‘A Day in the Life’ of a Seminarian
by Hillary Doerries
Nearly two years ago, I embarked on a new chapter in my academic life and in my life of faith. I began working toward a Doctor of Pastoral Music (DPM) degree at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. My cohort of six musician-seminarians gathers twice a year–once in January and again in June–for two weeks of intense study, class discussion, worship, and fellowship. I look forward to my time in Dallas with my cohort; although, I’ve learned that preparing to leave home for two weeks is a complicated, sometimes overwhelming process that forces me to improve upon my time management and long-range planning skills. In the weeks prior to my departure, not only am I scrambling to read four to five books, a hand-full of articles, and complete various writing assignments, I’m also working at least three weeks ahead in my Director of Music Ministries position at CtK: finishing worship folders and PowerPoints for the 9:30 a.m. services, writing detailed rehearsal plans, finding substitute musicians to lead my rehearsals and play for Sunday morning worship, making sure I have music ordered and ready for each of my ensembles upon my return to South Bend, and so on. So much goes on behind the scenes; I have come to rely on the generous help of many gracious people to keep things running smoothly in my absence. While I plan to offer a lengthier presentation about my most recent experience at Perkins later this summer, below is an example of a typical day in the life of this seminarian.
January 7-18, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas
This is my ideal wake-up time on a weekday in Dallas, although I admit, I am a chronic snoozer. I probably roll out of bed closer to 7:30 or 7:45 a.m., whip up a protein shake and throw a day’s worth of work into a bag before heading out the door.
I greet my cohort and my professor in Kirby Hall on the campus of SMU each day. We gather in a large room with comfy couches, floor-to-ceiling windows, a grand piano, and fancy portraits of past Perkins deans in full regalia for a short service of morning prayer. We each take turns planning and leading these services. We recite prayers, sing Psalms and hymns, and take a moment to check-in with one another before we begin an 8-hour day in the classroom. Although it is early, this has become a favorite part of my day; a quiet time to pray, breathe, center myself, and remember and give thanks that God has brought us safely together once again.
9:00 a.m. –12:30 p.m.
It’s off to the first class of the day: Music in Worship and Renewal. Texts for this class include New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the 21st Century by C. Michael Hawn, The Song of the Singing Assembly: A Theology of Christian Hymnody by Judith M. Kubicki, Lovin’ on Jesus: A Concise History of Contemporary Worship by Swee Hong Lim and Lester Ruth, and The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World by Sandra Maria Van Opstal. We often spend the first half of class reflecting and discussing these texts as they apply to our own ministry contexts and then use the rest of our time examining various hymn texts from all over the world, analyzing their theological implications and the role hymnody plays in faith formation.
12:30 p.m. –1:30 p.m.
Lunchtime! (Otherwise known as time to catch up on reading, take a walk around campus, or grab a quick nap in the student lounge).
1:30 p.m. –4:30 p.m.
Second class of the day: Models of Leadership, Social Institutions, and Community Engagements. Texts for this class include The Social Entrepreneurs Playbook (MacMillan/Thompson), Social Entrepreneurship: What Everybody Needs to Know (Bornstein/Davis), and Christian Social Innovation (L. Gregory Jones). For the first hour, we enjoy guest lecturers from various departments, including the Cox School of Business, Dedman College, and the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship. The late afternoons are reserved for our group projects. Each DPM student is paired with three to four other students, some of whom are a part of the Doctor of Ministry program. Each group is charged with the task of creating a project that would somehow benefit a community (real or imagined) by using principles of social innovation and entrepreneur-ship that we studied and discussed during the first half of class each day. [NOTE: This was one of my favorite classes at Perkins to date! I look forward to delving into more detail about practices of Christian social innovation, entrepreneurship and the Church at my presentation later this summer –stay tuned!
4:30 p.m. –5:30 p.m.
Back to the Air BnB for a quick nap and a snack. Or, if need be –more coffee!
5:30 p.m. –MIDNIGHT
I often spend the evenings catching up on reading and writing assignments. Each class requires us to keep a journal of what we experienced earlier that day: interesting discussion points, reactions to guest presenters, general observations about the material we learned each day, etc. I also make sure I take at least an hour to eat, whether it be a meal I make at home, or a quick stop at Digg’s Tacos just down the street. I often enjoy a change of scenery when I’m working. Some nights I am content to work at the kitchen table with the noise of the TV in the background. Other times, I find comfort in being near other people, so I plant myself at a Starbucks or a Barnes and Noble. I also give myself permission on occasion to walk away from my work and venture out into the real world for a moment: a movie at Mockingbird Station, a late-night bite at a local restaurant, or a choral concert at a local Episcopal Church I’ve taken a liking to. My reward for a steady night’s work is a Facetime call with my family. Sometimes, we talk two to three times a night depending on how much encouragement I need before going to sleep, only to wake up and repeat the process all over again.