IPJ—Day Four

Day Four

Today was a very full day. By noon it had felt as though a full days exploration had occurred. The bus left the hotel at 8am to visit various sites around the Sea of Galilee. Highlights of the day include Capernaum, Bethsaida, The Mount of the Beatitudes, Tabgah, Magdala, and a boat ride. Interestingly, the Sea is actually a lake—the lowest elevation freshwater lake in the world.

Capernaum was our first stop today. Jesus moved to this harbor town sometime before his official ministry began. Peter likely lived here as well at his mother-in-law’s house. Today there are ruins depicting Peter’s Mother-in-law’s home, which later was used as a foundation for a Byzantine church fixed above these ruins today is a modern church. Very close by are ruins of a synagogue from the 1st century. Built over this is another synagogue. While I cannot remember the date (4th cent?) it was not a building in which Jesus would have taught. However, the first century synagogue was certainly a space in which Jesus worked. Today, the Franciscans cans continue to excavate the area and care for the facilities.e44dd5f5-5fc7-4fdf-b25c-a6c8e793f46b

Bethsaida was our next stop. At this tel (both Hebrew and Aramaic for a man-made hill) archaeologists have uncovered multiple levels of ancient city structures. Tradition may say that this landmass was the biblical Bethsaida, but  there is varied evidence to suggest the biblical Bethsaida was actually so we here else, likely close to the Water. This tel is now almost an a m ole and a half from the water. Still, there is some evidence supporting it was the historical location. Of course, nearly researchers in an attempt to force the location to fit exaggerated or read to much into some of the artifacts found there. Examples include using the fish hooks found to prove it was a fishing village or naming the street where they found primitive medical equipment “St. Luke’s”. In contrast, this site is almost certainly the Old Testament city of Geshur. Many structures depicting the beliefs of the city suggest a bull or similar animal deity. An interesting fact about this site is that our professor, Mark Vitalis Hoffman, participated in part of this active dig in 2012. Also, the Bethsaida Archaeological Dig Project is actually housed at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Many local institutions like Doane, Hastings, and the late Dana and Grace contributed in the beginning.

The Mount of the Beatitudes was just up the will from Capernaum. This site is also run by the Franciscans, this time a convent. The actual sermon on the mount could have happened in any of the hills around this site, likely in one of the naturally amphitheaters. We finished with a hike down the hill, stoping by a cave in which Jesus may have prayed.

Tabgha was the next site of the day. This location is attributed to two biblical events: the miracle of feeding the fish and Peter’s primacy as the leader of Christ’s church. A small chapel is built here housed over the rock which is claimed to be THE rock peter was on. Here was also the first chance we had to actually touch the Sea of Galilee and meditate close to its presence.05f59a8a-7e67-42f2-892d-f2c5389a23c0

Magdala is one of the newer sites we will visit on this trip. It was discovered by accident about a decade ago while a hotel was developing the area. After the diggers hit ruins, the project was adjusted to incorporate the ruins into its plan. Surprisingly, these ruins are very well preserved and give a good picture of what the wealthy town looked like. My favorite part of this site was the discovery of an interesting table on which the teachers would place the Torah. There were also very well preserved purification pools which still hold water today. There is also a beautiful chapel built in the area. Overall. While much of this site is wonderful, it seemed terrible” commercialized. I did not much like this compared to other sites we visited.


Boat Rides on the Sea of Galilee are a neat experience, but made me feel like a tourist more than any other activity thus far. It began with the raising of Old Glory and the playing of the National Anthem. It was an awkward predicate to be in as both ambassadors for our faith but also the United States. The ride itself gave some wonderful views of the area. Being able to see the sites we visited earlier in the day was also quite exciting.


Overall today was good, but travel and exploration is catching up with me, and I look forward to rest.

IPJ—Day Three

Today began our actual trip exploration of our pilgrimage. Highlights of this day include Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, Mount Periscope, and Nazareth. 

