General Terms and Conditions

Reports and musings from a seminarian at General Theological Seminary, New York City.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Practicing the Virtues

This day finds us in the second full day of orientation. We have already done a lot, with much more to go. Mostly the days are filled with various speakers, telling us about the part of seminary life that is under their purview.

But there is also a good deal of time devoted to worship. We have been reminded several times that worship is central to our formation here at General, and that formation and education go hand-in-hand here.

Yesterday Professor Farwell, who teaches liturgics, told a story that illustrates how worship figures in our formation. (My apologies for the parts of this story that I have embellished or left out -- I confess that I was already pretty tired by the time we heard this, and I found myself zoning in and out.) The story tells of a young man who found himself smitten with a young woman from the adjoining village. He wanted to woo her, but was afraid that he might not be worthy of her attention. In order to make himself look better, he put on a mask of the town's patron saint.

And with that face, he found favor with the young woman. They began to court, and soon she was devoted to him. The other young men in the village, however, were jealous. They all had designs on this maiden, and who was this stranger in a mask who had taken her away from them?

They seized the young man, and demanded that he take off his mask. And when he did, they saw that his face had taken the form of the saint whose mask they wore.

As we worship, we hope to take on the form of that great work. We aspire to become the things that we read and hear--that our form will take on that of Jesus. Our liturgical practice can change the face of who we are.

But, of course, intentionality is important. We are not just putting on a mask--there must be ownership of that which we enact. And we must have an openness and willingness to receive.

So we find ourselves worshipping often. Each week there are over 20 services in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. And as Professor Farwell said, as we gather, "we practice the virtues that we hope in time will be woven into our very being."

Let this be our prayer. Amen!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Settling in

All the boxes are unpacked--the only tasks left are putting up pictures and organizing closets and cabinets. Yesterday our air conditioners were installed, just in time for days with highs of 69. We also did a little shopping. Last night we had two friends over for dinner and a Project Runway viewing.

This morning we went to church at St. Luke in the Fields, in the Village. A nice service. Afterwards we hung out at the coffee hour and met a few other General students as well as the rector, who was friendly and engaging.

While it was barely drizzling when we went into church, by the time we left it began to rain in earnest. We found a drugstore and bought a couple of inexpensive umbrellas, then had some good ol' New York pizza. (It is amazing that I allowed five days to go by before I finally partook of this food of the gods--the boy does like his pizza!)

Next we went to the IFC center (a movie theater run by cable's Independent Film Channel) to see Wordplay, the documentary about crossword puzzles and the people who create and solve them. It was a lot of fun--and nice to see a movie with such an intelligent and respectful crowd. Of course, at $10.75 a seat, it ought to be a pleasant experience...

Orientation starts officially tomorrow, with a welcoming Eucharist and ice cream social tonight. Here we go!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Attend the Tale

So, Wednesday night, less than nine hours after arriving in Manhattan in our U-Haul truck, we were sitting in a Broadway theatre. I should have been exhausted, but I was thrilled to be in a plush seat waiting for the lights to go down. After all, this is at least part of the reason I am attending General.

The show was Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Stephen Sondheim--one of my favorites. This production features Michael Cerveris and Patti Lupone, both Tony award winners. What made this production particularly interesting is that the 10 actors (a small cast for this work) not only act and sing, but are also the orchestra. The work has been reorchestrated to accommodate the instruments that the actors play -- mostly keyboard, cellos, violin, trumpets, accordian, percussion, and even tuba (played by Ms. Lupone). Performers often use their instruments as props to tell their story.

The production was sparse and very spooky. The approach was sort of Marat/Sade meets Sweeney--the whole thing took place in a mental institution, with a couple of actors periodically playing the attendants at the asylum. The set pieces were minimal, with the primary piece of furniture being a wooden coffin. I told you it was ghoulish.

What I love about this work is that, despite the fact that cannibalism figures heavily in the plot, it is very romantic. The piece is almost completely sung--appealing to my love of opera. And, like any Sondheim work, the words are so damn clever. Combine that with such a thoughtful production, and it was a highlight of my theatre-going experience.

