To- Do List:
1 final comparing Calvin’s concept of idolatry of God to Coomaraswamy’s argument that religious exclusivism is equal to idolatry of God. (currently I have an introduction and ideas), Due in January
1 final comparing Calvin’s exegesis of Genesis 18-19 to Origen’s analysis of the same passage. (currently I have an extension 🙂 ), Due in January
1 final explicating the role of art and the aesthetic in public theology (currently I have an art piece and the majority of a paper), Due on Tuesday
1 first draft of a 40-page thesis on hospitality (currently I have 31 pages), due in January
This is what I have before me as I prepare to return home for Christmas. It seems like a lot and not a lot at the same time. Mostly, I am concerned because I need to finish it before I leave on a cruise in early January, so it has to be done by the end of December. I am sure I can do it; if only I FELT like doing it….. 😉
A toast to Fridays! Today I slogged (successfully, I might add) through my final paper for my class on Emergent Insights for Youth Ministry at Andover Newton. The paper wasn’t as tight as I might have liked, but given the reality that it was the first paper due in a string of three in a week, it was good enough. This finals period truly has been stressful for me, and I have watched as my workout schedule and my music have fallen by the wayside as I struggle to motivate myself to get my finals done. So even though I loved that class, the paper was difficult to get excited about. The cost of a busy life, I guess.
One thing that has not been stressful, however, has been the newly improved and awesomely fabulous paper topic that Dan F. and I proposed to our Reformed Thought professor last week. Both of us had cool paper topics but weren’t particularly impassioned by them… and then we started joking about revising the psalter at the HDS Charity Ball on May 4th. The rest is history. Both of us are big fans of writing and messing around with music. He plays a lot of percussion and blues, and I am a huge fan of reforming worship music. Anyways, we started talking and brainstorming, and suddenly we had an amazing project in front of us: What would it look like to experiment with a reformed psalter? We both recognized that the psalter defined early reformed churches but has basically fallen completely out of use today. Many pastors and lay people even think we should get rid of it. But the idea is too awesome to just throw away. So we starting playing around and came up with reformed liturgical music with psalms 51, 69, 117, and 134. The best part is, we used contemporary music idioms to do it. Psalm 51 is an awesome bluesy number (think “O Death” from the soundtrack for “O Brother Where Art Thou”) that Dan and I have fallen in love with and basically allowed us to sing the psalm without any alterations…. plus it is sort of a modern day version of psalm chanting in this format, only in a music style that speaks to people more directly…. plus it is a great confessional psalm. Psalm 69 came out as a fairly revised version, in which we developed the psalm into lyrical stanzas. Since it is a psalm of lament, we chose to set it to a sort of high sound driven, dark emo rock piano ballad style (think a mixture of Ben Folds on his own and Evanescence). It also sounds really awesome, plus the lyrical structure is not all that different from hymn structures, which I think says alot for the potential of old hymns to be re-envisioned. 117 and 134 we both envisioned as sort of call to worship type deals. One of them is quite folksy sounding, and the other is more bluesy… both could function either as a call and response or as sung by all or a worship leader.
Anyways my point is that this has been super awesome and fun to do. We are gonna practice some more and then record on Sunday, so hopefully I will have some tracks up soon for you to hear. Until then, rock on!
It’s finally here- finals season. I knew it was coming. I knew for weeks, years even (if i had cared enough to care, the Harvard calendar is set years in advance) so there was no reason for me to be surprised. And yet here I sit, one week left until all of my finals must be submitted to the grand facilitators of my classes, and I am STILL at a loss for what to do. I am STILL unsure of how to proceed. In one of my classes, I am still struggling, grasping even for a topic to write on (update: progress has been made on this front. Slow but BEAUTIFUL progress).
One good thing, however, has come to pass in all of this: Dan F and I came up with a wicked project for our Reformed Thought class that is going to KICK A$$. We convinced our professor to let us experiment with a modern psalter. The basic idea is that we are going to try to arrange some psalms into modern music, the sort of music that is not only scriptural based but heartmovingly awesome. We got to talking about this idea, basically, whilst lamenting the state of contemporary music and joking about how nobody sings the psalter anymore, especially not PCUSA folks. IN fact, I have witnessed Presby Pastors exclaiming “destroy the psalter!” in response to my stated interest in the PCUSA Hymnal Project that is afoot. So we are gonna experiment with the always reforming bit of our tradition and try to make the psalms come alive in contemporary fashion. (an added perk happens to be that we won’t have to write as much…. 6-10 pages of theological and theoretical reflection as opposed to 15 pgs each of a research topic.)
The rest of my finals, to say the least…. are dragging/slogging along. One is due this Friday, so at least there is that. But I guess now would be the time to ask for …. *gulp*…. prayers, patience, and a good dose of concentration…..
This morning is my last sermon at Clarendon Hill, and it feels weird. It feels weird to realize that the year is almost over, that my middle year at seminary is drawing to a close, and that I feel less prepared for ministry than ever. This year has taught me so much, but especially has taught me that ministry is a fraking mess most of the time, and that most people have NO CLUE what they are doing, and that I have NO CLUE what I am doing, but that people still look at me like I do because I am the “seminarian.” Ha, if only they knew.
If only they knew that there are less than 2 weeks between me and the last due date for my finals, and that I am freakin’ out a bit because I don’t know if I can get-er-done.. Granted, I only have to write 40-ish pages, and granted that is not nearly as bad as some of my friends, but it still feels like a lot to knock off before next Thursday. And you could ask me why I am not working on it now, but the truth is this– I don’t know what to say.
I have been wrestling with some serious mental roadblocks lately, mostly because I realize that there is so much I could be saying and so much I want to think about, but I feel as though I don’t have enough information to do it. I feel like I should read more, but the more I read the less confident I feel about what I want to say. I am seriously all over the place. And as I have come to recognize, this is not a good sign.
So prayers would be nice this week. Prayers would be good. Prayers for sanity and for inspiration. Hopefully, that and a little coffee will get me through the insanity that is finals, so that I can take a quick breath and start all over again.