Called Home to a Place at the Table

Many tears have been shed today. Derek read the story of David not killing Jonathan’s son even though he is actually supposed to be the next in line for the throne. David welcome’s Jonathan’s son into his own home and welcomes him to his table the most. Like David welcoming Jonathan’s son to the table we were welcomed to the Table for Communion. Tammy and Sheldon led us in the sacrament. We finished morning worship with coming together in prayer and all we could pray were praises to God for these past two weeks.

We slowly started leaving after worship for the most part. One of us ¬†left early in the morning at 4:30am. Slowly but surely the amount of us at PTS dwindled. Hugs, tears, more hugs, and more tears happened through the few hours before all of us were gone. We have all made it home by now. We should have all read our affirmation notes by now and cried some more. But the amazing things about us parting ways after these two weeks is that we are able to take all that we learned into the world and we will see each other again in various places over the years. And…we have our reunion in January of 2016!

Kiana, Chelsea, Kaylyn, Luis, Chistian, Maddy, Lauren, Andi, Annie, Anna, Harim, Rachel, Laura, Lance, Katie, Kelcey, Kyle, Grace, Mathew, Karl, Alex, Erin, Derek, and Dylan. We are all called home to a place at the table with each other and with God.

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Called to Remember

On this, our last day we have been called to remember. At worship this morning Derek told us the story that happens in 1 Samuel 21. David is running for his life and he runs to a temple and a priest is there. David asks for food and weapons. The only food the priest has is the bread of the presence of the Lord. David keeps insisting on it and finally gets it. The only weapon is the sword of Goliath. David asks for it and is given it because there is none like it. Because of this situation David is called to remember that he was never left alone. God was always with him. Just like David, God is always with us, even in our moments where we can’t feel him.

Today was the last day of electives. We finished our languages and have learned how to translate texts from the Hebrew and the Greek. We asked general theological questions in the religious experience class. We talked about Communion and art in worship in the worship class. Today’s lunch was a cookout style lunch with staff of PTS and it was great sitting around a table with them.

Instead of having Bible with Dr. Creach we had a photo shoot with our awesome photographer, Alex. The first half hour or so was with us in our purple SYI t-shirts in the breezeway doing various poses and in various groups. We then spent a good hour or so outside in dress attire sitting on a hot leather couch and chairs. We had such a great time doing various poses! Alex was awesome!

After all of that we had a slip n’ slide and just hanging out. After dinner we had a talent show/gospel slam. Some of the talents shown were playing the cello, singing various songs, reading poetry written by us, and doing a skit about some of the staff. Tammy and Sheldon, our Wise Old Dude and Dudette, sang us a song that one of their friends wrote for them. It was a wonderful sending off song to us. Now we are all just writing our affirmation notes and watching a movie in Knox. We are just enjoying each other’s company on the final night.

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I Will Wait

This morning Derek read the rest of 1 Samuel 20 which tells of Jonathan and David finishing their covenant and then parting ways. Derek spoke about how David was left with nothing. David left Jesse, his dad, early on and he wasn’t seen after that. David’s brother wasn’t seen after the beginning of the Goliath story. Saul became jealous and David had to run from him. He had to leave his wife. Jonathan, his best friend, even leaves him defenseless. We are sometimes left with nothing. But we must wait upon the Lord to keep us safe.

After worship we had our language and general elective classes for one of the last times. In Bible we read through pieces of Revelation 21-22. Dr. Creach showed us that the language of these chapters show a finalizing of creation, a sacrificial God, and an ending of evil like tears, suffering, and death. We asked questions about the difference between Hades and Hell and we ran out of time to really discuss it in much detail.

We then went to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church here in Pittsburgh as part of the Greek language elective. The priest taught us about the different icons in the building and about some of the rituals. He told us that if we ever wanted to go to an Orthodox service it should be an Easter service because that is the most important church holiday for the Orthodox church as a whole, and not Christmas.

Tonight we got to continue the question and answer session with Dr. Creach. We wrote down questions a few days ago for him to look over and try to answer as many as possible. Some of the questions were similar and many could be grouped into types of questions. The types he put them in were questions about the Bible, theology, and Christian life. We did get to talk a bit more about Hell this evening. Some of the questions were, “Can the God we worship be trusted? And how?”, “Where do we get this masculine picture of God? With that, where is there language of God as female/motherly?”, and “Is it OK for a Christian to believe both the creation story and evolution?”

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Speak, Listen, and Be Open with Learning

We worshiped this morning in the chapel again. Derek read the lectionary text from First Samuel 20 which is about Jonathan and David making a covenant with each other. Derek spoke about David having to flee from Saul. He also spoke on the covenant that was made between David and Jonathan and that it goes back to the covenants made between God and Noah, God and Abraham, and God and Moses. Derek described a covenant as one part marriage to the person, one part law-abiding, and one part pinky swear. It is definitely an interesting way of thinking of covenant.

