Monday, January 07, 2013

Response to Reed's "The Difference"

An alumnus, Jim Brandis, writes:

Kathleen, I appreciated your comments in the Alma Mater News. I was a bit surprised that you recalled one Dr. Ridenhour’s bold expressions. I graduated a few years before you but I was part of the same era. I am a ’75 graduate. As for an incident, I remember visiting with Dr. Bengt Hoffman. I was already in the parish and was in a difficult situation at the time. I visited with Dr. Hoffman, looking for some wise, fatherly guidance and support. We were in his office. It was in the summer. At the close of the visit, Dr. Hoffman offered prayer. There was something about his prayer that was unlike other experiences I have had.

Through his simple words and his humble presence I felt as if Dr. Hoffman had just invited the Holy One to be with us. There was a sense in which Dr.Hoffman, like Moses, was speaking with God face to face. Dr. Hoffman ended the prayer as simply as he began it, but something unusual happened in that brief moment. A few years ago, I filled out a student recommendation form. One of the questions on the form was, “Is this person intellectually curious?” I thought to myself, “This is a wonderful question.” This is a rare quality to be found in individuals, even among those who commit themselves to the academic rigors of seminary. So many, it seems, stop learning as soon as they graduate from seminary.

I think the seminary experience is designed to create an atmosphere for the discipline of study of a wide variety of topics related to ministry, but also to invite people into the process of being perpetual students whose curiosity never ends. How our American culture today has squelched the love of learning and the intellectual disciplines. After completing the M.Div. degree I went on to complete an S.T.M. at LTSG, completed clinical training and became board certified as a chaplain. I also appreciate the seminary’s integration of spiritual formation into the curriculum. That is so important for the task and process of ministry. That is what Dr. Bengt Hoffman embodied in his teaching and in his personal life. I must say that after 30+ years of ministry, I find myself saying, “Now I understand what my professors were trying to teach me!”

Gratefully yours, Pastor Jim Brandis

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