Our hotel is right on the “Sea of Galilee”—Nof Ginosar

Caesarea Maratima our tour began in the theater of Caesarea. The ruins today are a bit of a misnomer, as the original structures are long gone. However, they have reconstructed the first two levels of the theater to their best ability. It is a massive area and is still used today for concerts and shows. Amazingly, the original theater had even more levels than its reconstruction. Nearby we toured the foundation of the palace at Caesarea Maritima. Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, and other governors and rulers spent time in this palace as either a vacation home or permanent residence. Today very little remains from Jesus’ time. However, if I understood correctly, the mosaics down the cliff and near the sea are 2000 years old. Despite the grandeur of what was the palace, it was not the most impressive structure of the city. The amphitheater overlooks the sea. Over 20,000 viewers could sit and watch the competitions which took place. Later, Christians would later meet their persecution as martyrs in the same place. Sadly, the heavy winds and rains have caused the walkway to close while they plow sand and wait for the water to evaporate. We were still able to visit the harbor upon which Caesarea was founded. Herod implements the newest and best of Roman technology in his construction of the world’s first fully man made port. Using volcanic ash, the Romans created a special cement which hardened when it made contact with water. The breakwaters pictured here were constructed with that technology. This port was active well past Jesus’ time. The Crusaders held it in the 11th and 12th centuries and built fortifications and gates for protection. Interestingly, the moats they built around the port were not filled with water. However, as if any additional evidence was needed to share how much rain they have had recently, the moats actually held water. Andre, our tour guide, said it was the first time he had ever actually seen water there. By the 17th or 18th century the port was a Muslim village, and today it is a national park. Restaurants and shops fill the stone structures today. 

Mount Carmel was our second stop of the day. Here we’re the bus to the active Franciscan monastery and viewed the surrounding area from the 1500 foot overlook. Mount Carmel is attributed to where the Prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. That contest ends with rain falling on the land to end the drought. Interestingly enough, it was raining as we ascended the stairs and subsided by the time we reached the overlook. As the clouds and fog rolled out, the amazing scenery revealed the Jezreel Valley, the Mediterranean coast, and rolling mountains all around. 

Mount Precipice overlooks Nazareth. Tradition says this is the cliff to which the Nazarenes drove Jesus out of town (Luke 4.16). This overlook raises up 1300 feet. From here we could see Mount Tabor and many other biblical towns (which I cannot recall right now…) The valley below (opposite Nazareth) was highly contested land from antiquity to modernity.  Megiddo (from which “Armageddon” gets its namesake) is in this valley. 

Nazareth, Jesus’ childhood home, began as a small village of a dozen or more extended families and their dwellings. Today, because of the significant Christian population (largest in Israel), it is a bustling city of over 100,000 residents. There are two churches which claim to be the site of the annunciation. One is the Greek Orthodox, which is built over the only natural spring in the area. Referring to a non canonical gospel, they claim this is where the Angle Gabriela first came to Mary. The other, A Roman Catholic Church, houses the ruins of Mary’s home. Truly, the ancient structures here are likely the home of Jesus and his family. 

Today was an incredible experience. We visited areas in which the Scriptures speak directly, and to see the interweaving of history and modern life was incredible.

EVAN—My most  enlightening experience was actually the aqueducts which brought water to Caesarea Maritima. Many of the other structures and run is we viewed were either attributed to or reconstructions of tradition. The aqueducts, however, are much the same as they were more than 2000 years ago. For me, this tied the past to present and into tomorrow. 

HILLARY— My favorite part was at the Harbor in Caesarea Maritima. We walked up and saw a moat. The moat had water and our tour guide said that was the first time he had seen that (it has been raining a lot this year). Originally when the moat was built it was not meant to have water and I thought that was super interesting. I also loved being in the theater, when it was originally built, it could fit up to 10,000 people.


Israel, Palestine, and Jordan

Check here for updates on our trip.

Hillary and I will keep this up to date the best we can.

Evan and Hillary Christensen

Day one: Traveling There

I type this to you while waiting at Dulles International Airport in Washington DC. Our flight boards in about 15 minutes for the first leg of the trip to Instanbul. From there we have a brief layover before connecting to Tel Aviv. Our first night in Israel will be basically on the Mediterranean coast.

