Eric Key graduated through Wesley Seminary. Recently he and a few friends organized their own alumni gathering. This is a blog update about the alumni retreat that met personal and spiritual goals for he and his classmates. – Rick Carder, Director of Alumni.
Written by Eric Keys.
When I started my seminary journey I often heard others refer to it as “cemetery.” What they meant was that instead of being the place to deepen your relationship with God and develop skills to serve the Kingdom, seminary was the place you went to lose your faith—the place to bury all of your hope in the grave of doubt. My experience was different and here’s why:
Mission: Right from the start the purpose of our education at Wesley Seminary was clear; as pastors we were part of God’s mission. The point of all the study and work wasn’t to become skeptical it was to build our faith upon what God had already done, what He is doing, and what He will do in the future.
Formation: Underneath the current of mission ran the attitude that leaders are only capable if they are first followers. I’m not sure about other seminaries but the professors at Wesley Seminary were very intentional about shaping us as believers—even to the point of pain (physical, emotional, spiritual) as we held a light to all of the darkest areas of our lives.
Fellowship: Probably one of the most important aspects of my experience was the cohort model. I spent an entire day, every week, for three years with a group of people who were drastically different from me yet called to the same mission. Did we always get along? No. But by the time we completed our education we had become a group of guys who were committed to one another. All of the competition that you find among pastors had gave way to the knowledge that we would go farther together. My classmates became brothers.
At graduation we knew we had a choice; we could wish each other well and move on or we could continue to deepen the relationships we had with one another. We chose the latter. As a result we have been intentional in scheduling an annual retreat together. This year we went to A Quiet Place, a retreat center in Kentucky that is free to pastors. We spent two full days together catching up, talking of books we had read, praying together, and helping one another to set goals for the future.
Obviously, this retreat was deliberate on our part. We had to plan for it and make space on our calendars. We had to invest in food and travel. But the professors and administration were still invested in us even after we graduated. Continuing to care for our souls one professor made a video to challenge us to press on toward the goal. Another administrator sent personal notes to inspire us. The Alumni Association provided gifts. All of that from a place that I was warned would destroy my faith.
I have no knowledge about what other cohorts are doing or have done after graduation. But I would challenge them to think of their education as a lifelong experience, to reunite and refuel one another. Maybe what you get out of your seminary experience has a lot to do with what you put into it?
Thanks to all of the people who have poured into this cohort!
– Rev. Eric Key