Saturday, April 07, 2007

What on earth is an Atheist doing in a seminary? And well you might ask ...

This last post was written while I was serving as a member of the Board of Trustees at Starr King School for the Ministry, a member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) on the border of the University of California, Berkeley, campus. One of the privileges of serving was the opportunity to join graduate students studying theology at any time during one's tenure and as often as one felt the urge to do so. It was not for the purpose of monitoring classes, but fulfilling the duties required of all students -- by completing reading assignments and taking part in discussions and seminars for a full semester. A typical class might involve 12-14 students plus a professor or two.

The GTU is a consortium of schools and seminaries clustered in an area called "Holy Hill" just north of the UC campus. There are more than a dozen religious institutions sharing classes and an amazing library in common, and whose students study together, ecumenically, though registered formally in his/her own schools. Sitting in a study group with Buddhists, Jews, Franciscans and Jesuits, priests-in-training and nuns, Episcopalians, Baptists, Wiccans, United Methodists, Presbyterians, yes, and Unitarian/Universalists, etc., is a very ordinary state of affairs. Some students would be studying for parish ministries while others were preparing for moral leadership in a variety of settings, including public service, prison chaplaincies, or legislative practice from a position of conscience.

The GTU/Starr King experience was rich beyond measure, and fulfilled an insatiable hunger for spiritual inquiry in an environment of total acceptance and respect. I could probe and test and wonder in a place where there were no intellectual or spiritual boundaries.

I miss the mental stimulation that I now must find elsewhere ... but I must admit that the Internet has afforded me some extended trips into realms I never dreamed I'd get to explore.

...maybe I'm missing my Unitarian Universalist connections, though, but -- on the other hand -- maybe I'm simply responding to the fact that tomorrow is Easter, and I have my fancy hat but no place to go ... .

That's the problem with Atheism and Humanism; no Easter hat tradition!

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