Or myriad other practical things, like how to baptize someone with physical handicaps. Or how to organize a service around one of the holy days in the calendar. Or how to handle conflict. It was outside my normal purview, designed to stretch as well as to equip. Seminary prepared me before I had to do it in real life.
Seminary challenged me. I was forced to take stock of my gifts, my talents, and my beliefs. I was stretched and pushed to think beyond the simple answers, the pat answers, and wrestle with the hard questions of our faith. I was forced to give answers even when I was out of my comfortable depth, and I was allowed to be wrong, and to grow and change. It was a chance to take risks and try new things. Not everyone believed the same things I believed, and that stretched me. Some didn’t believe in women in ministry. Some didn’t believe in dancing or playing cards. Some believed an occasional beer was all right, while others believed it was an outright sin.
We ran the gamut of conservative to liberal, and it was the best thing that could have happened. I was stepping into real dialogues, ones that represented the diversity of churches, both national and international. I learned how to hold firm on my beliefs while acknowledging the position of my conversation partner with respect and love. It gave me practice in respectful disagreement as well as in picking my battles. It helped me boil down what I believed was required for salvation and what was nonessential, and to learn the difference in how to disagree about those two categories.
Seminary affirmed my calling. There was something powerful in being the only woman in a classroom and doing much more than holding my own. There was something humbling about looking around the classroom and seeing how far we still had to go for all of God’s kingdom to be represented in those rooms. Professors called me “gifted,” “talented,” “a natural,” and helped me stand tall when other classmates questioned why my husband didn’t take classes with me (we share a lot, but we don’t share our calling).