Hillary and I are both so excited for this adventure. It is my first time flying overseas (let alone more than a couple hours). It is Hillary’s first time flying overseas since going to Europe in high school. Amazingly we packed relatively light by our standards, so hopefully we will have room for souvenirs.

its getting time to board soo , so I need to wrap this up. I will hopefully update with a brief itinerary when we are in Istanbul or settled in Tel Aviv. Thank you for your support and prayers!

Peace & Blessings,

Evan and Hill

Update We just got through customs in Israel!

Update Two Finally a real post…

Greetings from Tel Aviv. I was hoping to share a photo from our room, but it is currently storming something wild. Aside from the above, there is little to share aside from the flights/travel from US to Israel. Our first leg was a great flight with very little “extra” things happening by way of turbulence. the inflight food was surprisingly tasty. The same was true for the drink selection. Based off this flight I would highly suggest flying Turkish Airlines from DC to Istanbul. 

The second leg of our trip was not as smooth. Though only an hour and a half flight, the jump from Istanbul to Tel Aviv was on an even larger plane. I would guess over 400 passengers. (52 rows by 9 seats per row, minus a handful for the tail, business, and first class.) We were served food again on this flight. It was certified to meet Muslim dietary standards and included a cheese sandwich, a grilled chicken salad lemon olive oil dressing, and an apple bread cake. As nice as the food as, the flight was more memorable. I am sure this was not the worst turbulence a plan could face, but we are  fairly certain lightning struck the plane as we were beginning our descent. A bright flash outside, followed by a BOOM, and a shake of the cabin startled everyone! Of course, you can figure how the adventure ended, you are reading these words I typed after a welcomed landing. 

We made it through customs with barely any trouble, which was surprising to many of the more veteran fliers in our group. Nearly all of us got. “Welcome, is this your first time? What is your business? How long are you here? Have a good time.” Even collecting our checked bags went off without a hitch. 

As I type this I am listening to our tour guide. I should have paid more attention because I cannot recall his name now, but he is lively, informative, and so far wonderful. He is an Israeli citizen and practicing Christian. He brings a unique perspective to our pilgrimage here. It has rained most of December and now January here, and has not let up for the last two days. Our guide says  supposed to let up tomorrow as we start exploring,  but he also explained how thankful the people of th land are for the thirsty land. Because it is night and rainy, sightseeing so far has been the bustling city of Tel Aviv. It is the second largest city to 400,000, but it is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. Think New York City. It was founded in 1909, decades before the Israeli state, and is the business and tech center of Israel. It tends to be much more secular and progressive than Jerusalem. 

Well, we just arrived to our hotel, so I am singing off for tonight. I don’t think I could have planned it better. 

Grace and peace,

Evan and Hillary

#6–September Seminary Ridge Review

Friends, it has been exactly one month since our last post, and I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment of consistence. (Congratulatory cards are welcome.) The reason for this may be the excitement I bring in writing to you today, as I have forced myself to wait until the month ended before reflecting on all that has happened. This review will be a smorgasbord of information for both Hillary and I over the course of September and looking towards what lies ahead. A brief summary includes:

  • 333 Clothing Challenge
  • Minimalism Game
  • Seminary Classes
  • Ministerial Immersion Placements
  • Fund For Leaders
  • Looking Ahead
  • Board Games

33(1) Clothing Challenge — During the month of September, Hillary and I challenged ourselves to live more simply. One way was through the intentional limitation of our respective wardrobes. We each set out to pick just 33 pieces of clothing (shirts, pants, shoes, accessories, etc) and wear only them for the entire month (more info in blog #5). We are proud to announce that we both held very true to our intentions over the last 30 days. The weather here started to change, and fluctuated from very hot to quite cold, with rain drenching both between and the the extremes. However, we made it work! Of course, there were some times that we had to “fudge” the plan–for example, our new involvement in our church placements, and my trip to Chicago. Overall, we both found ways to make our limited supplies work without ever feeling impossibly burdened. No one commented that we were wearing the same things over and over. We never felt uncomfortable. In fact, it made getting ready even easier most days with fewer options. Perhaps the greatest challenge was keeping up on laundry–but even that was made easier because it only took one load to wash everything we needed for the week!