After worship we shadowed pastors at three different churches; Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community ( along with going to the Pittsburgh Presbytery office (, Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church (, and East Liberty Presbyterian Church ( We learned much from our experiences. After shadowing pastors at these churches and the Presbytery office we shadowed staff here at the Seminary. We shadowed people who work for maintenance, financial aid/business office, IT, and a few others. The reality is that around 20% of all who go through SYI will actually go into full time ministry vocations. Erin and Derek wanted to help us understand that there are ways to live our lives as ministry and doing everyday jobs.

After all of this travelling and shadowing people we had a family dinner and digested what we learned from these people. We learned things like, “You can make something out of nothing.”, “Don’t be afraid to stand out.”, “If you can talk about in the parking lot, you can talk about it in church.”, “Every job counts.”, “Faith outlines your life.”, and “Don’t strive for human redemption.” Erin asked us how can take these back home and we came up with ideas like this, “Make everything on the list of what we learned today and make it a verb.” and “Be open to different perspectives.”

Tonight Becca “Dixie” Dix was our plenary speaker. She is a student here at the seminary and has experience in what is known as gospel slam ( She shared this video first to show what gospel slam is, ( Afterward she explained that gospel slam is a form of spoken word that brings us into telling a story about our Christian life and inviting us into God’s story. Gospel slamming brings not just into God’s story, but bringing all of our stories into one through God. She then had us just free write on three different phrases, “I remember when…”, “I love the smell of…”, and “I used to be afraid (of)…” We then were able to share what we had written. Sadly, Becca ran out of time tonight for us to be finished with the idea of gospel slamming, but good because we have a second night with Becca to finish up creating for gospel slamming.

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It is getting down to the wire after today. Erin reminded us last night that with today we only had four full days left to spend with each other. All of us are realizing how little an amount of time that is and are being more intentional with each other. But, Erin also reminded us that just because the two weeks of SYI ends on Saturday that it sure does not mean that the relationships we have developed will end, but will carry on long after. This morning we sang the mash-up of Days of Elijah with Home by Phillip Phillips after Derek spoke on 1 Samuel 19 which is where David has to run from what he knows as home and goes to be at home with Samuel while he is hiding from Saul.

We were challenged more today in our elective classes and Bible. The languages are different still, but we are slowly becoming more accustomed to them. Both the religious experience and worship classes are challenging us on our ideas of what worship is and what we call a religious experience such as miracles, praying, what evil is and more. In Bible today we read over Psalm 23 and 137. We probably all at least have an idea of what Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd…..” Psalm 137 is is a lament over the destruction of Jerusalem and it is difficult to read because it has such harsh language about devastation.


At the beginning of today we were invited into a murder mystery event for our Free Time today. Superheroes, played by us scholars and staff, were invited to the Annual Superhero Assembly, hosted by Electra, for the Justice Confederation to talk about the supervillian Da Bomb. Each of us superheroes were given details that were specific to our character. We played the event out in three rounds. The first round was us talking to each other about various things. The second round included a superhero, Nerdon, and each of us superheroes figuring out who killed Nerdon. At the end of round two we turned in our findings and conclusions as to who killed Nerdon. The third round was us confessing to why we didn’t kill Nerdon except for one of us who turned out to be the murderer.

We have ended the night with dinner and jazz and theology. Dr. Susan Kendall, who is part of the Doctor of Ministry program here at the Seminary spoke about theology and jazz and how they relate. Dr. Kendall related jazz and theology together because of the way that theology will say something about God and love and it can be phrased many different forms just like jazz is so much a form of phrasing the same idea in different forms. “Theology like jazz is an experience of the soul and spirit – linked to practice and knowledge. What is shared is an understanding of life as: Creative, Inter-relational, Dynamic, Open to the Future, God as Present in Every Moment of our Lives, and the World as Interconnected.” – Dr. Kendall. She ended the night with a “Summertime” ( song from Porgy and Bess and the above quote for a second time.

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Hydration Overload

We were challenged in our ways of worship today in morning worship. Derek brought in the woman who created the Goliath work of art that he had shown us a few days ago. This woman brought sketch paper and colored pencils to use during worship after Derek had read the story of Saul becoming jealous of David in First Samuel 18. We each got a minute or so to start drawing on our piece of paper and then Derek told us to pass our paper to the person on our right and they had a chance to add to the work. We did this while Derek read the story of Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion which comes from a collection of stories by James Ridley ( After Derek finished the story we saw the beauty that was created from many contributors to a piece that could have been solely your own.

After worship we went to our elective language classes. This was the first day for us with the new languages and some of us were frustrated and some of us were so excited to be learning a second language. After the languages we went to our general elective classes and we were challenged more by ideas. Each of us is having our worldviews rocked slowly and sometimes all at once. Our Bible class is doing the same thing.