On top of all that, we had our first celebrity sighting. Kevin Kline was seated about three rows in front of us with his wife, Phoebe Cates. I heard yesterday that he lived with Lupone for several years, so that would explain why he'd be here on his day off from the production of Mother Courage. He seemed to enjoy the show, too.

What a great way to start off life in New York City.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

We're here!

Well, we arrived at the Close (the common name for the General Seminary campus) at about 11:20 a.m. yesterday, after an almost stress-free drive onto the island of Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. It was remarkably simple--all our fears about driving into New York traffic seem to have been unfounded.

I got the keys, and, while Partner stayed with the truck, I carried the first load up to the apartment. I tingled with excitement as I put the key in the door, wouldn't open! After many tries, I finally figured out that one must turn the key hard to the left. I entered into the apartment's long hallway and found it to be charming, and bigger than anticipated.

Don't get me wrong -- the bedrooom is still only big enough for the bed and one nightstand (and at that, a person sleeping on the side away from the door must crawl into bed from the foot), and the kitchen is tiny, really only big enough for one person at a time. But it has been freshly painted, the appliances are brand-new, and the parquet floor is warm and beautiful.

Our moving help arrived promptly at noon and (with help from Partner and me) had the truck completely unloaded in 45 minutes. We then returned the truck to U-Haul (no problems worth repeating) and were back in the apartment by 12:30.

We began the work of unpacking by putting up the bed--partner says that he learned this important first step in moving from my mother. I am glad he took in this practical advice. It makes perfect sense, and I'm not sure I would have remembered. We assembled the bed, put on freshly-laundered sheets, and then topped it all off with the quilt that my grandmother made for me almost 10 years ago. It had not been taken out of the box since she gave it to me. I didn't know why I wasn't using it--until now. I feel certain that it was made for this place, and this time. And now I will always have the warmth of her love enveloping me as I sleep in this strange, wonderful new place.

We then started unpacking boxes. I found myself a bit obsessed with getting it all done. I didn't want to stop, even though we had eaten no lunch, nor even drunk a glass of water, and we were still running on fumes from the long days preceeding. Partner finally made it clear that he was about to have a head-on collision with a meltdown unless we got something to eat. I insisted we shower, and by 5:10 we were out the door to find a bite to eat.

It is so intoxicating to be back in the City, part of the bustle and energy that is a crowded New York sidewalk. We walked about 22 blocks to Ollie's, one of our favorite Chinese food restaurants, just off Times Square. After filling our stomachs we found the energy to walk some more, braving the thousands -- always thousands these days -- of tourists that jam the sidewalks of this part of the City, and ended up at a Starbucks at something like Broadway and 50th Street.

A jolt of caffeine and some great people-watching had us ready for our 8:00 curtain -- yes, as incredible as it sounds, we went to the theatre only eight hours after we first arrived in the Big Apple. Of course, if you know me, that might not be so surprising...

Anyway, it was a remarkable show. More in the next post.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Start Spreadin' the News...

Today we arrive in New York City!

We left Indy at 7:20 yesterday morning. Our only snag yesterday was a drained truck battery--about an hour out of Indianapolis. We stopped at a rural truck stop to refill the truck's 40 gallon tank. Unfortunately, we left the lights on for the 15-20 minutes we were stopped, and also didn't turn off the defroster that was necessary to unfog the windows as we first took off. Apparently all of this was too much for the battery.

After a two-minute, $65 visit from a local mechanic, we had a truck running and a lesson learned. We continued our trek through Ohio and then into Pennsylvania, crossing the Appalachians.

The truck is loud, and it bounces around quite a bit. Fortunately, when we have dared peek in the back of the truck, everything seems to be in place. Our satellite radio, playing in the boom box I used in my Indy office, helped break the monotony, at least until we got into the mountains, where it was more difficult to maintain reception.

But the mountains held our attention on their own. The Pennsylvania scenery is breathtaking. Around each corner are picturesque vistas of rolling hills dotted with charming farms. Everything is green. We enjoyed the view.

At about 8:00 p.m. we arrived at our stop for the night -- the Econo Lodge in Wilkes Barre, PA. (Incidentally, locals won't commit to a pronunciation of the town's name -- it's either "Berry" or "Bar" -- you say tomato...) Partner, who did all the driving, was exhausted. I was grateful. And now, on to the challenge of piloting a truck into NYC. Pray for us...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Packed and Loaded

Well, it really looks like it is going to happen. The truck is loaded with all but a few items -- we are about ready to go!

