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I love the library

I'll never forget a conversation I once had with a student when I was TAing introductory Greek literature and culture. She came in to office hours to ask whether she could borrow a copy of Aristophanes' The Clouds, as she'd lent her copy to a friend and it was a required text for the course. I was feeling a little testy that afternoon, so I said something like this:

“Unfortunately, I only have one copy of the play, and I need it for teaching. But there's a great program on campus where you can just walk into this building, take any book you want off the shelves, and they'll lend it to you FOR FREE for weeks at a time. They've got practically anything you'd want, and if they don't have it, they'll borrow it from someone else to get it to you.”

“Wow ... I can't believe they've got a program like that for free and they don't advertise it,” the student gushed excitedly.

“It's called the 'library,' I said.”

But although I've used libraries for research a lot, I hadn't been to a library to check out anything for fun since I was in junior high, and I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to have this place where you can go and borrow not just books, but movies and CD's for free. And I've fallen in love with my local library. It's just a few blocks from my house, it's got free parking for when I want to stop by on my way home from grocery shopping or somesuch, and it's one of those rare instances of a recently-erected public building that's beautifully designed -- bright with lots of warm woods.

Their selection of nonfiction isn't what I'd want from a seminary library; for example, I've never read Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy, for example, even though I think I'm guessing from the title that I'd find it the best of his books, simply because I'm trying to buy as few books as possible. That's for financial reasons, since editing The Witness is only a part-time job, and my bishop has decided I should get another master's in divinity starting in September, which means both that I won't be able to get a full-time job until after I've finished and that we'll have to come up with seminary tuition and living expenses to maintain two households (since Karen's job isn't portable, and seminaries within commuting distance from here don't have enough flexibility in their curricula to allow me to do a third theological master's without repeating a lot of what I've done before. I'm also trying not to buy more books because I've already got five floor-to-ceiling bookcases full, most of which are on biblical studies and theology, and I don't see how I can fit what I've got into a seminary dorm room.

Anyway, the library doesn't have A Generous Orthodoxy. They get most books from folks of Pat Robertson's theological ilk -- I imagine that conservative Christians are vocal about requesting them -- but they don't have nearly as much selection in popular books from progressive Christian authors. They do, however, have a really good selection of DVD's, and I'm making good use of their collection. I'm also doing something that might surprise y'all:

I'm reading the Left Behind series. I usually try to keep abreast of anything in pop culture that's getting people talking about theology, but I just couldn't bring myself to generate any profits for that particular franchise, so I didn't buy them -- and since I didn't buy them, I didn't read them. But then I got hooked on slacktivist's posts on the first book, and then I rediscovered the library -- that wonderful building where they let you borrow books for free. Now I'm reading the books (I read quickly, so I can get through one of them in an afternoon) without giving the authors any money. I'm on the sixth volume now, and though it's getting pretty tiresome, I'll probably finish the series. While I doubt I'd blog about them anywhere near as well as slactivist does, and I definitely don't have the patience to post on every chapter as he does, I'll probably blog a bit and fairly generally about the series and its theology.

I also have a new year's resolution, and that's to follow through on something I've wanted to do here for a while: post frequently to my resources page. There have been many, many times when I've rented a movie or read a book because I thought it might be helpful for a youth group, a small group for adults, or in some other area of parish life, and this year I plan to start sharing those regularly on SarahLaughed.net.

Hope y'all had a joyous Christmas, and are finding the new year off to a good start.

January 6, 2006 in Books, Life and Whatnot, Movies | Permalink


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Hi Dylan,

So where are you going for your (next) MDiv? I note that you've got a Luther Seminary ad on your blog. I was out there in October for the Gospel and Our Culture Network consultation, and I was blown away. They've got Pat Keifert, Craig Van Gelder, and ties to a lot of the most energizing minds in missional theology and ecclesiology. As I'm trying to figure out my own vocation, a few years in Minnesota is beginning to seem pretty attractive. But if you're willing to share, I'd love to know both where you're planning to go and what other schools you looked at or are looking at. Thanks in advance!