After lunch we had about an hour of just relaxing and then had such fun! We had water games with water balloon tosses, tic-tac-toe with water balloon launchers, and water guns/super soakers! We got absolutely soaked but there was such a huge amount of laughter and joy in just being kids in a space of two weeks where we are challenged to think more like adults and have our worldviews rocked.

Tonight’s plenary session was with Rev. Michael Stanton who works with Open Hand Ministries ( Michael rocked a lot of our worldviews even more. He spoke about the way Open Hand works with people in the Garfield and East Liberty communities and helps them become more a part of the community by rehabing a house in the neighborhood but by working with the families that will be living in that house and empowering them to not be brought down by racism and genderism. Michael definitely has a passion for bringing both of these neighborhoods into a way of living that does not live into the ideas/stereotypes that are pressed upon the people that live here.

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Today we worshiped at The Open Door here in East Liberty. BJ Woodworth who is the main pastor, preached on Colossians 1 and praying without ceasing for others. They held Communion today and all were welcomed to the table. At the end of the service some of us went up to the front to offer tithes and took part in the invitation to remember our baptism.

After church this morning we came back to the Seminary for lunch and then off to Kennywood we went! We all had so much fun riding the coasters and walking around the historic amusement park. Since we are Trinitarian focused we had to go in groups of at least three people. The day was spent on rides like The Phantom’s Revenge, The Exterminator, The Whip, and other really awesome rides at Kennywood!

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Dance Til You Can’t Anymore!

We had our second mission morning today with the Garfield Community Farm and Open Hand Ministries. We switched sites today, so the group that was at the house on Wednesday went to the farm today and vice versa. The group at the farm pulled weeds, sifted through compost, fed Clifford the rabbit, moved wood chips, and pulled and hung garlic to dry out. The group at the house helped move a family that Open Hand works with from their apartment to another one and weeded the back yard at the house.

After our mission morning we took time to just relax and then the scholars went on an awesome scavenger hunt! They had to take videos and pictures of various things or of them doing various things around the Seminary’s campus. They had lots of fun with it and were very creative! After the scavenger hunt we had small groups early.


We then had pizza, that Tom our cook, made and watched The Avengers. A lot of the scholars fell asleep during the movie. The RA’s had to wake up the scholars to get them to come down to the awesome dance! We had such a great time at the dance! Everybody was sweating so much by the end, but we all enjoyed just being sweaty together and singing all the songs and dancing like total fools! :)

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Let’s Go Bucs!

Today was Funky and Fresh Friday! We dressed up in tacky clothes from Goodwill or just put clothes on that clashed badly and made us look quite tacky. We had so much fun! It was just a way for us to goof off and have fun!

We had our classes as usual today. Today was also the last day for us on our first language. We are switching languages for next week. Those of us that had Greek this week will have Hebrew and vice versa. It will be a great switcheroo! During Bible Dr. Creach spoke for a bit on justice, righteousness, and peace/shalom and how justice and righteousness are geared towards the people without a support system or someone/something to guard from the hardships of the world. He had us split up into three groups and look at passages that showed that.

After Bible we had a time to nap or just relax. Most of us used that time to nap for sure because we were starting to get tired from the long week. We then had time to play games like Spoons or some of us watched Prince of Egypt. After dinner tonight we went to the Pirates game. It was such fun! We had great seats! It was for sure a nail biting game towards the end with it going three innings over. But we won!!! The Pirates won 3 to 2 against the New York Mets!!!!!!

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This morning we worshiped in the newly renovated chapel on campus. It was wonderful being in a new space and hearing the organ, french horn, and trumpet guiding us in our singing. We had our third day of class and it was filled with learning. We learned more Hebrew and Greek. Today in Bible we were kinda all over the place. We talked about Abraham and how he was blessed to be blessing. We also talked how we are brought into the great nation and because of that we are blessed to be a blessing like Abraham.

After Bible we had study sessions in the library, with Brad for Hebrew and Greek, and out on the deck. After study time we made trips to Goodwill and Whole Foods. After we all got back to the Seminary we played a game of Capture the Flag. It was kinda crazy because the campus was a bit bigger than we really thought. We have refined the lines for next time.

Tonight at dinner we hosted long-time friends of the SYI program, Bob and Marilyn. They were so wonderful and sweet! Two Vice Presidents from the Seminary, James Downey and Tom Pappalardo also came to dinner tonight and we continued our conversation about how to be creative in worship and how calling to ministry should be more than a job, but a lifelong way of living.

Evening worship was outside on the tennis courts. There were candles spread out through out the court and we sat down in between the candles. Jeremy opened with Light the Fire and we repeated it a few times with the candles burning bright. We prayed through Psalm 25 and then sang Thy Word. We split up into groups of threes and fours and prayed around a candle. Finally we closed with Open the Eyes of My Heart.

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