Happy New Year

nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 1263991254|%B %d

A new year has come along, and we’ve got one semester of Nashotah House under our belts, and another looming on the horizon. At such an auspicious moment, I thought that I would take a few moments to reflect on and share some of the things that we have been doing and learning and thinking about over the past few months.

Family News

Sarah and I have just celebrated our second anniversary, but in some ways, that milestone is only a symbol of a greater change in our stage of life. Now we are off navigating “being adults” on our own, for kind of the first time in this country. We are in a new place, meeting a new community and integrating ourselves into it as a couple for the first time.

In general, I think that this is going pretty well. We’ve made some great friends at Nashotah House, and there are plenty of other great people here we would like to get to know better. Our little apartment is more or less set up, and ready to receive visitors. We usually manage to have people over for dinner about once a week, and that is a great pleasure to us. The attractive king-size bed in our guestroom, however, has been underutilized thus far.

Sarah got a part time job in October working in the preschool program of a nearby Christian school. She’s also just taken another part time job in the Admissions Office at Nashotah House. The extra hours will definitely help financially (our income should now be able to cover our living expenses) and it will also help fill her time and keep her rooted in the community. She’s gone in a couple of times, and so far enjoys both the work and the environment. What a blessing!

We’ve also had a truly blessed interterm break – a brief stopover in Colorado Springs to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday, and then on to Washington, where we spent time with Sarah’s family and some of our friends. We also made it down for cousin Andrew’s wedding, and all the family gather that entailed. Since then, we’ve been gearing up to start the next semester.

Study

I’ve gotten into a rigorous and enjoyable pattern of waking up at around 4 to get in three to four hours of study time in the morning, which is about what I need in terms of daily study hours to get everything done. The schedule at Nashotah House is such that it is hard to do any homework during the afternoon. I’m not sure when other people study. They probably stay up later than I do.

Last semester, I took Historical Theology, Ethics and Moral Theology, Biblical Interpretation, Church History and Church Music, all of which were fantastic courses. This semester, I will be taking the second parts of Church History and Historical Theology, Pastoral Ministry, New Testament, Hebrew, and probably Ascetical Theology. It seems to me like as splendid a line up as the first courses, although I am less interested in the historical period of this semester (Reformation to Modern) than what we were looking at last semester (Early and Medieval).

Probably the most useful class was Ethics. I think I’m a better person after that course. In general, the curriculum has connected a lot of dots for me, and I’ve practiced research techniques and library jujitsu that have greatly enhanced my skills in writing, thinking, and access to the best resources and scholarship. Whatever direction I end up going, I think that skill is invaluable.

By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered so many people who share my political views. I didn’t even really know there were any: I just check “other” on any kind of questionnaire and leave it at that. But apparently, there is a growing cadre of us: Christians who are deeply disenfranchised and utterly cynical about any cheap proposal offered by either political party, and even more suspicious of the enlightenment individualism underlying these solutions. It’s more of a critique than a philosophy, although we all tend to have a high view of family, community, and place, as well as (at least half-seriously) a romantic idealization of the monarchy.

Over the break, I’ve been working on Latin, which has been a barrel of fun. I just keep wondering – “Why didn’t anyone crack the whip and make me learn Latin before?!” There’s just so much foundational wisdom embedded in the language. It’s crazy: our way of thinking and speaking is so tremendously and visibly indebted to the thoughts of people who lived many millennia ago in a radically different world.

Latin should help me out, furthermore, if I am called on to further academic work. Most PhD programs in fields I am interested in require it, or at least recommend it, as well as French (which Latin should help) and German (which I have recently nudged up on my “language priority list.”)

Occasionally, I am haunted by the question of “What if no one cares about the stuff I am learning?” The secular world really has no interest in Christian thought and history. Such thoughts nudge me back to the real subject of my study: what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to love and follow Jesus? How do we articulate this in a compelling and transformative manner? Ideally, everything that I learn is contributing to my answers to these questions. My studies so far in seminary have given me a lot of tremendously useful stuff to process – although unfortunately, not a lot of experience in articulating it in the world we happen to live in.

