I am not a theologian...

...and I'm not going to pretend to be.  All it takes is ten minutes in a seminary theology class to remind me of this fact.  I am simply not comfortable with people assuming that because I am a seminarian then I must be an expert on theological matters when I know for a fact that this is not the case for any of us seminarians, nor is that the goal of seminary. I had a great conversation about this with my internship supervisor this past year and he was able to stretch me to think of my future ordained self as a "theologian in residence".  A theologian in residence refers to someone who is visiting a place temporarily with a willingness to use their theological gifts there. This was very helpful and much easier for me to swallow.

Now hold that thought and let me share another internship revelation that I am now realizing is intersecting with this "theologian in residence" notion.

First, a picture.


This image of me in my collar for the first time with my family was a tough one for me to get used to.  I am not their pastor. I am their dad and husband (you can see my wife Sara in the reflection). The images of my collar and my family, together, seemed juxtaposed.

During an inter-denominational clergy breakfast in Birmingham, one of the clergy mentioned that he had to preside at his own Mother's funeral. His reasoning was, "My mom saw me as her pastor because she attended my church for the last twenty years, so I had to do her funeral...period."

That was the first time it had ever occurred to me that I might be the main clergy person in my family's life someday. How in the world can I be their pastor? Or to connect it to my earlier thought, How can I be a theologian to them?

Well, maybe I don't need to be their theologian. Maybe all I have to do is be their theologian-in-residence. 

Have you ever thought of yourself as someone's theologian in residence? I know, that's a tough title to carry, even in spite of its temporary nature. But I think people of faith have a responsibility to assist others in their own faith walk, when the path gets unstable, or scary, or just lonely.

This could happen over a cup of coffee at a cafe with a friend. 
Or at the dinner table with loved ones. 
Or the cafeteria at work with a colleague. 
Or over the phone with a long distance relationship.

Do you need to be an expert in Godly things? Nah, just a willingness to accept the subtle invitation to join someones faith journey, however temporary, however rocky, it may be.

3 comments:

  1. I'm guessing you have a pretty narrow understanding of "theologian" in mind, when you use the term this way? I wouldn't blame you for that. I've spent a lot of years saying I'm not a theologian, I'm a religious educator. But increasingly I'm coming to believe that many more of us are theologians than usually claim that title, and that we ought to be more forthright about it. Not because we're going to be using technical language, but because speaking of God ("logos" about "theos") ought to be something our baptism qualifies us to do.

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  2. Great question!

    And my answer: Definitely.

    I cross paths with many walks of life working in the entertainment industry. When word gets out that I go to seminary I am suddenly asked deep personal questions about the existence of God, the meaning of life, etc. by people with whom I've never shared a single piece of personal information. Sometimes I am asked by people I've just met.

    It has always fascinated me. I work with a lot of rough-around-the-edges type of folk. Being a stagehand means being a part of a whole sub-culture with its own set of social rules. I have come to realize that many of us in the industry have never stepped foot in a church. I become the only contact they ever have with someone who is open and accessible for them to question.

    Its a difficult expectation to live up to. I feel sometimes that I lack the biblical knowledge to properly answer their questions. But, in the end, all I can hope to do is show God's grace and encourage further exploration on their part.

    I may doubt myself in these instances, but I thank God for those opportunities.

    Thanks again for posing such a great question!

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  3. Thank You Ron. I appreciated your insight. I have learned many things over a cup of coffee. At times I feel the cup and the comfort of a friend makes me most authentic and open to learning. Gods house finds us whenever we need it. Jennifer

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