Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column

July 2015: "Real Doctor & Fake Doctor"

Dear Church,

As many of you know when I first shared this news with you at the beginning of the year, I was admitted to the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree program at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry, and my first round of classes start this month, from Monday, July 6, through Wednesday, July 15.

A D.Min. isn't structured like a traditional degree: I won't be attending classes full-time--indeed, I will remain here full-time as your pastor while commuting up to Seattle for a week at a time (in fact, this initial session of classes will be by far the longest in my first year of the program), three times per year, for intensive classes, and I will complete other coursework online. The degree itself will likely take 3-5 years for me to complete this way.

While I was applying to this program, I joked with Carrie that we would have to get new address labels that read "Real Dr. & Fake Dr. Atcheson," since only one of us is capable of actually providing medical care as the result of their degree, and it still won't be me!

But this degree also means an awful lot to me--it represents a genuine opportunity to hone my professional ministry skills (or lack thereof!) and to learn from a depth of Christian tradition in doing so. It is something that has been in the works for almost a year now, and I wouldn't and couldn't have pursued it without the blessing of our church's board of directors, because while this degree program *will* make me a better pastor, it will also, at least in the short term, take me geographically away from all of you for a week or so at a time three weeks per year.

This does at all mean that you won't be able to get a hold of me--I'll still have my cell phone and internet access, so you can always call, text, or email--just please be patient if I don't respond right away, and please be understanding if I am unable to come and visit you until after I drive back down to Longview. The D.Min. degree is actually designed for working pastors (you can't even be admitted to a D.Min. program without first spending a few years in ministry), and so the time we are kept away from our parishes is kept to a minimum, because divinity schools that offer this degree know that our congregations are such an important priority to us.

So as I begin my pursuit of this longtime vocational goal of mine, I will greatly appreciate--and be very thankful for--your support and prayers. My fervent hope is that embarking on this course of study is of benefit not simply to me but to all of you as well by way of having a pastor whose skills and education are as up-to-date as possible.

PS: Does anyone know if you're supposed to give an apple to your professors?!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

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