Thursday, January 29, 2015

Something Arrived in Today's Mail

I'm an 11 year old wizard, and my letter from Hogwarts just arrived.

If by "11 year old wizard," you mean "29 year old pastor," and by "Hogwarts," you mean "Seattle University."

This is one of those announcements of the greatest kind.  Presuming the pieces of the financial aid puzzle all fall into place, I will be matriculating into the Doctor of Ministry program of Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry, beginning this July.

This will not take me away much from my current ministry; the D.Min. (pronounced, basically, "demon," an irony which was most certainly not lost on my church's board of directors) has for decades now been a degree designed specifically for working pastors because it is, like its M.Div. sibling, a practical degree.  Or, at least, it is meant to be...the M.Div. wasn't always for me (see my most immediate previous post).

But I'm hoping that this D.Min. program (and I chose it in part because of its strength and focus in the area of developing pastoral leadership skills) will remedy some of that, a week or two of intensive classes at a time, over the course of the next three or four years.

It varies dramatically from the Ph.D. in that way.  The D.Min. is a degree meant to be completed on a part time schedule, and so it lacks some of the components of a Ph.D.  I don't have to take comprehensive exams, for one.  And our dissertation, like a Ph.D.'s, is hyper focused on one particular thing, but that thing in our case tends to be our parishes, or a particular mechanism of our denominations, or the like, whereas the Ph.D.'s is an original academic contribution to their field (which, when that field is as heavily researched as, say, Biblical Studies, makes the effort of trying to come up with something both original and academically sound to say seem particularly hellish).

Which means that the D.Min. suffers from a diminished reputation in some (mostly academic) circles.  Which is fine, really; I'm not at all interested in being called "doctor," except maybe by my anesthesiologist wife for the laughs (I already have plans to order address labels as "Real Dr. and Fake Dr. Atcheson").

And had I wanted to teach at a university or seminary full time, I would get a Ph.D., but as it is, those professorships are almost ridiculously few and far between as those very same seminaries and universities continue to move away from the model of tenure track professors to hiring more and more non tenure track instructors and part time adjuncts for obscenely low pay (I'm not kidding, either.  I may make less than a public schoolteacher, but a lot of college adjuncts have the Ph.D. that I don't and never will, and their average salary is literally half my modest wages.  What our postsecondary school system is doing to its adjuncts is criminal in every sense of the term).

But I digress.  Adjunct pay is a soapbox for another post.  All of this is to say, I don't need a Ph.D. for the work I love doing, so I won't try to pursue one.  But I also knew when I graduated seminary that I wasn't done learning; in fact, I withdrew from Santa Clara University's Jesuit School of Theology one week prior to classes starting for their Master of Theology degree in order to come to the congregation I am at now.

So I suppose that I am trading one Jesuit school for another, but hey, I had to read Ignatius of Loyola in college and enjoyed him, so why not?  I'm ready to continue learning.  And hopefully, I always will be, for God always has something new to teach me.  Of that I am certain.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Ollivander's to buy myself a wand.

Yours in Christ,

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