Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard is in his second year at EMS.
Surprised by Balance
When I imagined myself in graduate school, I had this bookish picture of myself pouring through scholarly texts day and night, becoming a squatter at the Hartzler Library. I could see myself rifling through dusty archives and skimming piles of theology books for bits of information for research projects. But strangely, after six weeks at EMS, no one has yet called me a hermit!
This isn’t because there hasn’t been lots of hard work and long hours reading, writing, researching and reflecting — there certainly has! But I think my friends and family haven’t started calling me a monk because the work that we have engaged in so far in my first semester has had admirable balance. My ideas of reclusive, book worm seminarians have been surprisingly reshaped — with great thanks to the faculty and students around me.
I’ve been surprised by and greatly appreciative of the balance of the class schedules, the diverse content of class work, the varied opportunities for worshiping and sharing together as a community, and the intentional periods of rest. The class schedules at EMS are intentionally concentrated during three days each week. I’ve found this extremely valuable as I am able to flex the rest of my week to best accommodate my involvements in congregational life and the broader Harrisonburg community as well as my academic work and the general responsibilities of home life.
I’ve also been gratefully surprised by the balance of content in classes. We have ample opportunities to engage and develop our own life stories and learn from each other even as we rigorously enter God’s story through our historical, theological, sociological and language studies. Even as hard work is clearly valued, time each week is set aside to stop, worship and eat together around Seminary chapel services. Especially indicative of this equilibrium was Spiritual Life Week during which some classes were canceled and we took a day for quiet retreat and reflection.
It is apparent to me that EMS is serious about training people who can maintain academically, spiritually, emotionally, socially and physically balanced lives!