Now that we are completed with the month, both Hillary and I are adapting our wardrobes moving forward. I am adding back into my closet some jackets I am not quiet ready to remove; with the weather continuing to decline I truly think more than my Nebraska crew neck will be needed. I included my many colored chinos to compliment my new Sunday best: clerical black with collar tab. Finally, I also readmitted some new shirts which have not had their fair chance to be worn. However, with all these additions I have attached a sticky-note to the article which will only be removed after wearing. My commitment is that by December, while packing to go to Nebraska, if something has a sticky-note on it, no matter how dear, it is going to someone else who will use it more.

Hillary also added many articles back into her wardrobe (but, to be honest, I don’t know everything she has in her closet…) and I think she will also be using sticky notes to help continue to remove excess. Through the entire moth we both began donating or ridding ourselves of many pieces of clothing that we totally knew we no longer wanted or needed. These were donated as part of our Minimalism Game.

Minimalism Game — This was our other challenge of September. More details can again be found in blog #5. Hillary and I were so proud and impressed with ourselves through almost the whole month! Until the 24th we had both stayed true to the pledge, but then we ran out of time, energy, and really, stuff. We each removed 293 things or “sets of things” from our home, for a total of 586 items. At this time we had a paper we both put significant work into, and I was out of town from the 27th – 29th, too. While wed did not WIN this game, Hillary and I are proud of our success and feel the process helped us have a greater appreciation for the pieces of stuff we choose to keep in our lives. We spent time organizing and maximizing our space. We cleared out many “junk” boxes that had stuff we just didn’t know what to do with (much of this was donated or properly sorted into appropriate spaces. By the end of this month, I was even looking at clearing space on our board game shelves of the rarely played, bad, and extra games! So much of our excess is no longer here, and it is a good thing. We are both looking at how to better make purchases which add to our experiences and not to our shelves. Again, while we did not win the game, we have both been changed for the better through the process and hope to continue making changes to simplify.

Seminary Classes — Our classes are certainly picking up speed. We are so grateful that God has called us here. We are thankful for many friends, family, and supporters who have helped make it possible, too! Our classes this semester focus on building a firm foundation in biblical and church history. Hillary and I have the same class schedule, so we help each other study. Our classes include a historical geography class called Reading and Telling the Story. In this, we look at the historical setting and how scripture, history, and geography all support and are supported by one another. Another class is Worshipping Communities. It is a basic liturgy class. We are focusing on the four parts of Holy Communion worship in most Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America: Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending. Our third class is Systematic Theology, which is the technical term for “What are we talking about when we talk about God.” And our final class is Dynamic Faith, or “Church History 101.” In this class we are studying the history and development of Christianity from before Christ until just before the Reformation. We are learning so much and are excited to share our new learning with anyone who wants to learn!

Ministerial Immersion Placements — In addition to taking classes, every first-year seminarian (called Juniors here) have a teaching parish in which they spend about 8 to 10 hours each week shadowing the pastor. Both Hillary and I are at St. John’s Lutheran churches, but I am in Littlestown, PA and Hillary is in Abbottstown, PA. They are both within a half hour drive of Gettysburg.  We will help with Christian Education, serve as assisting ministers, attend various committee and council meetings, and also assist with other community events throughout the year. Next semester we will even have the opportunity to preach. Hillary has already participated in a Golf fundraiser with her congregation, and I am serving in mine as an assistant minister with other members of the congregation.

