End of an EraPosted: February 22, 2008
Tough news released by my alma mater today, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, located in Evanston, Illinois. http://www.episcopal-life.org/79901_95159_ENG_HTM.htmEffective immediately, they will no longer be offering the three-year residential Master of Divinity program (the basic curriculum for training priests). While Seabury will continue in some form — they’re entering a period of discernment as to their future mission — no one will again have the same experiences that have formed, nurtured, and fed generations of future priests.
The bells which rang thrice daily to mark the communal prayers (Morning Prayer, Eucharist, Evensong) will be silenced. Long-standing traditions like the Lavabo Bowl (the annual flag football game between Seabury and Nashota House), the Boars Head Feast, and Awards Night will end. Lively informal refectory conversations, which nurtured me at least as much as the academic life, will cease.
For many of us, Seabury-Western http://www.seabury.edu/index.phphas become an integral part of our priesthoods. At its best, no seminary better prepared priests for parish ministry. I have a picture of the chapel — literally the heart and soul of the place — in my office alongside a picture of my graduating class. My first son, Benedict, was born the summer before my last year. He spent his first year of life as a community baby — going with me to chapel, classes, and the refectory. He was baptized by the then-dean Jim Lemler in Seabury Lounge. I served as Student Body President and have long been a passionate advocate of this very special place.
So I’m grieving this decision even as it may have been the only feasible one. I trust it wasn’t easy for the Board and current dean. The role and mission of seminary education is changing. I understand that. But it still hurts.