A continuation of yesterday's story.
How did seminary change us? I suppose I need to start with saying that we were both raised in pretty conservative, evangelical households (mine was much more rigid in it's approach than Paul's, and his was growing and changing itself during his childhood and after) and we were still very conservative when we joined the Orthodox church, in politics and theology. When we were studying the Orthodox church, we met Fr. David Anderson from the Ben Lomond church. In discussions with him, I remember the distinct feeling of "if I'm to be Orthodox, I can't be rigid in my ideas of interpreting the Bible literally all the time anymore." Fr. David is actually quite conservative, but he did something for us--he broadened our minds and started us on the road to asking hard questions of what we believed.
Seminary did more of the same. I didn't attend classes, but Paul would bring his more fascinating finds home and discuss them. One of those was the issue of "wives submit to your husbands" found in the teachings of St. Paul. We had taken this commandment quite seriously, including the follow-up of "husbands, love your wives." We had made a pact that when we couldn't agree on an issue, that I would submit to Paul's decision on the matter. In seminary, when we'd been married for about 7 years, he came home after a lecture given by his New Testament professor, where he talked about this command. He said yes, St. Paul did issue that command. But the much greater priority than submission to St. Paul in his writings is unity. That perhaps submission was better than disunity, but unity is the best of all. As we talked it over, we realized that we'd only invoked the submission thing a small handful of times in our marriage, and even then, Paul almost always, when I said it was his decision, would decide the matter in the way I'd wanted. This was a revelation to us, and we began to see that talking an issue over and agreeing, almost always, was possible.
Interesting the correlations I can see now, looking back.....
About this time I learned more about an organization called the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. I requested a free issue of their journal, and enjoyed reading it. I was still on the fence about war and pacifism, though, but I was just beginning to think about the issues. I was glad for that exposure later on, after 9/11 happened....I'll talk more about that later.
We saw more than our share of corruption of power and just plain old politics at seminary, too. Since we were closer to the center of the Orthodox world (in the US) we were affected a lot more than if we'd just been in a parish. Archbishop Iakavos retired and Archbishop Spyridon was selected to replace him. We had such high hopes for him---he was born in the US, English was his first language, etc. We thought this was a chance to further the progress of the church in the US. But as his time went on, he showed a completely different priority--to keep the Orthodox church in the dark ages. He said that women had no place even in church choirs. He came down hard on any parish that was not in compliance with him. He fired professors at the seminary who were teaching in the spirit of academic freedom, like Paul's New Testament teacher, after they investigated a case of sexual harassment on campus and recommended the student's expulsion. (The student continued and graduated that year.)
What was even more difficult than all the corruption going on in the hierarchy was the split it created in Paul's class at seminary. We had those who were for and those who were against. They no longer were united in anything. The next class was just deeply confused and disheartened, but we were warring against each other.
On other academic freedom fronts.....Paul listened to a lecture that asked the question that I'd never heard before: what if certain language in the Bible does not mean the same thing as what we mean by it now? How does that change our perception of what is sinful and what isn't? The lecturer was specifically referring to homosexuality. (Which in itself is not a word that appears in the Bible at all.) We still believed the way that we'd been taught growing up, that homosexuality was a perversion, and that it was the worst sin that there is. I filed this information away for another time: it didn't really relate to my life, anyway.
One concept that I really loved and resonated with that Paul brought home from seminary was John Zizoulas' concept that we, as individual human beings, only exist in relation to each other. I suppose this is a variation on the Buddhist idea that all of life is one, we are all connected. But I think it puts a bit more emphasis on the individual, without denying that we are connected. This concept really changed my outlook on relating to others.
Also in seminary, Zachary was born! We said for years that as far as we knew, he was the first baby to be born on the campus of Holy Cross seminary. :-) He was born at home, and we planned it that way! But recently someone told us that there was a baby born in the school cafeteria--they were trying to make it to the hospital and didn't make it. So, I guess Zac doesn't have the distinction after all of being the first. We didn't tell too many people that we were planning a homebirth, because we didn't want the news to get to those in charge and have them tell us we couldn't do it. But it went off without a hitch, and we became the talk of the campus. Zac's godmother told us that someone asked her in the bookstore, where she worked, "did you hear there was a baby born on campus? Oh my gosh, who would do that?" And she said, "yes, I was there!" That same night, however, was the night the sexual harassment occurred, so we weren't the talk of the campus for very long.
After Paul graduated from seminary in 1999, he was assigned to be Metropolitan Anthony's deacon. He'd been ordained to the diaconate in December of 1998, by Met. Anthony. The Metropolitan (another title for bishop) was impressed by Paul's struggle to be allowed to be ordained by him, instead of by Archbishop Spyridon who was insisting on doing all ordinations himself. So impressed was Met. Anthony that he announced that day that Paul would be his deacon after graduating. And so, in June of 1999, we moved to San Francisco. It was a mystifying place to us at first, but we really grew to love it. San Francisco was the first place I really considered myself a city girl.
This story will be continued!