I was asked to write about my second year of seminary and my adventure into field studies. Truthfully my first half of my second year of seminary has been like going through hell and high water without a pfd; basically I’m drowning in the realities of what it means to be in the field of caring. There is nothing easy about being a pastor but the concept of easy is relative.
I started working at the Ruth M. Rothstein (RMR) CORE Center, which is in the medical district. This is an umbrella facility specializing in HIV+ patients; kind of a one-stop shop providing both mental health and medical attention so there is only one discloser of status, which helps to minimize the stigma. The Core Center focuses on healing the mind and the body of all those who walk through the front door, but with the 2008 the budget cuts and the bottoming out of the US economy non-essentials were the first to go. For the past seven years the heart of HIV+ patients have been neglected but one of our alums, Gina Sourelis, had the amazing idea to change; that is where I come in. Bright eyed and bushy afroed me who wants to be pastor all while knowing that I can’t change the world.
Finding my role as a pastor has been a very interesting one. It has been about two months since my first official day yet there has not been a dull day. Because of HIPPA I will not go into great detail about the people I see or the stories I hear but I can write on the feeling of carrying the weight of their lives. I want to argue that since starting seminary I have come to fear the God of my creation. I feared the God we can’t deal with; the God who is eating us alive. This might come as a surprise to some people but seminary has this amazing ability to suck all of your hope and kindness. The God we come to understand is not always nice nor are they always kind. There is a part of me that wants to argue that we all fear God on a primal level. The more we learn and see the inner workings of our faith the more we fear God and God in turn eats our fears alive; metaphorically.
Working at the Core center has its own mode of hope that has been slowly creeping into my hopeless theology of God. You see the concept of hope, in essence, is foolishness; the lack of good sense or judgment; stupidity but this stupid hope is beautiful, joyous, and transformative. Three days a week I go to the Core Center to be present with people who, through my eyes, are crushing under the weight of their our marginalization but most of them do not see it as such. I met a seventy-year old woman who was HIV+, had emphysema, was once a drug user, as well as a host of other issues that impeded her quality of life yet with all that life had stacked against this woman she still choose to smile. She did not want anyone to feel sorry for nor did she take pity on herself. She told me that she knew she was dying yet she still held out hope for each day she was given. Who am I to call this hope stupid? Taken at face value anyone can argue that this woman has every right to be angry; to shake her fist at God and ask why me. Yet I argue that her hopefulness is her way of shaking her fist at God. Her smile says, “I will not let you eat me alive”
Quantisha Mason is a second-year MDiv student and Fellow at the Center for Faith and Service. She is unapologetically queer and committed to being an agent of social change in the world.