When I was trying to figure out where to receive a theological education, I visited a couple of different seminaries. From the day I first stepped onto McCormick’s campus, I felt an immediate sense play and joy that has stayed with me, and that made me want to study and be in community here.
I remember my initial tour well: I was walking down the North hallway on the second floor when my friend, touring with me, asked our guide where he would go in the building if a zombie apocalypse began at that very moment. Unbelievably, he took off sprinting down the hall, shouting for us to follow him. Now, I was dressed nice to make a good impression. All that evaporated. Soon I found myself running after him. Laughing, I passed administrators and faculty cutting a birthday cake, breaking out of my seriousness in spite of myself.
I saw the LRWC, and learned about all the different people who, caught up in the movement of God’s spirit, cross oceans to study with us in this place. I met with a professor, who has since left our school, who in the course of our brief conversation projected love and care to me so intensely that the warmth has not left me to this day.
I have, on the advice of my priest, recently been watching the show Mr. Robot, which, like my favorite television show of all time, features an anti-hero protagonist who spends life hiding in night’s darkness, desperately afraid of daytime, and that the outside world will discover who he is and reveal him.
Many of us find ourselves, for one reason or another, wearing a variety of masks, even and especially in church settings. When I started orientation last year, I was assailed by all of the unremarkable and terrifying concerns that a new place inevitably brings. I was afraid of being rejected, of not succeeding. Of falling through the cracks, of not being enough, of being looked straight through, like glass.
When I arrived at McCormick, I became aware that I was currently the only Asian American person at our school. I did not see much visibility on the part of other LGBTQ students, and I realized I was the only Episcopalian.
The new faces at orientation blurred together at first, but soon I began to match faces to names. I saw people from cultures very different than my own, and began to break bread and laugh with new people. My tendency to slip on masks and slink back into myself was starting to disappear. When Dr. Sawyer’s orientation session on plagiarism – let’s be honest: this is almost universally guaranteed to be the most boring part of any orientation – was spun as storytelling and was instead rapturously interesting, I felt even more at home.
I’m only taking two courses at McCormick this fall, and EAing the PIF course. I’m happy to be a part of the worship team and tutoring with the LRWC as well, trying to balance field site responsibilities. During a church internship last month, an Episcopalian colleague was talking to me about my experiences so far here at McCormick. After listening to me talk for a bit, she felt disappointed that I wasn’t getting formed by more proper Anglican liturgies. She shook her head and said, “You’re at the wrong seminary.”
I laughed, because I really don’t believe that’s true. McCormick presents me with a needed departure from the European and white-centric configuration of my denomination. It is bringing me spiritual, academic, and emotional challenges, helping me see better what kind of Christian leader I can be in this world. I am growing in my faith and being formed, I hope, into a more intentionally kind and humble person who can live more justly in community with others.
My first year at school here has taught me so much. I have learned to preach, pray, and speak with a measure of confidence about my faith. I have seen God speak in holy ways in this community, both healing old wounds and threatening my comfortable dozing off. I am so grateful to be in this space again this year, learning alongside my classmates who are dancers, painters, thinkers, dreamers, doubters. Of course, as an eternal and incorrigible extrovert, I’m really looking forward to stealing the energies of the new students as well as my fellow returning students.