On Orientation

orientation
noun ori – en – ta – tion \ ȯr-ē-ən-ˈtā-shən
: a person’s feelings, interests, and beliefs
: a main interest, quality, or goal
: the process of giving people training and information about a new job, situation, etc.

I have a very intelligent friend who has done research in medical anthropology, with a focus on the values communicated to aspiring doctors during their medical school orientation.

compass-008As I write this, I have just completed 3 days of seminary orientation at Duke Divinity School. And I wonder: What would my researcher-friend be observing if she had been in my shoes (or perhaps I should say “in my pews”)? What is the orientation or “main interest, quality, or goal,” to quote Merriam-Webster, of these aspiring ministers around me?

The orientation is toward creativity. I heard a sermon that had such lyricism and imagery it may as well have been preached at a poetry slam. I heard a visionary lecture on “theological education for the future of the Church.” I see abstract art and sculptures and posters about all manner of creative and collaborative initiatives.

The orientation is toward integrity. One professor spoke on the school’s Conduct Covenant, calling community members to a high standard of academic and behavioral integrity — not just to avoid consequences but to honor God, self, and others with our actions. Two presenters spoke in detail about sexual harassment policies and prevention. All of us sang this morning that “we will guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

The orientation is toward diversity. On Wednesday, we sang gospel songs led by a small ensemble of singers — mostly black students, a couple white. On Thursday, we sang hymns, hymnals in our hands and pipe organ in our ears. On Friday, we sang songs by Chris Tomlin and Hillsong, led by a small band of guitar, drums, and vocals. Every day, I met folks of different racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, sexual, political, and denominational identities. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic. Gay, straight, trans, cis. Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, Episcopal, Catholic, Reformed, nondenominational. We are undeniably different from one another and undeniably called to respect one another.

The orientation is toward community. The Director of Admissions & Recruitment opened orientation by saying, “Listen to what I’m about to say: Welcome. Home.” Every faculty, staff, and student has been quick to say, “If you need help with anything, I’m here for you.” It’s as though that’s our last name around here, as in “Hi, I’m Sarah I’m-here-for-you!”

The orientation is toward Christ, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He’s the main interest, he’s the quality, he’s the goal.

Remind me to read this blog again in a couple months, when I’m in the middle of midterms and feeling less inspired. When the mind, heart, and soul are spinning in ten different directions like a broken compass in need of orientation.

Until then? I’m as oriented as I’ll ever be.

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