Spiritual Life

Nashotah House is a wonderful place to live and pray. The discipline of twice daily chapel is deeply enriching for me, and I get in an additional half hour of spiritual reading by showing up early to chapel and having something edifying to devour in my stall. The nature, quietness, and slowness that are part of the community life are also deeply conducive to spiritual pursuits.

I would like to get on a more disciplined rota of personal devotion and Bible study. Perhaps that will happen this semester. I’ve always had a hard time with sticking to a kind of program without external accountability. Not that I am undisciplined, but the form of my discipline has been thoroughly conditioned by Sesame Street and Wikipedia: there’s always something new to think about or interesting to click on, it’s hard for me to remain focused.

Sarah comes to chapel with me once or twice a week, and probably more now that she has to get up early anyway for work. She’s also part of one of the spouses’ small groups on campus. We are still looking for a church that clicks with us; for that matter, we’re still trying to define what our needs are in a church – and once we’ve done that, I’m sure plugging in to a congregation will be much easier.

Personally (and relatedly) I’ve been dealing with deep and abstract issues of “belonging.” When I worry, or am troubled, I’m concerned about that issue on some level. It’s a concern that comes from several directions. Part of it is how we are trying to establish ourselves outside of the protective orbit of familiar networks and institutions. Part of it is vocational questions, and questions about the future.

So I am in a kind of weird limbo. I don’t know what church God is calling me to, or where, or in what or capacity. Would I make a better evangelical in a liturgical setting, or a better liturgist in an evangelical setting? Am I called to be a scholar somewhere? — yet I think it is essential to have scholarship rooted in pastoral ministry. I have no clue how this all plays out. It’s just me, hanging out with my bundle of education and experiences and vague sense of calling. Quite unsettling!

Over the break, I had some opportunity to network with a few Anglican priests of different continuing traditions. Still I’ve felt a little guilty about it; in some ways, it’s like church shopping on the grandest scale. Yet as one priest pointed out, this may not be such a bad thing for where I am right now in my journey. Barring a voice from heaven or an email version of the Divine Plan, I will probably have to make a choice as to where and how I commit to do ministry. I should strive to make that choice in the most educated possible manner, as well as being prayerful about it. And then I should commit, and be firm and fierce in my commitment.

So this semester I’ll be working to embrace the strange, uncomfortable but very real role I am in at this moment of being a free-agent seminarian. I trust that God will make clear to me eventually what church I’m supposed to settle down in; or if not, will make a way for me to feel comfortable and committed in some sort of para-church role. I will be satisfied in any case. I’m just enlisted for the service. Ad majorem Dei gloriam! (To the greater glory of God.)

With the remainder of the break, I’m going to be working on summer plans. An effective summer will do a lot to help answer these questions; and I think that trying to plan a meaningful summer may also help to constructively contemplate this issue.

Final thoughts

All in all, I don’t think we could be much happier at Nashotah House than we are. Sure, it would be nice to have our financial anxieties taken care of; it would be nice to have a clear sense of commitment to a particular church body and a career path sketched out. But so far as life’s problems are concerned, these are pretty minor, and our level of satisfaction is extraordinarily high.

We would still solicit your prayers. Pray for this “belonging” question I’m dealing with, and more practically, pray that we can find and get connected to the right church for us. Pray for our financial peace and provision. We are grateful for the generous gifts that we have been given, and the other ways in which God has provided for us through work and scholarship. Still, we’re looking at needing to raise something in the ballpark of another $25,000 over the next three years to avoid going into more debt.

Nevertheless, we are confident in his love for us and his provision. As one particular evidence of this, I recently took the car in to have the oil changed. (We had been getting an indicator light for a while, and assumed that’s what it was asking for.) When the mechanic emptied the oil pan, he said that about three drops came out. He was mystified. “You’re engine really shouldn’t be running,” he said. But as it was, there was no apparent damage! Praise God!

Even more, we solicit your prayer requests! We have a lot of leisure and opportunities to lift up our friends and family in prayer, and we want to do that for you. Stay in touch: we are easily accessible by phone (208) 875.2534, or email moc.liamg|ddik.leinahtan#moc.liamg|ddik.leinahtan.

Much love and many blessings in this new decade,

Nathaniel and Sarah Kidd

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