Author Topic: Deciding if seminary is right for me  (Read 1492 times)

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Offline Clarity

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Deciding if seminary is right for me
« on: May 15, 2014, 11:40:48 am »
Since I lost my last job a little more than a year ago when I was starting my transition, I have been having a really difficult time finding my way back into a good paying full-time job. I have managed to get a part-time retail job, but I'm not happy there and the pay isn't high enough to be paying on my student loans. One of the things I always said at my old job while we were in the midst of recession was that I would go back to school for a graduate level degree if I were to ever lose the job as a way to escape from a bad job market until it recovered. Well, now that I'm in that boat I've been thinking that going to seminary might be the route I go if I do choose to go back to school.

First off, I should mention that I wasn't happy in my old job. I only stuck it out for as long as I did since I didn't feel like it would be possible for me to find better. When I look back, I often feel like I chose the wrong major back in college. I double-majored in chemistry and Spanish back in undergrad school, but I don't think that the sciences was the right choice for me given that I cannot seem to do lab work well. I've considered using my Spanish degree to start a second career, but I'm having a hard time at that since I lack experience. I hear that the best way to go second career is by going back for a higher degree. The reason why I'm looking at seminary is due to my recent experiences with having a loving and accepting church that has embraced me in my transition and the impact that has made on helping me to keep going during this difficult time.

The main reason I'm worried about going back to school is due to money. I already have an obscene amount of student loans that have been in deferment for over a year now and are just getting bigger from gaining interest. I'm afraid of going back to school only to end up in the same boat of being unable to find a job that pays for my loans and having a greater amount of debt. I'm also worried about it being impossible for me to be ordained as a transgender woman, especially considering the track record of my denomination (United Methodist) with allowing LGBT persons to serve openly.

The other big question is what I would do with my degree. I don't know that preaching is my thing so I'm trying to figure out what else would be out there. For the last year, social justice has been on my mind a lot. I also feel like my bilingual skills would make this a good direction for me to pursue. I'm still at the point where I can carry on a regular conversation in Spanish 6 years after graduation and without actively using my skills on a regular basis. In fact, the whole reason I chose that as a second major was since I was excelling at 300 level Spanish courses and really enjoying them. I have even thought about learning a 3rd language because of how much I enjoyed foreign language courses throughout high school and undergraduate.

So, those are my thoughts and questions. I'm sorry if this got to be a bit TL;DR for some people, but I'm trying to find some guidance as to where I might go next. I'm open to suggestions of schools to consider as well as resources for scholarships and financial aid. Once again, money is a huge concern here and I would like to know that I will be able to afford going back to school before I do it.

Offline DriftingCrow

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Re: Deciding if seminary is right for me
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2014, 09:47:04 pm »
You can follow Constance's journey in the next few months for some further insight and advice: https://www.susans.org/forums/index.php/topic,160562.0.html

I have no good advice, but I think it would be so great to have more open LGBT clergy of all religions. :)

ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ

Offline JamesG

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Re: Deciding if seminary is right for me
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2014, 10:04:20 pm »
You are right that you face an uphill climb pursuing seminary as transgendered in the UMC.  However... the Methodist Church like most are approaching a crisis as their traditional membership of ol' white and black folks die off (literally!). There is a strong recognized need to improve the churches appeal to Latinos and to other previously marginalized groups.  I imagine you would be a dead ringer for that.  I'm not in a position to help you (I'm not even a lay leader), and I don't know how you'd get from there to there, but if you talk to your current pastor and district super, maybe even the bishop, they should see your value to the church and suggest opportunities, be it scholarships or paid missionary work, etc.

Best of luck!

Offline Clarity

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Re: Deciding if seminary is right for me
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2014, 09:38:50 pm »
I feel like I'm coming to the time where I'll need to make a decision. I don't want to hurry my decision or try to make it while I'm feeling upset about my current situation or stressed out after a tough day working retail. I'm hoping to give this some thought and prayer over the next few days. I'm going to have to take risks. I don't want to be stuck going nowhere for the rest of my life.

This morning at my church service, the pastor mentioned in the sermon how many times he has been able to turn to a random page in the bible and find something meaningful and helpful for him many times. I had actually done this one time in my life. It is how I ended up coming out as transgender since my friend I was staying with at the time got the same meaning from the passage that there was something which I needed to confess. I didn't tell them right away after reading that, but spent a restless night wrestling with whether I should come out. I did so the next morning and felt really good to have finally gotten it out. Taking that first step and pursuing transition afterwards was a huge risk, but it has definitely paid off by making me a happier and more open person. I feel like this may be a similar situation. Does anyone here know someone that might be able to help talk me through this or help me out in finding the purpose that I need to discover through these times? If not, I could always use prayers while I try to sort everything out and hopefully make a wise choice in the near future.

Offline Constance

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Re: Deciding if seminary is right for me
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2014, 10:17:19 pm »
I can't speak to being trans and pursuing ordination in the UMC as I'm UCC. But my transition was formative in my decision to apply to seminary.

My spiritual journey and growth last year was completely interwoven with my journey as a trans woman. These things culminated in my re-baptism in November, four days after the Transgender Day of Remembrance. My chosen name was made my legal name in January 2013, and in the re-baptism it was made my Christian name. Among the baptismal promises my pastor asked me was this one:

Quote
In this commitment will you do your best by GOD's abundant grace, to continue to walk in the ways of love, to follow the teachings of Jesus about inclusion and justice, and to keep your heart wide open as possible to all that is good in this world?

As I responded, "I will, with the help of GOD," I knew in that moment that I had to mean it. It was as if something fundamentally shifted within the deepest part of my being. It was in that moment that I decided to apply to seminary.

There's always the possibility that I will get my MDiv but still be denied ordination by the UCC. If that happens, I will pursue ordination with the Progressive Christian Alliance while appealing (and fighting, if need be) the UCC. I'd prefer to stay in the UCC, as I want to be ordained in my "home."

I wish you the best in terms of your discernment process, and that whatever your goals might be that you achieve them!

Offline Clarity

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Re: Deciding if seminary is right for me
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2014, 10:48:59 am »
Maybe I'm still trying to figure out my goals. The thing is, I have a retail job that involves a lot of stress and low pay. I'm trying my hardest to find a way out since right now it seems to be proving bad for my health. I've had mornings this last week where I wake up in tears knowing that I have to go back to a job which I hate. The times when I'm feeling the most down and hopeless are also the times when graduate school seems like the most attractive option. I don't know if I should act on a decision made out of desperation to escape working retail. I'm continuing to explore this option, but I feel it's best to decide when I'm of a more calm mind.

At the very least, my goal right now is to find a way out of my current work situation. I've been doing research to find others who escaped retail and found a much more fulfilling career. I think that right now, the best step for me is to come up with a more definitive career goal. I'm looking more for ways to explore by getting involved with ministries that might be of interest in my church. Maybe that's a way to find if there is a calling into seminary for me.