Posted by: Mike Croghan | Jan 6, 2006 5:06:27 PM

Luther Seminary does look very cool, and I love the idea of a D.Min., where the learning takes place in the context of your local community as well as with a cohort of fellow students. My bishop really wants me to do another residential degree, though, so I'm looking primarily at the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in Cambridge, MA and General Theological Seminary in New York City. Thus far, EDS's curriculum looks like it provides more flexibility, which is important to me, since I want as much as possible not to simply repeat coursework I've covered elsewhere, but I'm hoping to get up to General soon to talk with them about what kind of an M.Div. program there might work for me. I did look at a number of other Episcopal seminaries and the Lutheran seminary at Gettysburg (my bishop was OK with me going there, and it's close enough that I could live at home), but their curricula mostly require both that students not take courses that they had already taken at the graduate level elsewhere AND that they substitute an elective in the same field for every required course from which they're exempted due to previous coursework. There just aren't that many courses in New Testament offered!

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer | Jan 7, 2006 12:50:42 AM

Just what is your bishop's reasoning on why you need a *third* theological degree?

A friend of mine who was ordained in a diocese about 4 hrs south of you, and who has a BA, MA, and PhD in history and has taught history for yonks as her first vocation, cut a deal w/ her bishop whereby she took 3 years of seminary coursework, 1 year of it residential, but it didn't have to add up to an actual *degree*. They just came to an agreement about what the bishop and COM wanted her to experience in her ministerial education and designed a syllabus accordingly. She ended up w/ a Cert in Ang Studies from VTS for 1 year's residential study and a whole bunch of credits from Union-PSCE in stuff like Bible and preaching and education.

So long as you meet whatever learning/formation objectives folks are anxious about, how important is another piece of sheepskin, anyway? (Except for financial aid eligibility--sometimes non-degree students aren't eligible for any--which may well be a factor to consider.)

Posted by: Gillian Barr | Jan 8, 2006 8:55:08 PM

Don't forget your interlibrary loan! And if for some reason you can't do that, I'll look round these parts; Fairfax Co.'s library is the one thing I love about living in northern virginia.

BTW, I'm having that discussion I mentioned to you with Fr. Jim on the 17th. :)

Posted by: Helen | Jan 8, 2006 9:06:53 PM

Oh, I love libraries too...even my small-town one, which has a miserable religion section. Our interlibrary loan program is a great help, although the aides always roll their eyes when I come to the desk asking for some obscure theological tome.;-)

Having just spent mondo dinero on The Daily Prayers of the Church, something tells me I'm going to be going to the library more...

Posted by: LutheranChik | Jan 8, 2006 9:33:59 PM

Does your bishop really insist that you do a full three year residential M.Div? At General you could earn an STM or a certificate in Anglican Studies in a year and probably get what he thinks you're missing. Surely he doesn't expect you to do biblical studies and church history over again?

Posted by: Rev. Dr. Mom | Jan 9, 2006 5:42:32 PM

Rev. Dr. Mom and Gillian,

My bishop does want me to get the full M.Div. -- sheepskin and all -- as he thinks this additional degree and being in residence on campus for the whole time is important for my formation. This is a change in plan -- before, he'd thought a D.Min. would be fine -- but I'm obeying with a glad heart, albeit a light wallet and heavy debt load. Seminary is a fun place to be, and while I do wish I could remain in full-time ministry in a congregation, I plan to get as much as possible out of the experience. Fortunately, EDS has a flexible enough curriculum that I think I can get an M.Div. from there without repeating much -- they're very good with independent study courses, and students can also take courses from any institution in the consortium of which they're a part. GTS might also be able to put a suitable program together, but I have to come in for an interview to see.

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer | Jan 9, 2006 6:08:01 PM

I loved seminary, and I would've gladly stayed longer if $$ had allowed it, so I understand what you mean. But I also know how hard it is to jump through all the hoops in the process and all the hurry up and wait stuff.

I'm a GTS alum, so of course, I'm biased and I love NYC, but I know EDS has lots to offer, too. Good luck!

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