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Eagle-crested lectern. Photo by Chris Alburger

Eagle-crested lectern. Photo by Chris Alburger

No milestone ever fully marks the completion of a journey, and development doesn’t stall out when a child reaches her adulthood. I had begun mothering and pastoring at the same time, both ministries of ephemeral moments that are over in a flash, fist steps and first sermons. The work of parish ministry—worship, discipleship, and pastoral care—all disappear in a weekly cycle, along with the hours spent in preparation. At times, the densely packed milestones of child development felt so close at hand, while my own development sometimes seemed like a distant memory. I knew I needed to grow. In the middle of my career, and the middle of my parental journey, it was time to prepare for the next stages. HDS has been a place of tremendous growth of the intellectual framework of my ministry.

Going back to school midcareer has not proven to be a mistake in the timing of life. The study of religion is not static or lifeless, we have each walked with these subjects our whole lives, and will continue to, long after we leave HDS. I’m glad that I came to HDS at a time when I can value the opportunity more now than I might have at an earlier time in my life.

My classmates have been a special gift of grace at a time when the confines of my denominational identity have often served to homogenize my context. At HDS, relationships develop across every difference which once seemed like a barrier. Our time together allows us to share our stories in ways that remind us of the wide range of human experiences and the importance of our shared humanity.

While the coursework is unflinchingly demanding, the atmosphere is invariably one of mutual respect. The remarkably gracious faculty at HDS have helped me to appreciate the value of the years in the middle of my educational journey, affirming that life experience is a valuable companion to the academic study of religion. At HDS you discover that even legends are profoundly human, encountering disarming humor and candor in the most surprising places. This environment has taught me to cultivate compassion. From time to time, I have been required to practice that compassion in myself when overwhelmed by the demands of school, work, and family. Returning to school has not been easy, but nothing worth doing really is.