#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

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