I'm six years out from my MDiv and I'm wanting to learn more. I finally have enough insight into some of the technologies of geography and mapping that my curiosity is piqued.
Last fall, when Heidi and I were on sabbatical, we started a time of discernment. That's minister-speak for "what's next?" Actually, it's not minister-speak exclusively ... it's a great question for EVERY PERSON to ask. As one of my best friends, a congregant+retiree, likes to say: "you reach a point and you have to figure out why you're still on this earth." It's a point of privilege. It's also a point of tumultuousness. It's almost as if, once you pick a next step, there's no going back to the place of comfort you stepped out from.
Heidi and I aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future (in case any Church of St. Benedict people are curious). We went into the sabbatical time trying to figure out if/how we and the congregation still needed to do ministry together. The answers were plentiful. We're in a changing time: our church is using its virtue of racial diversity to be proactive and reconciling in the face of the recent spats of racism's survival struggle. (I feel like we need to name this time: #DeathMarch. May racism writhe in the agony its lies create.)
As a congregation, we've chosen to devote ourselves to intentional charity+mission organizations and to make the relationship deeper and less token than previous efforts were. We've chosen to grow up as a parish, and to work to finally become financially self-sustainable and find new ways to contribute back to the rest of the Diocese of Chicago, grateful for all of the ways they helped our community remain. And we've taken stock and realized there's still so much to be excited about and to keep growing in: Christian formation for all ages, more intentional study of Scripture and our wider community, and more time+space for Heidi to continue her writing ministry.
Heidi and I often describe St. Benedict as this wonderful mix of our two cultures: as an Episcopal congregation, it's enough liturgy for her, and it's informal and "folksy" enough that I feel like I'm with fellow disciples of Christ. The church is down-to-earth and the people are faithful* (*even though we're all sinners!)
It's also hard to not stress how great this is: they really like us!
It's a healthy mix of comfort + challenge + growth.
Which probably begs the question: why geography as a degree for me?
As I told several friends this summer: I'm a data geek. Some of them took exception at that. (It was too pejorative, struck too close to home, etc). Some of them said, "DUH!" (Looking at you, Swartzentruber). I'm not scared of volumes of data; I'm scared of sweeping conclusions without the data and/or without the research integrity to support them. I'm curious. Every time I see studies from the Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life, I go first to the methodology section, rather than the conclusions. It's probably no surprise to anyone in the mainline church right now that the newest studies of our decline bleed into the headlines. It's impossible to avoid the anxious responses to them; however, rather than getting stuck with the dim prognosis, I'm usually wanting to know what methods they used to find those results.
So this fall, I'm starting a Master of Science in Geography at Northern Illinois University.
I don't know my thesis topic yet. I don't have any publicizable goals beyond the degree that I'm moving towards. I'm going to be studying GIS / Spatial Analysis and doing a sub-specialty in human + urban geography (demographics!). I'm still a minister. I'm still a husband. I'm still a computer programmer. I'm still a photographer.
And I'm a geographer.
And I'm a student!
And I'm still Adam.
Obviously, more to come ...
Here's my student IDs through the years!
2002 - Freshman Year at TCU
2005 - Study Abroad Card at TCU
2006 - Semester as Research Assistant at TCU before Div School
2010 - University of Chicago MDiv Alum Card. We had to hand in our real student ID to get access as alumni/ae to the library. My 2006 entering photo was SO MUCH better! ;)
2015 - Northern Illinois University