Throughout a long process of discernment, especially over the last year or so, we've been trying to figure out whether I should pursue a PhD or do something else (e.g. paid ministry, some sort of creative ministry, join my husband in his photography business, adjunct teach, etc.). I applied to programs and got into at least one of the (4) to which I applied (I haven't heard back from them all), and it's an amazing school that I would recommend highly, the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. I feel like it would fit well with my personality, and has supportive faculty and student body I could work well with. In some ways I get really excited about doing a PhD. That (large) introverted side of me thinks, "Oooh, days on end in the library reading and writing on something I'm really interested in! What could be more fun?!" I know, I'm a total nerd.
But then...there's this other part of me that says, "Yeah, so what?" That other part of me is named "Joel," lately. =) But it's been a nagging question in me for a long time. I really like doing research and reading and writing and all that stuff. I took a learning style inventory the other day in my youth ministry class and landed squarely in the "abstract conceptualization" style. I know you're all surprised, seeing as how I use so many concrete metaphors and stories to explain my points...(that's sarcasm, in case you didn't catch it!). But my point is that I feel like maybe that's mostly because that's the way I've been taught to think and learn.
Really I'm a very practical person. One of my professors last semester, who agreed to be one of my references for PhD applications for which I am very grateful, suggested that I might fit better in the "practical theology" department rather than Religion & Society/Ethics & Social Theory programs to which I was applying. It wasn't that he didn't think I could do the work, he said, it's just that because I actually want to apply everything to the church--y'know, think about how ethics should be lived out in REAL LIFE (heaven forbid!)--that I might not be as happy in a more theoretical field. I think he was right, although I don't necessarily feel like I fit with practical theology either, because the focus there is not ethics and theology and how to live out our faith, but is more about education, pastoral care and church leadership. (Those are good things, but not as close to my interests.)
So, I decided maybe I don't really fit in the academy. I can do the work. I have learned to be an "abstract conceptualizer," and I really enjoy that kind of thinking and learning. But at some point there has to be an application to real life.
And that's where it gets scary.
Joel and I have been talking about how all the stuff we're doing is making ourselves look credible in our fields, preparing for living, waiting...and it can be kind of comfortable there (although also tiring, since it's always so transitory). But maybe it's time to actually go DO something now.
Plus, when we got married, people affirmed in us and we saw in ourselves complementary gifts that would fit together well for ministry. So far we haven't really gotten to use those gifts together for much besides leading music here or there, or things like that. And one of us has been in school (or at least had school hanging over our heads) since we were married over 7 years ago.
So we're moving back to Oregon. We don't know when, or how, or to do what, but we'll be there sometime this summer! And presumably for good!
Our goal is to do something together, whether that's direct, paid ministry, or photography, or something else altogether. Maybe it won't work to have jobs together, but at least we want to work on something together to actually live out the stuff we've been talking about for so long.
Options (in no particular order):
a. pastoral job, especially youth ministry
b. start a "house church" or some non-traditional worship group with Quaker values but without Quaker "liturgy" (of either sort)
c. Joel's photography business, where Joel does the primary photography, I learn a bit and help out, and also help with marketing and the creative post-processing stuff
d. find a non-profit to work for
e. a creative ministry with a format something between Pendle Hill and an organic community garden that brings together different ethnic groups (probably Anglos and Latino/as, although neither of us know Spanish yet. Aber, ich spreche einiger Deutsch! Sehr nutzlich...)
f. travel around to various Friends meetings around the country and hold workshops to listen and dialogue about what we're called to as Friends today, and then start organizing across the Quaker spectrum to work on that issue together
g. who knows what else!
So it's kind of exciting, and kind of just...uncertain (still). But at least we know we're going home, and we'll be done with school, and we can start living. Maybe this is what it means to move out of "emerging adulthood" into "young adulthood," to use Arnett's categories (look for the post on Arnett a few posts back). At any rate, we're excited!
Hold us in the Light as we continue to process what this all looks like, and try to be creative, realistic, non-traditional and financially stable all at the same time!