We picked up the truck at 10:00 this morning. We had reserved a 17' truck, but they had none and instead offered a 24' truck. I asked if a 14' was available instead. Yes, it was, and, as I suspected, everything fit on the smaller vehicle. We saved $100 that has already found another good use. (see below)

Loading the truck went smoothly. Partner and I had only a few sharp words for each other -- for the most part, it was very easy and calm. We worked hard to tie everything off so that (hopefully) it won't shift too much in transit.

Actually, this delayed schedule has worked out pretty well. I have quite a list of errands to run tomorrow, and then we plan to get to bed early, and take off at the crack of dawn Tuesday morning.

Two other pieces of good news: 1) We decided to hire a couple of helpers in NYC to help us unload. It turns out that there is a service available through a U-Haul partner to provide labor. For less than $150, we can get two guys for two hours. I think it will be well worth it. 2) We discovered that there is a U-Haul location only four (count'em, four) blocks from the seminary. The truck return should be a piece of cake!

Now let's hope the drive is smooth.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

One step forward...

Yesterday was a busy day. I got to work on packing, assembling into boxes the items I have piled in various less-used corners of the house. As I suspected, it went quickly and easily--I have packed those boxes so many times in my head that the act itself was simple!

At one moment when I went upstairs I saw that I had a message on my cell phone. It was the housing office at the seminary, telling me that my move-in date is now two days later than they had originally told me! Suddenly I had a new job--remaking all the arrangements that had us leaving on Sunday. After calls to U-Haul, the Pennsylvania Motel where we will stop along the way, Time-Warner Cable (to reschedule installation), and the housesitter, everything was back on track, ready for us to pull out on Tuesday.

Now I need to adjust my own expectations. I am so ready to go! My leaving Indy has begun to seem like the longest good-by ever. Of course, the upside of all this is two more days to get done what I had planned to do in less. I can slow down and enjoy a bit more.

This is the moment I must remember the serenity prayer. God, grant me serenity, courage, and wisdom...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Food and Farewell

This last week in Indianpolis is filled with goodbyes, often accompanied by meals. Good friends and good food -- what more could I ask?

Yesterday was my last Sunday at my home parish, and the rector called me and my partner forward to be recognized. I received gifts from the congregation -- specifically, several books to aid in by study of Biblical Greek, as well as Greek flashcards! More importantly, I received affirmation from the congregation, along with their prayers. Many, many parishioners wished me well. It was a morning of blessings.

After church several of our dearest friends and travel companions joined us for brunch at a great new Mexican food restaurant on Indy's northside, Adobo. We laughed and talked, and I was reminded once again how much I love these people. Deb, Cassie, Mark, Michael -- thank you for your continuing gift of friendship. I certainly take it with me.

This evening we went to the home of Tanya, a dear friend and mentor, for dinner and conversation. Tanya, a long-time priest in this diocese, has been my spiritual director through what was a sometimes difficult period of aspirancy for postulancy. (For those who might not be up on their Anglican lingo, I am now a postulant -- that is, a candidate for priesthood.) Partner and I, along with our Scottish Terrier Franklin, enjoyed the lovely hospitality of Tanya and her Sheltie, Julian. Before we left, Tanya gathered us up and said a beautiful prayer to send us on our way. She asked God to always help us remember through the new experiences of the coming months that God is with us -- we need not be scared or lonely.

Indeed, I know that God's presence -- particularly as it is experienced through the love of friends -- is what has sustained me, and will still sustain me through the journey. Praise God, from whom ALL blessings flow.

More farewell dinners are still to come this week -- reports to follow.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Preparing for the Journey

Welcome to my blog. I hope this will be an easy way for those I love to follow my journey through seminary.

As I write, we are almost exactly one week from pulling out of our Indianapolis driveway in the U-Haul truck, clothing, furniture, books, cookware, and dreams all packed and ready for New York. I have quite a bit to do before we pull out, but plenty of time to get it done--I am not worried.

Such an adventure lies ahead! I hope you will enjoy having a backseat for the trip, and that you will feel free to comment along the way.