from Student Minister, Chris Hockman
I’m happy to be back home to Virginia and the UUFP after 24 days in Chicago doing my on-site coursework at Meadville Lombard Theological School. The weather was merciful this year, with temperatures above freezing most days and almost no snow!
The festivities begin with January convocation – a two-day gathering of the student body, faculty and teaching pastors (this is what Rev. Andrew is called in Meadville terminology). The theme of convocation, “Change and Resilience,” was all about the possibilities for leading Unitarian Universalism through the changes and challenges of the 21st century. A group of more than 180, we worshiped together and took in presentations from faculty and students.
My first week of classes began with New Testament and Christian Origins. In this course we learned about the many ways Christian scripture can be relevant, useful and inspiring – even to UUs! We also dove into the fascinating work that modern biblical scholars and interpreters are producing. One of the livelier moments was when we reenacted the Council of Nicea, debating which books should be included in the biblical canon. I portrayed a delegate from Lyons, who was not too fond of the Gospel of Thomas, but held Revelation in high regard. Arguing for Revelation, in all of its hellfire and brimstone glory, was an interesting experience – to say the least!
My second-week class on preaching was taught by Rev. Dr. Bill Schulz, a former UUA President and current President of the UU Service Committee. I must admit that preaching before a famous UU leader was a bit nerve-wracking, but I survived pretty well, and he was kind and supportive – yet direct. We all preached twice during the week, with the goal of showing improvement between the first sermon and the second. I was blown away by the preaching of several of my classmates, who had us all enthralled and sometimes in tears. It’s really inspiring to get a sneak-preview of some great future ministers.
Week three was UU History and Polity class, which included some great lecturers, including Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed speaking about the UU Black Empowerment Movement of the late 1960s. We also got a visit (via video recording) from Virginia’s own Rev. David Hicks MacPherson, speaking on the history of Universalism! I gave a short presentation on the history for the UUFP. My classmates were surprised to hear about an integrated congregation – in both membership and leadership – being founded in the South during the segregation era. It’s a history to be proud of.
Our class also reenacted the heresy trial of Michael Servetus, a Reformation-era questioner of the Trinity who was burned at the stake for his unorthodox interpretation of scripture. Fortunately I got to argue on the side of saving Servetus, who has been claimed as a Unitarian forefather. This proved much easier than arguing for Revelation.
Outside of class, one highlight was attending Sunday service at First Unitarian Church of Chicago in Hyde Park. It’s one of the few, if not the only, Unitarian-constructed cathedral. Built in the 1920s, it is a stunning sanctuary, although I imagine the heating bill is enormous!
After an incredibly busy and stimulating month, I’m really glad to be home at UUFP. Thanks for supporting me on this exciting path toward professional ministry!