Well, here recently I have been pondering going back to school. I have gone from wanting to do something online in the Mental Health Field to an online degree in the New Testament to an online degree in Human Services Counseling. After much thought and despair, along with wisdom from my priest, I have decided to move on in life as if seminary does not exist. For me, seminary is going to be a long off endeavor if I am even called upon by the Church to go to seminary and become a priest.
For now, I have options. I have been considering and looking into the chaplaincy programs offered and really want to work on pursuing that route and working on the gift of pastorship I think I have. The great thing about chaplaincy is that one can pastor outside of being ordained. The great thing is that it can be a fulfilling calling (I recognize a calling or vocation cannot fulfill you, so I mean that I can take joy in what I do) and if I became a priest provide me bi-vocational opportunities as well.
I would enjoy getting to work in a hospital setting and getting to help people by counseling them and being with them. However, it is a little tricky to work this out. I called University of Tennessee to inquiry further about what my steps would be. The Rev. in charge said that their extended part time program is for just one unit of CPE and is not going to be offered this year.
That means i’d have to drive to Chattanooga, the closest place offering it, every Monday and Wednesday from 8am to 12pm and then do 12 hours of pastoral time every week on top of that, so 3 days a week basically. That seems like a bit much for us at this time with a one car family and with having to work full time to make ends meet. It may be that just doing one unit isn’t going to work. It may possibly not open that many doors.
The next thing is to pursue an M.Div or something equal to it. i’m going to see if i can us my undergrad background and do a Masters in counseling or something online. I really don’t want to do an M.Div online nor at a non-Orthodox school (no offense to non-Orthodox, but if an M.Div is required to strengthen your theology then it is right to have it be in your own Tradition). However, there are some online M.Div programs like the M.Div in Practical Theology that gives basic grad level theological studies, but focuses on counseling/psychology as well for those pursuing chaplaincy.
I do not know what will become of this, but there are some options. In the coming days, I will be exploring what the options are and what will/will not work for me to pursue the vocation of chaplaincy full time as a career. The good thing about an M.Div is that it would allow me to attain a year long residency that is paid at UT if I were accepted to it. That would be a wonderful opportunity.
If any of you read this and have advice, know some good online M.Div or counseling programs, or wish to talk with me about it please feel free to do so. I would be open to any and all suggestions, opinions and advice. I hope to hear from you. And above all, I ask for your prayers and God’s mercy and guidance as my wife and I discern what’s next.