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Reflections on a CTS Education
At the Spring 2011 Trustee meeting, President Alice Hunt asked two CTS students to preface her remarks to the Board about the year's activities with their own reflections. Their remarks are listed in full below.
It has been one year and a half since I came to Chicago from Korea. As many international students do, when I first came here I was worried that I might experience a kind of alienation as one of the strangers, partly because of my humble English and partly because of my little bit different--or a lot different--faith, different even than the one in my home country.
With a strong sense of responsibility and respect for unity or oneness, rather than individuality, I have been accustomed to make my voice silent. Actually, in a sense, I voluntarily chose the way of silence because I myself was deeply doubtful about the claim that many different things can co-exist within oneness in harmony or peace. So, I was always prepared to lose my voice. It was an ongoing discrepancy, the perpetual conflict between my God and the other's God. There was not an "our God" yet in my mind. I had deeply worried about how much longer I could withstand it. This was my deepest anxiety when I made my first step toward CTS's Master of Divinity program. Actually, the title, Master of Divinity, itself was a little bit of a burden to me. It is neither Master for Divinity nor Master about Divinity but "of Divinity." So, I thought that I'd better mute my voice for the voice "of Divinity."
But here at CTS, I can listen to many different claims and voices, many different expectations and expressions, and a different understanding/direction of justice and liberation. What someone claims for sacrificial-love, the other does for self-love...... spirituality or realistic transformation, peace or resistance. Through each person's presence at CTS, I have been able to encounter different desperations, different wailings and different hopes. Here at CTS, the individual's responsibility is no longer to be silent, no longer to mute one's own voice, but rather to make the sound of it responsible. I realized that our community wants to listen to my voice, my expression and my experience of God rather than to impose it on me. I am thus here no longer under the bondage "of" someone's divinity but rather free for divinity. I am here as a distinct individual within our community as we listen to, witness and learn each other's different voices. To me, CTS has shown how different minds, thoughts and expressions can make harmonious melody. I thus here now thank you for allowing me to be with my professors and friends.
Giseok Joo is pursuing an M.Div degree at CTS. He recently completed theological field education at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
I met Sae in while staying at her home in Japan--an orphanage tucked away in the mountains in Okaya City. It was there, sitting on Sae’s bedroom floor holding her gifts to me, her only possessions besides her clothes, shoes and school books--stickers, stationary, and “golden key chain”--where I felt led to pursue ministry. But I had a lot of questions: God, who are you to Sae? God how is it that Sae, who does not worship the Christ we celebrate at Christmas, has shown me the clearest example of God’s love-- she gave her last and loved me, a stranger. Sae and I, do we need to know you by the same name? God, what does it mean to be a good God if Sae’s reality weighs heavy with abandonment? God, what does it mean to be a God of justice if orphans like Sae (who bare the deep wounds of neglect) are tucked away in mountains in Japan alienated from cares of society?
My questions were muffled when I returned home and went to church by congregants and family members who didn’t want to be confused about faith: God was good. No questions asked. All the while my home pastor kept telling me that I had to go and check out CTS as a place to pursue ministry. He even didn’t ask me, he didn’t even suggest it, he told me: “We gotta get you enrolled at CTS.” So I visited CTS three times (to grill Rev. Lin, to have lunch with students, to sit in on classes). It was through these visits that I learned that CTS wasn’t a place that had all the answers--but instead it was a place that welcomed the questions. Finally I was free to ask my questions to God out loud and to journey in community with others while they asked their questions out loud too.
Since then I have had opportunities to continue traveling while at CTS, to embrace the freedom to experience God in many unexpected settings, and to feel justice flowing in many unexpected vessels in my global and local community. As I journey through the M.Div. program--traveling and seeking, discussing and learning with my colleagues--my questions continue to grow as I begin to see God’s character through a new lens.
I have seen God whispering goodnight to the young children tucked away in the mountains in an orphanage in Japan, and that revealed to me that perhaps justice beats with a tender heart. I have seen God sitting on the dirt floor making dinner with a family in a humble home in Ghana, and that revealed to me that perhaps justice desires community. I have seen God in the West Bank roaming through refugee camps, and that revealed to me that perhaps justice has an intimate relationship with the oppressed.
What I can say that I have never received through my CTS experience was a clear cut answer... Why, God, poverty in Ghana, but such richly humble hearts? Why, God, such an imprisoning image of life viewed from refugee camps in Israel, but such a profoundly liberating sense of the divine viewed from the peaks of Masada?
What I have learned through my CTS experience is that questions play an imperative role in this thing we label ministry.
Approaching my fourth and final year of the M. Div. program at CTS, I am thankful because:
I have more questions now, and I have more courage now too - to ask them louder.
I have more questions now, and I have more integrity now too - to ask questions to the church in here and out there.
I have more questions now, and I have more faith now too, to keep asking. Greater faith now, to keep seeking. And deeper faith now, to believe that my questions--our questions--are what transformation is made of.
Tiauna Boyd is a 3rd year M.Div. student at CTS and a member of the Global Ministries Council of Theological Students.