THE ALARM'S set for 7:45 but I'm awake at 6:15 with some signs of presermon nerves, I'm preaching a TEO (Theological Education Offering) sermon at 11 at St. David's Episcopal Church in far Northwest. The idea is to talk about the seminary and its need for support (that's where the "offering" comes into TEO). Asking for money isn't my style (funny, for five years on Sen. Javits' staff my main job was to get federal bucks for constituents and I did well at it!). I was relieved when Luther Miller, St. David's rector, said he'd made the case last Sunday for giving to Virginia Theological Seminary, so I'm going to preach on the lessons. Hopefully, the good folks of St. David's will respond with, "What a wonderful education she's receiving. We must support it." Or maybe they'll react, "What an awful sermon. She certainly needs all the help VTS can give."
A bacon and eggs breakfast and coffee in hopes of calming the nervous cramps and stomach growls. Is this going to be my presermon pattern? Hope not -- the growls just aren't in the rubrics. The breakfast doesn't work. Growl, grumble, cramp.
One last editing of my sermon outline, "Clarity, clarity," says the homiletics professor. I'm trying, I'm trying.
Bill, my husband, knowing my sense of direction (which once put me on the outskirts of Pittsburgh when I wanted to be in Albany) offers to drive to St. David's. To me far Northwest is as unfamiliar as central New Zealand. Offer accepted. He won't come to the service, though, for fear of making me nervous.
St. David's is a lovely little fieldstone church tucked into a wooded neighborhood on Macomb Street. Luther and Flo Canfield, his young assistant, put me at ease immediately. The nerves are calm by the time my cassock is donned. Luther says make the sermon 10 minutes tops. I aim for eight and launch in with only a couple of glances at the outline. "We're all called by God -- called every day" is the theme. The congregation is responsive -- there are smiles of recognition, nods of agreement. Flo gives me the okay sign as I sit down. Best of all, a young woman tells me at coffee hour that it really hit home with her. She's been trying to find a way to combine her interest in art (her talent) with her interest in counseling (her "call"). "Have you considered art therapy?" No, she hasn't. So I refer her to a chaplain who would know about local programs. That exchange makes all the work of preching worthwhile. Monday
Back-to-school day. Rustle my three teenaged daughters off to school, make sure the cats are fed and lights off. MEOW (the Moral Equivalent of War) is being waged at our house. Kids ar fined for leaving lights, radio, television on in an unoccupied room. It cut $17 off the Vepco bill last month.
The routine of the seminary day starts with morning chapel at 8:30, an ingathering of the VTS community after a scattered-apart weekend. Canticles, psalm, scripture readings, a hymn, some silent prayer -- it all centers me down for reentry into this special world of study and prayer. Morning prayer is followed by what one theological wag terms the Third Sacrament -- coffee and fellowship in the student lounge. Fran Fosbrooke, a middler (second-year student), has been accepted as a candidate for ordination so jubilation breaks out around her. then off to a quiet classroom to read Nehemiah, Ezra, Obadiah, Johan and Zechariah for an upcoming Old Testament content quiz. Strange-sounding, strangely spelled Hebrew names are beginning to be as familiar as Jones and Smith. Lunch in the refectory and then home to more Old Testament and study breaks while getting dinner in the oven. Tuesday
This is not Tuesday -- it is Killer Day. Classes from 9:20 to 4:35. Eucharist at 8:30 a.m. helps me get through it, especially a guided meditation by Bert Newman, an ordained Presbyterian on the faculty. It's a quiet and deep inward journey, a time of peace and reflection before the unremitting business of the day. I kneel between two friends, Peter Akinola, a priest from Nigeria, and Ellen McKinley, a Connecticut contemporary (like me, she's over 40) who is doing a special semester at VTS. I feel very much one with them.
The afternoon is devoured by a three-hour homiletics (preaching) class and it's a bummer today. Two classmates -- one of whom preached very well last time around -- simply bomb out. The only thing worse than doing poorly at preaching myself is having a friend and classmate do so. I hand my "sermon listener's comment sheet" to Dick, who preached, and he says, "I don't want it." "Oh, my friend, I didn't want to write it either." I feel worse than when I delive a homiletic dud. Wednesday
Another long day that begins with small group worship in a professor's home and ends with a big weekly Eucharist in the chapel at 7:30 p.m. Lunch table conversation centers on whether or not we wear clerical collars for CPE (clinical pastoral education) this summer. Really earthshaking issue that divides predictably -- High Church classmates push for collars, Low Church folks think collars are for the ordained only. The collar can be a sign of authority and symbol of reassurance to some people; others are put off by the sight of one. Perhaps we should all become dexterous in whipping one on and off according to the personal situation. I recall how awful I look in black and come down with the no-collar faction -- at least until I find clerical shirts in color for women.
