Friday, October 16, 2015

In Between Time

Dipping my toes into the blog waters again.

I’ve been back with my parents since June as my ordination process plods along. I love my parents, and I’m relishing this time to relax and heal from what happened to me at SFTS, but I feel guilty about not being gainfully employed. I should probably start looking for a job, but I hesitate because I don’t know how attractive I would be as an employee because I could leave for a ministry job at any time. Maybe I could get some seasonal work?

The reason I felt compelled to write this is because my mom just handed me a wad of cash so I could pay the premium on my life insurance policy. I guess I never updated my info with my life insurance policy, so they ended up calling my dad when I missed my payment. It was really embarrassing for me, in a way that I can’t really put my finger on. Maybe it’s because I’ve been out of the house for 6 years while at school and was used to taking care of things myself.

But now that I think about it, I did accumulate an incredible amount of student debt. I have to say, though, that for a good year an a half before I was “let go,” I was paying my rent (my ridiculous Marin rent), and my considerable student loans, and I was doing okay. It’s hard to admit that I need help now.

I guess the thing that I’m having the hardest time with is wondering what my parents are thinking all the time. Here I am, their oldest son, recently graduated from seminary, and I’ve just been sitting around the house for 5 months. I try to help out where I can. I’m a really good cook, so I cook four or five times a week for the family. I take out the trash and recycling every week, and I do any yard work that my parents ask me to, which admittedly isn’t much. I defrosted the freezer in the garage a few days ago, which was annoying and strangely exciting at the same time. I’d never defrosted a freezer before. I help keep things tidy, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve been nudging my ordination process along.

I know my parents love me. The last thing I want is for them to think that I’m taking advantage of them. I know that I’ll be able to make it up to them someday, but right now, I just feel kind of helpless.

Friday, July 10, 2015

How San Francisco Theological Seminary Betrayed Me

I loved being a student at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). It was an open and accepting environment, I was able to deepen my understanding of God and my faith, and I made lot of incredible friends. As part of my Masters in Divinity degree, I got a concentration in Christian Spirituality, which included creating a thirty-four foot long mosaic mural in one of the common areas on campus. I called it “Faith, Hope, and Love” and it depicts my understanding of the work that God did to save humanity. The seminary is now using the mural as the basis of a $6 million fundraising campaign, and as the creator of the mural, I was proud that the images from it were going out into the world for what I perceived to be a good cause.

The four years I spent studying at SFTS were some of the greatest years of my life. I will always remember the profound learning that happened as a student and the fun times that I had, but now, my memories are tainted with the understanding of how the seminary actually sees me. Now that I am no longer a student, I am disposable. I am no longer a person to them.

Shortly after graduating, the seminary asked if I would work in the communications department. I agreed because I loved the school and it would be a steady source of income that would allow me to stay in the area while I completed my ordination process. I was told that I would have a job for two years, as part of a pilot program that would help recent graduates by providing gainful employment in a job that one might possibly be ordained into.

A year and half later, I was fired for no reason, without any warning.

The school continues to use my mosaic for it’s fundraising campaign, and there is even a video of me talking about the mosaic on the giving page of the website.

I was utterly betrayed by this institution. The school appropriated my work for its own use, and then fired me with no regard to my relationship with the school.

Before all of this happened, I was one of the school’s biggest cheerleaders. I loved SFTS, and I did everything in my power to help it succeed. I worked hard and focused all of my creative energies on ways to help the school. But, my work was not appreciated. Recently, I met someone who was thinking about going to seminary. My gut instinct was to recommend SFTS, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want to be the person who recommended SFTS if he decided to go there and then ended up having a bad experience. I no longer trust the institution. I think a lot of the people there have forgotten what it means to be Christian.

One of the most important parts of being a Christian is being in relationship with other people. Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are supposed to care for and love each other. If the people at SFTS are incapable of doing this, how can we expect them to teach it?

I know that there are good people working there, on the staff and on the faculty, but they are not able to stand up to the institution, and it pains me that in writing this, I may be hurting them. But, I am powerless against this institution, and this is the only thing that I can do to make sure that my voice is heard. I have no faith that this institution is capable of doing the right thing. This may not always be true, and I hope that this changes. But, it’s true now.