Orientation Week

I’m sure you’ve been wondering up to this point what all this has to do with becoming a minister.  Well, I have finally gotten to that point.  The glorious wonder about all that has come so far is that I feel like the foundation is laid.  I uprooted myself in Los Angeles and now the roots are taking hold in Berkeley.  And I can breathe again and feel the sunshine.  So now I can move on to what’s next.  Orientation Week at Starr King School of the Ministry.  And don’t say that phrase lightly.

So we had a welcome on Sunday afternoon August 29th and I met fellow students of mine, other students who’ve been studying awhile, and family members of said students.  We had a yummy potluck on the courtyard and I wandered around the building getting to know it somewhat.  It’s only one building…. So that’s one less stressful thing I need to learn.  I thought I would have a lovely relaxing evening that night, but when I let Sequel out, he didn’t come back.  This was the first night he pulled an all nighter, but he appeared the next morning.  So much for having a half way sleepless night.  I will know next time to just have faith and know that he will return.  It wasn’t a great way to start orientation week, my first day lasted 15 hours on 5 hours sleep.  But I was on somewhat of a high being there.

And yes, you read that right, Monday the 30th went from 7:30 in the morning until 10 pm that evening.  Although they did feed us.  🙂  And there was lots of chocolate!  So much for the whole vegan feel of Berkeley… they still have chocolate here!  Yay!  We had an opening worship ceremony after breakfast that was so lovely and welcoming and then I met my advisor.  Her name is Jo!!!  Yes you read that right, we have the same first name.  Although she was born in Bombay and is short for something I can’t spell, we have the same first name.  I like that.  And I feel like she gets me already.  This whole overwhelming feeling of what am I doing here and how can I accomplish this; she knows.  We met all the faculty members and what credentials!!  Half of them somehow had a relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I feel in awe of their knowledge and wisdom.  Each one that was introduced held an interest or a passion that I could relate to.  I feel completely inadequate!  And my fellow students also seem three times as intelligent as I!  I have a lot of work ahead of me and I really, really hope I’m capable of the challenge.

We learned how to register and use the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) library.  The last time I enrolled in college, we stood in lines for classes and prayed we could get in.  Now EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, is done online.  Hallelujah!!!  I went on Web Advisor and registered for my classes and then still have to register on Moodle to get documents or books I’ll be reading on line.  Moodle apparently can store anything that the professor loads and then we read and post our comments on it.  How 21st century of them.  This is an entirely new experience for me, one though that I’m really looking forward to.  One of my classes is actually an online class and there are pros and cons to that.  I pray my procrastinating tendencies do not get me into hot water and pulling all nighters.  I think that my advisor knows how to keep me on track.  At least it seems that she does already.

So on Tuesday the 31st we had a shorter day.  We were introduced to the staff and all that they could do for us.  What a kind and caring group of people.  I got completely registered and found out that I can get my health insurance through the school!!  And save money.  I raised my hand and asked, are there any age restrictions to this premium???  And there aren’t!  I’m finally getting a good deal!  Thank you all you younger students who are lowering the curve and saving me a bundle on healthcare!  I have to have Kaiser, but I’m hoping my experience with them is better than when I had them a few years ago.  At the end of the day we had a Key Blessing ceremony and were actually awarded keys to the building so that we can come and go as we please.  So does that mean I’m going to be living there???  🙂  No, it was really an honor to know they are entrusting us so completely and thank you Dakota for taking pictures throughout!!!  We have a visual record of all we went through thanks to him!  I actually got home by 5:30 that day too, how nice was that.  The following 2 days were filled with workshops with names like Truth Commissions and Spiritual Leadership for Social Change and UU Identity and Religious Leadership, wow!!  We also attended an outdoor BBQ in the courtyard of the GTU.  We met other students in the other seminaries, of which there are 3 Catholic, one Baptist, one Lutheran and then the Pacific School of Religion, which I’m not sure has a particular denomination.  They are all part of the GTU and I can take classes with them, which is totally awesome!  I can learn Hebrew, or take Buddhist or historical bible studies and they all count!  And yes, I’M A SEMINARIAN!!   I think it’s finally sinking in.  I feel as if I’ve been in somewhat of a fog, putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next indicated step, without really looking at the path.  All of a sudden I’m here.  And to call myself a seminarian sounds so very, very strange.

Thursday evening , September 2nd, the first year students, of which I am now called a first year M Div (pronounced em-div), short for Master of Divinity, were in charge of creating the Iftar meal.  It’s the meal that breaks the fast each evening of Ramadan and what a wonder that was.  We have a couple of students who are Muslim and they guided the ceremony and we ate wonderful food, learned some of the prayers and chants, and felt exhilarated.  It is so amazing to learn of other beliefs and see how other people of faith express their devotion.  We really are all the same.  I wish so many people could experience the sameness that I’ve felt in seeing other belief systems, and not what they perceive as differences.  It’s a very short life we live; why must we waste time in defiance with one another.

So I got my student ID (I forgot and wore my Art is Hell t shirt and it actually shows up on the photo, although Malcolm told me she thought it looks very punk rock 🙂 ) and paid my tuition… gulp…and I ended the week officially a student.  Now the classes begin and my new job begins and I hope to regain some semblance of a routine.  Nothing has been routine in my life since spring has sprung; I’m actually ready for some routine!  Although as I look over my schedule for the coming years of my life, I don’t see any time off till 2014!!!!  I hope I’m wrong!

I’m really settling in in Mayberry though.  This is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Sweet dreams,

Jo