At seminary, you literally sing for your supper. Off-campus students and family members who sing in the choir Wednesday nights get free meal tickes for the community dinner preceding the service. Middle daughter Susanne, 16, and I sing tonight and feast as well. It's a good feeling to see how many people Susanne knows at seminary and how comfortable she is with them. The VTS community is a big and loving one and it's quickly become family to us. Thursday
A quiet "catch-up" day with only one class. Thursday is Consortium Day at VTS and the nine other Washington area seminary communities who share their resources as members of the Washington Theological Consortium. Exciting in concept and practice, the Consortium includes Roman Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran. and Episcopalian seminaries, schools and houses of study. Students may register for courses at other schools, professors teach at other seminaries and sometimes teach classes together across denominational lines and there are social, worship and cultural events open to all.
Lunchtime conversation is gloomy. "Are we headed for a depression?" A classmate who has been unable to sell his house in Ohio because of the economic conditions and mortgage rates says he may have to get a job this summer instead of meeting his CPErequirement. He needs the money. Another, who had a successful career before entering seminary, reports the stock and bond portfolio he invested in to pay his way through seminary has lost almost 60 percent of its value in the past few weeks. And I reflect that we can't afford to sell our home (with its 9.5 percent mortgage) and buy something cheaper. Payments on a cheaper house with a 16 percent mortgage would be more than we pay now -- and the IRS would zap our so-called "profit" for taxes. This, too, shall pass. But when? Friday
The end of the week brings the realization that Bill and I have barely a moment to ourselves all week that wasn't work-,seminary- or child-related. He's a great sounding-board for job matters. Since we're both reporters by profession and have similar employmnt histories, we supplement each other in work and study.
There are some hilarious moments in church history class as John Woolverton talks about the early development of monasticism. Colorful bunch, those ancient monks -- one who tried to impose a stricter rule on one monastery was the target of a poisoning attempt by his brother monks. I may never get all the heretics, church councils and controversies of church history straight in my mind but there's nothing dull about the subject as taught at VTS.
Big deal dinner out tonight. We've got two coupons for hamburgers at Wendy's and, with their help, may escape with a $5 dinner tab for the four of us (Susanne has gone babysitting). Great thing about my family: They're as happy about dinner at a fast food place as they were in the pre-seminary days about linen-tablecloth places. Saturday
Up at 7 to beat the crowd to the supermarket and locate a sturdy chair for the desk in the den. The chair turns up at a house sale at which we stop on a whim, more for freebie recreation than anything else. A real office chair, with arms, steel construction, swivel base, government green plastic upholstery -- ours for just $10. If only yard sales had been in vogue 18 years ago when we were struggling to furnish our first apartment! The market is refunding double on manufacturers' coupons so the Monahans fan out through the store, each with a clutch of "cents off" coupons in hand to stock the pantry. Rule of thumb: Use the coupons only on items that are alredy sale-priced and, whenever possible, buy the smallest quantity. Thus, a $1.09 package of toilet paper, sale-priced at 89 cents, costs only 39 cents with a doubled 25-cents-off coupon. Coupon money goes into a special kitty for a family outing or otherwise unaffordable splurge.
In the afternoon, Bill and I splurge on a movie -- $4 a ticket -- and share the whole theater with just six other patrons. We can't help but wonder about the economic wisdom of $4 movies that don't draw enough audience to pay the rent. Our regular style is the $1.50 or $2 twilight specials which are usually sold out. The Big Splurge film is a good one but it's uncomfortable to be almost alone in a big theater. From now on, we'll stick to the twilight specials. CAPTION: Picture,Anne Monahan, of Alexandria, 41, is a first-year student at Virginia Theological Seminary. Born in Schenectady, N.Y., she received a BS in journalism and speech at Syracuse University and was a reporter for the Associated Press and upstate New York newspapers before coming to Washington, where she was a special assistant to Sen. Jacob K. Javits for seven years. By Tom Allen -- The Washington Post.