So you’re considering Divinity School, hmm?
First, congratulations. In my experience, people don’t normally up and decide to pursue graduate work in religion on a whim, so you’ve probably been poking around the discernment process (I love that word, discernment) for a bit now, and have sussed out some direction from the ether. You’ve braved the quirked eyebrows (Divinity School? What’s that?), maybe even a few interesting queries/comments, depending on your interests and your background (for me, coming as a predominantly non-religious female from an extended-family of Catholics, this mostly coalesced around the assumption Oh, so you’re becoming a nun!).
You’ve thought about what it means to study religion, to whatever end you’re wanting. You likely have your statement of purpose in the works, and you’ve probably thought about who you’re asking for your letters of recommendation. Hopefully you’ve already signed up for the GRE (those slots go fast!), and maybe you’ve even considered studying for the GRE (in which case, I do believe a second round of congratulations is in order).
So the real question that remains, my dear Prospective-Divinity-Schooler, is this: what does it mean to go to Divinity School?
In truth, going to Divinity School means a whole host of things. It means planning a veritable pilgrimage to Walden Pond over the weekend, and reading poetry from the same pulpit where Emerson spoke of corn and wine and fruitful soils.It means reevaluating your priorities and realigning your assumptions and recalibrating your still-point now and again, sometimes more often than that. It means embracing Rilke and loving questions and living, into and away from answers because sometimes there aren’t answers, sometimes there’s just progress, and that’s beautiful too.
It means translating Schleiermacher over a shared bag of vending-machine cookies and commenting on a Facebook post in Arabic (and cursing American keyboards for their inability to properly manage right-to-left script). It means reading a novel and a New York Times article and a neuroscience study and seeing the connections like technicolor webbing, drawing the parallels and knowing in an instant that you’ve found your term paper topic, and it might just be publishable. It means that the barista at Dunkin’ Donuts knows your order by the end of Reading Period, for all the all-nighters you’ve pulled on large iced coffees so that you can somehow—by the grace or not-grace of whatever it is you do or don’t believe in—juggle your part-time job and your finals with something like finesse. It means ordering a second Salted Caramel Mocha so that there’s an excuse to stay and finish a conversation about social justice in education when there’s reading to be done.
(It means that there is always reading to be done.)
It means stopping during a walk through campus to stare at the chalk-sketch moon against the still-blue sky and marveling for a hot-second before going about your way. It means having tea on your advisor’s couch as he tells you about his summer travels and helps you tackle the life decisions waiting for you with such a genuine sense of investment and care that it makes you marvel, just a little. It means eating hummus with your colleagues and trading bad jokes with the chaplain between one class and the next. It means cultivating a capacity, perhaps even a willingness, to be surprised, unnerved, removed from your comfort zone for an indefinite period of time.
It means writing your own story, and if you’ve been considering Divinity School, you’ve already got a pen in your hand, of one sort or another. Coming to Divinity School’s a bit like making the decision to put that pen to paper and write. Or draw. Or make a to-do list and doodle in the margins.
Maybe all of the above. (Probably all of the above.)
So whichever path you carve for yourself, wherever your discernment takes you: I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of story you tell.