Wednesday, August 29, 2007


This is the first “blog-like” entry in what I called the “Scriver Seminary Saga,” which I composed weekly on the typewriter, photocopied, and mailed to about twenty people. Internet blogging is a whole lot easier and cheaper! But this four-year project explains why it was so easy for me to take to the genre -- I’d been ready for it a long time. I’ll try to post roughly parallel to what I was writing in 1978.

Scriver Seminary The End of August

About 125 years ago my maternal ancestors packed a wagon and headed this way [to Oregon] from Illinois. [In the early 1930’s my father traveled from Winnipeg west to Oregon State College. In the late 1950’s I packed his same trunk to travel to Chicago for my undergrad years at Northwestern. I found my Browning, Montana, heart on the way home after NU graduation.] Now I’m about to pack my van and head back towards the East. This will be the second time I’ve left Portland to go to college in Chicago. The first time was in 1957 to get a degree in theatre (disguised as speech education) at Northwestern University.

This time I’ll have a double registration: University of Chicago Divinity School and Meadville/Lombard Theological School. M/L is very small and most of my classes will be at the Divinity School during the first two years.

The course of study takes four years and leads to a Doctor of Ministry degree. In the first two years I must prepare for and pass with “B’s” two sets of three exams (one per quarter), one set on the history of religion and one set on world religions today. (Fascinating stuff!) I’ll study French for my foreign language requirement. (I got a head start at PSU and really love it!) Also, I must prepare a working paper on my philosophy of ministry (I’ve already started) and defend it to a committee. [It’s typical of a really find education to start by knowing everything and then become increasingly unknowing.]

In the third year I’ll intern and in the fourth year I write my doctorate on some deep and significant subject. As far as I can tell, I’m the first Unitarian-Universalist and the first theological student in my family tree -- a sort of mutant branch! [This turned out to be untrue. My mother had several in-law ministers in her tree.]

My address in Chicago will be 5700 S. Woodlawn, Chicago, IL. I’ll be living in a bedroom and bathroom in what was once the M/L president’s house, right across the street from the school. [This was the best room in the entire assortment. It had always been kept as the “guest” room for important visitors, but Kate R. had persuaded the powers-that-be that the small front room would do for visitors -- who were only there a few days -- while what amounted to a small “suite” at the back of the house upstairs ought to go to a student. I was privileged to live there two years so I owe Kate. It was a great fall from grace to have to cram my books and self into one of the small rooms later.]

Tuition at M/L costs about $1,000 a quarter, but the school has abated $1600 of my tuition for the first year. [Actually this was a scholarship.] I have $1700 in my retirement fund (this is the third time I’ve “retired”!) and have saved close to $2,000 this year, plus my friends at First Unitarian gave me $600. [This turned out to be FAR less than what I would need. The wife of one of the students figured that actual expenses were about $11,000 a year then, or what my annual retirement income is right now. The costs at M/L would be much more now. There was some tension between young students who went into debt and old students who spent their retirement or maybe the proceeds of a house they had owned. No one was prepared to just pay the bills. The stance the school took was “if you REALLY want to be a minister... you’ll find a way.]

I’ve sold, adopted out, and given away as many of my belongings as I could, including the Pipsqueak (my dog) who found a super new home with Virginia, who is a good Leadership School friend from Tacoma. My books will be mailed in whiskey boxes (It’s a family tradition to do it that way -- also it’s the cheapest way) and I’ll just heave my mattress and 3’X8’ desk and files into the van and drive off, probably about September 10. [It turned out that I was seriously overloaded and parked my tall red desk -- which I could not bear to give up but it was oak and very heavy -- with friends. When I came to claim it four years later, they had forgotten that they were only keeping it for me, but gave it up gracefully.]

The drive takes four long days, but I’ll break it up with visits to friends. The first stop will be in Montana, of course, to visit my horse and other personalities from my wild and wooly past on the reservation.

If I have to get a job, here are some of the things I can do: catch dogs, cast bronzes, sell Western art, write almost anything, cast plaster, teach English or how to catch talks, make speeches, make brochures, put out newsletters, guide tours, sew costumes, raise bobcats, sell books... and there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t even tried yet.

[It was all drumming up courage, of course. I never did any of those things, though I did go down and interview at an important Western art gallery. Mostly I typed and one summer was research assistant for Ron Engel while he worked on his book about the Indiana Dunes. That stint has been the basis of my interest in environmentalism ever since.]


Whisky Prajer said...

I had to chuckle at the "if you REALLY want to be a minister" sentiment. I'd say that attitude just about sums up the Protestant tradition.

prairie mary said...

Yeah, I got fed up with that bit of extortion after a while. Even my dentist said, "If you REALLY want to be a minister, surely you will floss your teeth!"

Prairie Mary