Fund For Leaders — One of the most significant supports for out time in seminary so far has been from the ELCA as a whole. I am one of the recipients of a full-tuition Fund For Leaders scholarship awarded by the greater church. This scholarship helps significantly in limiting the financial burden for seminarians and greatly impacts the opportunities Hillary and I have in seminary. This scholarship began roughly 20 years ago with just eight students receiving support. This year they awarded aid to the largest group yet: 50 full-tuition scholarships, six partial-tuition mission and development scholarships, and one federal chaplaincy scholarship. The scholarship recipients were honored this last weekend in Chicago, where all the bishops of the ELCA, many donors, and employees of the church wide offices attended a celebratory banquet. (A video of the event can be found here.–I am at minute 54:00) This was incredibly affirming for me to see the support the church has in Hillary and I saying “YES” to the call to ministry. If you would like to know more about how Fund For Leaders works, I would love to help answer questions. Their goal is to one day provide ALL ELCA seminarians attending an ELCA seminaries with full-tuition scholarships. While they are making huge strides, the funding is just not there yet. If you feel called to help, you can donate to assist in building the Church, not just the future church, but right now!

Looking Ahead –Through he amazing support of so many people and churches, Hillary and I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to the Holy Land (Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) as a seminary class. This trip is both incredibly informational and enlightening, but also affordable. We will be exploring the historical and religious sites for two weeks in January. This will be immediately proceeded by a visit home to Nebraska, where we will be for two weeks around Christmas. We hope to connect with as many of you as possible while home before this big trip! Send us a call, text, email, or letter if we want to start planning coffee, worship, or any sort of fellowship!

Board Games — And finally, Board Games! Hillary and I have been helping bring people together over our favorite hobby. We have played so many different games with different people and are sharing the love. Some friends were in a similar position to us before coming to seminary (married couple, loves games, usually play just the two of them), so we often are playing together outside of the larger “game nights.” In addition to playing so many games, we have actually slowed down our purchasing habits of games, which is truly a good thing. In fact, I purchased only two games since moving to Pennsylvania: one was off Facebook marketplace (from another Lutheran Clergy Couple!–She works for ULS and he is finishing his doctorate at Princeton) and the other was in celebration of our packed month of September, and it was a hard-to-find game by one of our favorite designers which has been on our wishlist for months. This game is Nusfjord. Players are trying to build a fishing company by purchasing fishing fleets, utilizing sustainable forestry, and constructing buildings–all while taking a strict 21 single actions throughout the entire game. After buying it on Saturday, we have already played it four times. I am also in the process of clearing some shelf space and keeping only our best games. As the holidays approach, I am sure we will continue to add to our collection, and it will be important that we create space in what we already have and not just buy more shelves. A sticky-note is now on the back of every game we have yet to play in PA, and if it is not taken off by May, it is being removed.

Of course, we are always looking to play more games. The following currently are on our “want to play” list from our current selection. Many of these are favorites that just haven’t gotten to the table yet:

Additionally, before closing, I want to celebrate that Hillary and I have now viewed United Lutheran Seminary as home for a whole year! It was last September we visited. We cannot believe the future we discussed then is now reality! Thank you so much again for all your love, care, and support. Our journey on Seminary Ridge is only possible because of you. If you would like to hear more about any specific part of the adventure, please let us know!

Peace and Blessings,

Evan & Hillary

#5–Let’s Play a Game

It should be no surprise to you that Hillary and I are playing another game. This one, however, is different that most that we play. It does not have a board, cards, dice, or any playing pieces at all. The only things provided are the following rules:

  • Have too much stuff (we pretty much all do in one way or another)
  • Get rid of one thing on the first day, then two on the second, three on the third (and on and on). It must be out of the house by midnight each day.
  • Getting rid of something means one of the following things:
    • Donate
    • Sell
    • Trash

If a player can keep this up for the entire 30 days, he or she will remove 475 pieces of excess from home and life. This game, or challenge comes from The Minimlaists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. As Hillary and I continue settling into our new home in Gettysburg, we find that we are just buying more stuff (ex. buying more shelves and containers to put stuff we don’t really need.) This is why we are going to try this game and reflect on the positive (or challenging) effects we experience.

