I am back home in Indiana this week, and as always I am asked how Princeton has changed me. As I am still at PTS, my answers are still developing. But I have been here long enough and have enough distance from my MDiv years to begin to assess the affect it has had on me. I will list five things below that are particularly interesting, but certainly not exhaustive. This list may also serve to help those consider whether PTS is the place for them.
1) I read slower. Before I went to seminary, I learned how to speed read. I used this skill to my advantage in college and intended to use it to get through seminary. We are assigned so many pages that this is a must. However, at PTS I learned how to read slowly. I still speed read from time to time out of necessity, but I learned at PTS how to really digest and study a book. As one of my teachers says, "a book not worth reading slowly is a book not worth reading." This was a critical skill for which I have PTS to thank.
2) I initiate spirituality. At PTS there are endless opportunities for spiritual growth, but there is no longer the social pressure or institutional requirement to be engaged therein. So, I learned how to take the initiative in my spiritual life. This was a risk as I could simply have fallen through the cracks. But the risk was worth it, because to become a spiritual leader I a must learn to initiate spirituality for myself and others and not rely on my context to feed me.
3) I think systemically. I know longer think about issues as distinct topics, but as embedded in larger conceptual and social contexts. This plays itself out theologically by drawing connections between on doctrine and another, and furthermore tying all doctrines together in a way that coheres as much as possible. This plays itself out socially by looking for the larger family/social systems at work in particular cases that emerge in ministry and life. Systemic thinking is a critical skill for theological and ministerial work, and I learn it at PTS.
4) I am more Wesleyan. This does not happen to everyone when they "go away" to a school outside their tradition, but I certainly become more secure in my Wesleyan identity at Princeton than ever before. Just as anyone who as studied a foreign language knows, you learn the grammar of your native tongue (often for the first time) in the process of translation. In order to figure out the grammar of the Reformed tradition, I had to double-back and figure out my own Wesleyan grammar. In the process, I re-discovered and re-embraced my Wesleyanism.
5) I am more laid back. In college, I got the feeling like few students cared about academics (this was one part reality and one part pride). Therefore, I sought to differentiate myself from the mass of students by avoiding a lot of fun activities, wearing slacks to class, hanging out with profs, etc. But at PTS, I immediately sensed that the bulk of the community actually cared about learning. Hence, there was no threat to also join in the fun of frisbee, jam sessions, dressing-my-age, trips to the shore, etc. I could do all these things without worrying that I was aligning myself with an anti-academic spirit. This was a major personality shift that emerged while at PTS.
Well, there's my answer ... for now. I am sure PTS is still changing me. And I suspect that I will realize more changes with increased hindsight. But these are enduring changes I have discovered.
How have you changed since college?
If you went to seminary, how did it change you?
For those of you who know me, do you see some more significant change than these?
Normative Question: How SHOULD a seminary change its students?