Professional Development and Church

I was rifling through this weekend’s mail when I ran across the most recent newsletter/mailer from a denominational organization of which I’ve been somehow connected for a long time. There’s a state meeting coming up in less than a month and then the national meeting/convention/assembly this summer. Both were prominently displayed.

I like conferences/workshops/professional development opportunities so I thought I’d check out the planned events. There was basically the usual type of list of options–only a few of which appealed to me. Most of them related to social justice kinds of issues. Shocking, I know.

As I kept turning pages to see what else was going on in the life of this organization, I came across a racial reconciliation workshop (a very good thing) separate from the events mentioned above…and a seminar on governance for church. Topics to be covered include policies, decision-making, defining clear roles and authority, and basically having a positive business model for your church.

And my stomach churned.

Certainly, I have been part of many congregations who function as businesses. And many of them do reasonably well with that model. However, the further I get from that model and the more I hang out at my church–which in no way operates as a business–I can no longer fathom churches operating as businesses. Mainly because I can’t stand the idea of faith and spirituality as commodities to be bought and sold.

Church is a body of people who recognize their place within that particular body. If an individual doesn’t fit in one place, he or she should move on until finding the right fit. This is not a numbers game. This is about developing unique communities of faith who are healthy and function in a way that brings peace, justice and love to the here and now. THAT’S how you stop micromanaging, how you define roles and make decisions. And you don’t need a seminar for that.

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Running is Cheaper Than Therapy

I started running–really, seriously running–the same time I started this PhD thing. Well…really it started that summer when I incorporated more running into my workouts. It escalated when I was sitting on a balcony in Mexico with Robin and a copy of the Endurance Magazine. She looked up from the article about the City of Oaks marathon and said, “We could totally do that.”

It was August. The race was the beginning of November. I was about to start a PhD program. T minus three months to race day.

Sure. Why not?

A few weeks later, I discovered why not. There was no way in hell I was going to be able to train for a marathon that semester. I was barely doing long runs on the weekend. In fact, I did one 8-miler…on a treadmill. (Have I mentioned that it’s blazing hot around here until Thanksgiving?) I was putting up 12-14 miles during the week (also on a treadmill). But we opted to switch our registration to the half-marathon.

***It should be noted right here that my husband opted to keep the marathon registration and get ready for it anyway–since it was a mere two weeks before his 30th birthday.

Anywhoooo. I ran most of that half-marathon and was hooked. So I set a goal for another one. It happened in March of 2009 in VA Beach. While sitting in the hot tub after that one, Robin again looked up and said, “I’m doing the Disney marathon next January.” She even spit out the date. “Who’s in?” This time, she meant business. And the people in the hot tub with us were not ready to be outdone. It was kind of an all or nothing thing at that point because we all wanted to do it together. And Robin was in. And so were the rest of us.

If you’ve read this blog for any time at all now, you’ll know that I like racing. And I LOVE a good half-marathon. Especially when there’s good beer at the finish line. (Good swag helps, too.) As I keep rolling through this PhD program, I can’t help but draw some parallels.

Getting a PhD is a (perhaps THE) test of perseverance. It’s an endurance contest…a marathon…at times a Warrior Dash. In both arenas, you have to train…hard…and then trust your training on race day…or proposal or defense or prelim day.

For me, one doesn’t necessarily inform the other…it’s the running that gets me through school. It’s the running that helps me process the events of this semester–just as it has in semesters past. It’s, in part, the long runs on the weekend that are keeping me sane as I keep hitting bumps in the academic road. It’s the running that helps me stay healthy and sane most days of the week (and when not running, it’s yoga).

Running is cheaper and more accessible (i.e., can be done at 6:00 AM) than therapy.

Because let’s face it. This getting a PhD thing is bananas.