Additionally, Hillary and I are kicking off this month with another “challenge” based on Project 333. In this, participants select only 33 pieces of “fashion” from which to build their entire wardrobe for the next three months. This includes expected items like shirts, pants, and jackets, but it also includes things easily overlooked. Each pair of shoes, jewelry, hat, etc are also counted. Of course, there are exceptions for everyday essentials (wedding ring, underwear & undershirts, socks, etc). Participants may also include any number of items for sleep, working out, and lounging-around-the-house. The idea, though, is that these “extra” items are not considered “clothing” (i.e., you don’t go to work, class, or the shopping center in this wear).

Now, we do not want to try biting off too much, so Hillary and I are adapting Project 333 for our current needs and expectations. Being new to Gettysburg, seminary, and the schedule and expectations associated with it, we are looking to “try” the “33” part of the challenge while getting rid of the other excess in our lives. So really, we are doing Project 33(1) instead.

Details: Some quick stats on the clothing Hillary and I currently own (in our apartment as of September 1st–we have some clothing already in storage!):

Evan: 33 t-shirts, 3 sweatpants, 5 flannels, 12 dress shirts, 10 pants/jeans, 10 sweatshirts/pullovers, 9 pairs of shorts, 10 pairs of shoes, 8 hats, 2 1/2 suits (3 jackets, 2 with matching pants), and 1 raccoon onesie. This comes to a grand total of 105 items of clothing. Not included are numerous ties, undershirts, socks, underwear, and belts.

For my challenge I selected the following: 3 pairs of athletic shorts, 2 pairs of dressier shorts, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair of jeans, 2 dress shirts, 3 polos, 2 flannels, 3 sweatshirts, 1 pair of dress shoes, 2 pairs of sneakers, 2 hats, 2 ties, and 8 t-shirts. There are also 4 workout shirts & a pair of cleats, but these will only be worn for flag-football practice and at the YWCA. (I did not include my belt in this list because it is a necessity for my pants and we all lose if I don’t wear it. The ties, on the other hand, do count, because the dress shirts work with/without either die, thus their accessories). I may also need to swap out a t-shirt for a suit jacket to where for church/a formal function I have in Chicago later this month.

Hillary: 28 t-shirts, 22 shorts, 13 dress pants, 5 leggings, 3 workout capris, 4 PJ pants, 7 sweatshirts, 6 jeans, 22 casual shirts, 17 dresses, 6 skirts, 16 sweatshirts/pullovers, 4 flannels, 1 robe, 6 cardigans,  5 sweaters, 2 suit jackets, 7 dress shirts, 3 festive wears, and 25 pairs of shoes (plus undergarments, etc). This comes to a grand total of 202 items. 

For Hillary’s challenge, she selected the following: 5 pairs of shorts, 5 pairs of pants, 7 t-shirts, 3 casual/nice shirts, 2 cardigans, 2 skirts, 2 dresses, 1 sweater, 1 jacket, 1 pair of heels, 1 pair of tennis shoes, 1 pair of Chacos, and 2 pairs of Tom’s. (Hillary is not included leggings because she only wears those with dresses if its cold, so its only as an undergarment.)

Feelings: I am very excited for this adventure of more simplified living. I did a Project 333 early last year to some success, but I ended up adding more clothing as time went on. I also didn’t do anything to track or reflect on my progress. This time I am hoping to do it more. Hillary, on the other hand, was less excited to have to pare down her wardrobe. However, after sorting through everything and making her choices for the 33 pieces, she was much more confident. She feels the whole thing will be easier than she thought because, as she remembered, we just spent the last 3 weeks living out of a suitcase in Philadelphia, and this is only 1 week longer!

As always, thank you so much for the support and love.

Peace and blessings,

Evan & Hillary

And of course, a Game Update:

We recently started having our fellow seminarians and family over to our apartment for game nights. We have had two so far. Our place can holds a group of 12 pretty comfortably so far, but we’ll see if we can get more?!

Recent games include the following: Wasteland Express, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Catan, Say Anything, Cards Against Humanity, Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, Magic Maze, and King of Tokyo.

Game we hope to play soon: Tiny Epic Zombies, Power Grid, and our custom Tiny Epic Scythe (maybe a whole blog just for that… we shall see).

