Go. Just Go.

As the seminary community rounds the corner into finals, spring break, and the last term of the year, the Juniors are finally getting adjusted to this crazy life that we call seminary, the Middlers just want this year to be over so they can be Seniors, and Seniors like myself become flooded with very conflicting emotions. On the one hand, if we have to write one more paper, take one more test, read one more interesting but extremely dry book, or sit for another three hour lecture on subjects that we are supposed to understand by now but really just make our brains hurt, we might just run away screaming. On the other, graduation is exciting, but it means that we are going to have to leave this place soon. We don’t want to say goodbye to all of our friends and move out of our campus housing, and go to… go to… well, we have really no idea where we are headed because we have circulated our PIFs and resumes and done a few interviews but have no offers so far, or our bishop hasn’t appointed us anywhere yet.

But while my own internal monologue has been in a similar panic, I am reminded of Abraham: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’… So Abram went.” (Genesis 12:1, 4a). Did Abram know where he was going, or why, or what he was going to do when he got there? No. Did he relish the idea of leaving the familiar things behind? Probably not. Still, “Abram went.” Now nearing the end of our journey, Seniors are called to go from this campus community and go to the land that God hasn’t yet shown to us. So we will go. It will not be easy.

When I was preparing to graduate from undergrad, I had very specific plans. I was going to go to seminary (a different one) right away (it was 5 years later), and graduate in 3 years (I’m doing it in 4) finish the ordination process (I’m staying lay), and be in full-time ministry before I turned 30 (I’ll be 31 in March). As you can see, NONE of those plans came true exactly the way I wanted them to! This time around, things are much different. I have no plans, trusting this promise: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). I just know I have to go.

I hope that Seniors know that somewhere out there, there is a call for us. There is a congregation, a home, and new friends ready for us there. God is preparing places for us, even as God is preparing us for those places. So until then, Lord, keep our hope alive and faith strong!

Written by: Heather Runser, recent M.Div graduate at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Call to the Service

I have always been drawn to the idea of serving in the military but never knew exactly how that fit in with all of the other goals I had in my life. That all changed when a chaplain with the United State Air Force was standing in the rotunda of Long Hall. After speaking with him, with my wife and praying over it I knew God was calling me into military chaplaincy. After many months of paperwork, I was accepted into the United States Air Force Reserve chaplain candidate program. This program is specially designed for seminary students to complete training during the summer while still attending classes during the academic year.

This past summer, I had the pleasure of spending twelve weeks training and traveling to various military bases with a group of other candidates to see what the work of a chaplain looks like. During these twelve weeks, we were able to see God’s work in so many different ways. It was also a great time where I was also able to grow in faith, and encounter God in ways that I never had before.

While this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life it was also one that tested my calling. There were times when I was sure that this was not where I was supposed to be and that I seriously doubted my calling into military chaplaincy. It was during these times that I would make sure to turn to Scripture and prayer to look for affirmation that I had made a mistake, but that’s not what I heard. I was constantly reminded that in times of turmoil or struggling God is there and that God’s plans are greater than anything we can imagine in our brokenness.

As with any calling in our life, it is important to go through these times of trial while still relying on God to guide us so that we can come through them stronger and better equipped to serve others. If we just move through our ministry while tuning out God in these times of adversity, then we are setting ourselves up for depression, burn-out, and just overall poor spiritual health. It is imperative that during these times of trial and adversity that we make sure that we are open to where God is guiding us and to be extra aware that while it may not seem like our plan is working out how we want, if we are open to God’s calling in our life and in our ministry then it is ultimately God that is working through us for the betterment of God’s people.

Written by: Tyler J. Bayless, 2Lt, USAFR, Chaplain Candidate, and current middler M.Div student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

No More Monologues


The Art of Spiritual Conversation:

We do ourselves a great disservice in the church when we do not teach the art of spiritual conversation. Talking about spiritual things cannot be something that is relegated to pastors. The language of Christianity cannot be something that is merely sung in worship songs and uttered in ancient liturgical sayings.

When people’s primary experience in the church is that of being passive recipients, then we have not prepared them to take Jesus seriously. When individuals are told to sit down and shut up or only use other people’s words to articulate what they believe, then we do not actually invite them into a place of authentic wrestling with what they believe. If the invitation into the messiness of the Christian journey is not extended at church, the necessary skills are not taught and celebrated, then it is no wonder that the people of God who are searching and seeking meaning and substance will walk away from the church finding it to be a dull and dry vessel with very little good news to share.

I am not advocating that we throw out the past by doing away with things like the Confessions and the Hymns. What I am saying is that they in themselves are not the end all. It is not enough to say and sing the “right” words. The words of those who have come before us and the words of pastors today preaching and teaching the Biblical text are not untouchable. They provide us with an opportunity to do what Christians have been doing for centuries now…

To figure out what in fact we do believe. They invite us to articulate our faith not in the words of others but in our own words. They invite us to be a part of a living faith right now in 21st Century America. Spiritual conversation refuses to settle for wrote memorization. Spiritual conversations move from consumerism to engagement. Spiritual conversations move us away from being isolated spiritual beings and force us into frustratingly human relationship. They require humility and vulnerability as we share our questions and our ideas.

Written by: Simeon Harrar ’13, Director of Student Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, PA.

Read more about Simeon at his website: http://www.simeonharrar.com/