while our children attempted a short-lived friendship. By the time we got off the train, our two families were chatting away like old friends, just for a few minutes while we rode the escalator together and then parted ways. So later, as I stood there in the museum that had become a church, I prayed, “Yes, this is it. This is the dream. Sometimes it’s really here, Martin. God bless you for your life and your sacrifice.” There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. King's dream and God's dream overlap almost completely.

After that we all walked to the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. We had a general idea where it was, but we didn’t have to ask directions; we just followed the multicolored crowd of people as they made their way on this brief, holy pilgrimage past the Washington Monument, past the World War II memorial, to the place where Dr. King’s profile has been carved out of stone.

My photo here captures the misquote that I understand will soon be corrected (see this article to learn more). But indeed, whether or not Dr. King would like to have seen it written in stone, he “was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” And as President Obama reminded us today, so can we all be. All of us.

We strolled past the many quotes of Dr. King's that are carved into the wall there. I thought, "My God, we're still not listening, are we? Most of these ideas are too difficult for us to handle." Imagine an America that chooses not to win at everything, but rather, to work hard to foster peace. Imagine a world in which war is simply not an acceptable way of accomplishing anything. Can you imagine it?


Our lives are the curriculum

Here’s a shot of Sarah on her new bed, a hand-me-down from one of my professors. I tell you, hand-me-down Christmas gifts are the best way to go when you’re in seminary! The wall hanging was a gift from Sarah's grandparents and Aunt Suzy. They've added a felt line that details our road trip from Seattle to Washington, D.C., including markers for all the places we spent the night.

At Virginia Theological Seminary, January term moves at a very different pace from the regular semester. Each week we have an opportunity to take one single class and really dig into it. Some classes are more than one week long. I have chosen to take two consecutive one-week classes that build on each other. The first is “Curriculum: Practices of a People.” The second is “Curriculum Development and Technique.”

Now, if you don’t hold a teaching certificate, these class titles may seem a little dull. But the entire point is that we can expand the definition of curriculum to talk about … well, nearly everything in life. We are always learning, and it’s the role of the teacher not only to provide facts and theories on paper, but also to help students connect the material with their everyday lives. Our lives themselves are the curriculum.

Spring semester will begin at the end of January, at which point I will resume Church History, Old Testament and Hebrew. I’ll also add a semester-long course called Constructions of Youth and Youth Ministry.

I have had two big realizations lately. The first is that I wish I could have had all these classes before I spent seven years as an Associate for Christian Formation! There are plenty of things I would have handled more methodically … and perhaps there are many more that I would have handled less methodically and with more creativity.

The second is a simple but very deep sense of gratitude. I am so happy to be here. It hasn’t been easy for my family, but they’re doing fine. Many mornings, I wake up energized because I’m excited to be in seminary. It doesn’t get much better than this. Again, friends, thank you all for everything you’ve done and continue to do to support us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

the revealing: music for epiphany

Here's some music for the season of Epiphany, which began on Friday and continues well into February. During this season, we focus on Jesus the human being: his birth, his coming of age, and the qualities of his ministry. I've arranged the music for this season by theme as follows:

Suite 1: Incarnation. Enjoy the Baby Jesus just a little longer, as the Magi did.

Suite 2: Baptism. Today (January 8) is the feast of Jesus' baptism, marking the beginning of his ministry. These songs are meant to evoke images of water and of the light of heaven breaking through and anointing Jesus as the Messiah.

Suite 3: Calling. Just as Jesus called disciples, he calls us, too. What is the shape of your call?

Suite 4: Fishing. We are called not just to be disciples, but to be apostles, sent out into the world with Good News.

Suite 5: Teaching. At the heart of Jesus' teaching was one very important concept: love.

Suite 6: Healing. Wherever Jesus went, he came close to people and healed them. Sometimes this meant curing them of their diseases as well.

Suite 7: Praise. The people came to adore Jesus profoundly.

Suite 8: Transfiguration. Many of the people wanted Jesus to become a powerful earthly ruler. But God had different plans, and the Transfiguration on the mountaintop marks the shift from Jesus' early ministry to the much more somber second half, as Jesus prepared to set his face toward Jerusalem and the Cross.

At various places in the suites, I have worked in the three movements of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, my favorite choral piece ever. These three pieces are sung in Hebrew, and I hope they are effective at tying in Jesus' Judaism and his grounding in the Psalms.