Picture credit: https://www.google.com/search?q=Minimalism&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS798US798&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjurI61x5rdAhXMxFkKHUVMAgsQ_AUICygC&biw=1440&bih=803#imgrc=UMpiCyl1XMFGdM:


#4–Greek Life: It means something different to us as seminarians now…

Xάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 

Grace to you and peace from God the father and the lord Jesus Christ. 

Hillary and I just recently wrapped up our first class as seminarians: Language of the Early Church (AKA: Summer Greek). This three week intensive brought us to the city of brotherly love–Philadelphia. Specifically, the second campus of our seminary located in the heart of Germantown. Hillary and I called a small, college style dorm room home for three weeks while we embarked into the language used to write much of the New Testament.

Our experience with Greek was wonderful, which has not been a common theme for many pastors or ministers who have taken it in the past. I want to point out, however, that our class was not so focused on the memorization of roots and declensions. Our professor, Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman (VH for short), has crafted an interactive, practical approach for clergy and lay people to make sense of biblical (Koine) Greek for study, interpretation, and reflection. This means some good and not as good things depending on your view. On one hand, if looking at what we cannot do after taking this class, we did not spend hours memorizing declension patterns, vocabulary, or learn how to create and write new Koine Greek text. On the other, more positive hand, we know the “24 ways to say the” in Greek, we can recognize those patterns to identify the cases of words, and we know how to understand the person, number, tense, voice, mood, or any mix of other information for various words (like indicatives, imperatives, infinitives, substantives, optatives, participles, pro/nouns, prepositions, and conditionals). VH begins the class outlining his goal for us to take this information and actually put it to use in our ministries in the future. We are constantly asked to “go back to the Greek” to discover first hand the interpreter bias which comes out in our English translations today, and to ask ourselves why does this translation read differently than the Greek–is it for the ease of reading, or does it communicate a different theological claim than the original author intended. And yes, we did memorize some words, specifically the 109 most common words in the new testament. As VH reminded us often, it helps save time if you don’t have to look up every single word when working with the scriptures–learning the common words is simply for efficiency.

Tied intricately with this class was the tool Accordance Bible Software. This phenomenal tool is a library at your fingertips. Literally, what used to take up shelves and shelves on in a theologian’s office is now compressed into a dropdown menu on the computer screen. Rather than dog-earing dozens of pages in the Greek New Testament and different translations of the bible, you can scroll through all the texts at once. Additionally, VH created a morphological highlighting system which helps the user identify the parts of speech of thousands of words. This helped tremendously with forming our own understanding and translation. (You can check out a video by Accordance featuring our Prof’s tools here.

In addition to learning Greek in the classroom for five to six hours each day, there was also a lot of time spent studying in small groups–which often devolved into trips to the convenience store, movies, or board games. In all honesty, Summer Greek truly serves dual purposes: one is clear, the teaching of Greek since it is fundamental to study church history and scripture for the rest of seminary; and two, to build community. Almost every night was some event focused on bringing our new class together. We did cookouts, watched Greek related movies (Disney Hercules and My Big Fat Greek Wedding), and, of course, played board games. Hillary and I brought a good selection of games, but one of our (mostly my) favorites was a favorite of others, too. We played Scythe probably a dozen times in the evenings after studying. We even knocked out a four player game in 40 minutes after our final! Other games were played, too. But in enjoyed getting to play Scythe so much I needed to share in the actually blog post (as always, other games will be posted later).

Finally, I want to share with you the adventures Hillary and I have coming up this semester. Classes begin Tuesday, August 28th. We are taking the following courses: Church History 1: Dynamic Faith of the Church, Systematic Theology 1: Creation, Sin, and New Creation, Reading and Telling the Story, and Worshipping Communities. We will meet once for each class during a three hour block each week (one per day, Tuesday – Friday, actually). We look forward to sharing what we learn with you in the future, but until then, thanks for reading!

Grace and Peace to you,

Evan Christensen

Board Game Update:

Recently Played:

Hope to Play Soon:

[Thank you to John Lowry for the photo from Facebook]