Please: If you like something you hear, go buy it!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy Epiphany from the Hoslers!

January 6, 2012

Dear friends and family:

Happy Epiphany from the Hoslers! We neglected to write an annual letter last year, so we have much to catch up on. In 2010, Josh was accepted as a postulant to the Episcopal priesthood, and we also decided that year that we would move to Virginia so Josh could attend seminary. So the early part of 2011 was full of projects and preparations: getting our West Seattle home up to snuff so it could be leased out, downsizing our possessions, and saying goodbye to many friends and family. We also said goodbye to our beloved cat Epitome, who died in March at the ripe old age of 15. Henry, at age 10, is still with us, although he has already stepped into the newly vacant role of “crotchety old grump.”

At the end of May, Christy completed her full-time contract job with Expedia and started some serious packing and house-cleaning. Josh’s job at St. Thomas continued for a month longer, and Sarah graduated from kindergarten in June as well. Our final weeks in Seattle were marked by celebrations: a very touching fundraising dinner at St. Thomas, a final chance for Josh to preach there and to say goodbye to his youth group, an early birthday party for Sarah, and a visit from Josh’s parents, who helped us pack all our remaining belongings and get them onto the moving van.

We hit the road July 21, and we chronicled our epic eleven-day road trip on Josh’s blog. Highlights included a visit with Christy’s friend Leanne in Oregon; two nights’ stay in Josh’s old hometown of Rupert, Idaho, including a reunion with his best childhood friend, Travis Freeman; crossing the Continental Divide in a Honda Civic as it puffed “I think I can”; a visit to the fantastic science museum in Denver; Sarah making great strides in her swimming abilities in hotel swimming pools; a flat tire in Topeka; Sarah losing her first tooth in St. Louis while we were out to dinner with our friend Angela; and finally, a few nights’ stay in Annandale, VA, at the home of our friends the Hoskinses, while we waited for the moving van to arrive.

August was all about adjusting to life in our two-bedroom apartment … and to a very different climate. Heat and humidity marked our first month, but that’s not all: we experienced both an earthquake and a hurricane! We did get to see both the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral before the earthquake; both were closed immediately afterward for extensive repairs. In the months that followed, we have also visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Also in August, Josh began classes, along with 45 other M.Div. students. So far he has taken Church History, Old Testament, Hebrew, and a couple classes in pastoral care and practical theology. He has joined the seminary choir, volunteered as a hospice chaplain, helped the seminary with a Lilly-funded research project, and visited a number of different Episcopal churches in order to scout out an eventual site for his field education (which will begin next fall). His main impression of his fellow students is that they are amazing: all of them are very accomplished people with a huge variety of gifts, and he’s eagerly learning from them as well as from his classes and professors.

After Labor Day, Sarah started at Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, a large public school with six different first-grade classes and solid music, art, and gym programs. Every morning she waits for the bus with other seminarians’ kids, and she has also made new friends from the population at large. Her favorite subject is math, and her reading is coming along well. Sarah has also joined the children’s choir at Church of the Holy Cross in Dunn Loring, VA, where she also enjoys weekly Godly Play stories. In December she played both an angel and a donkey in a musical Christmas pageant called “Angels Aware!”

At the end of September, Christy began a full-time position at the Cokesbury book store on campus. She was looking forward to getting in-depth retail training from the store manager, so it was something of a shock when he immediately left to take another job. After just ten days of training, Christy was surprised to find herself the only full-time employee at the store! In a few short months, she has learned a lot about receiving merchandise and ordering textbooks, and she struggles valiantly with the store’s ancient, DOS-based inventory system.

At both Thanksgiving and Christmas, we all journeyed to Ridgefield, Connecticut, to spend the holidays with Christy’s sister Patty and her family. Sarah was in paradise, with three cousins near her age to play with all day long. Christmas was particularly special because Christy’s parents and sister Sue flew out from Seattle to join us. After Christmas Day, Brian and Debbie came down to spend a week in Alexandria with us. During their visit, we ate at Gadsby’s Tavern, which was frequented by our nation’s first five presidents, and we visited Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington’s family.

As 2012 begins, we are very thankful for all the new friends who have welcomed us to Virginia and to all those we love back home in the Seattle area who continue to support us on this grand adventure!

With much love and best wishes for a great new year,

Josh, Christy & Sarah Hosler