24 September 2015

Faithful Scholars

September 30th is the feast day of Jerome patron saint of archaeologists, archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, libraries, school children, students, and translators*. Known for his re-translation of the bible from Hebrew to Latin (the Vulgate Bible), he had a long career in the Roman Catholic Church. At times he was close to the center of power as a favorite of popes and at other times he was either a self-imposed hermit or a true outcast. As such he had wide experience of the ups and downs of life in the church. He went out of his way to learn Hebrew at a time when Greek was the language of scholars (though how well he learned it seems to be up for discussion in scholarly circles).

The lessons for the day reflect this scholarly bent, with Timothy exhorting followers of Christ to be:

be proficient, equipped for every good work

Psalm 19 giving us the classic sermon closing line of:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.
Psalm 119 stating:
Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies, and it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your decrees are my study.
I am wiser than the elders, because I observe your commandments.
and the Gospel of Luke giving us:

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures

Something I have always appreciated about the Episcopal Church is its focus on learning and on providing paths for education for lay-people. From Sunday school to Education for Ministry; from diocesan-wide youth events to weekend trainings for adults; and from anti-racism training to mandatory Safeguarding God's Children training-- all of these events help foster life-long learning in the church.

I believe it also fosters life-long learning outside of the church environment by making learning and becoming educated a normal activity. In the church I grew up in I was encouraged to not just learn rote scripture or memorize what a passage was 'supposed to mean' but to actively engage with the classic three-legged stool of episcopalian metaphor, and the teachers I had worked hard to engage us where we were at. Ultimately, this reinforced my understanding that learning in general was a Good Thing.

I took the ideas I learned in Sunday School to college with me and those skills helped me analyze texts and synthesize my thoughts throughout my college career (and this was back in the day of the card catalog).

Just after college, stuck in the wilds of Texas, EFM (Education for Ministry) was my salvation. I met nice people, engaged with the scripture, and didn't feel quite as desperately alone as I did most of the year we lived there. It was also my introduction to a formula for learning that I have used ever since.

Experience + Reflection = Learning

This idea was further developed when I took leadership skills training and train-the-trainer workshops through the Diocese of Olympia continuing my experience of the Episcopal church as a place that encourages all types of learning from structured classes to intentional self-reflection.

It is my hope that, especially in this age of digital communication, my experience will not be rare or unusual and that the Episcopal Church will continue to be an heir to Jerome and all other scholars who valued study and learning and put that at the heart of faith.


*Also apparently patron saint of flame wars-- so truly a saint for modern times.

Resources used:

"Jerome." The Lectionary Page: Jerome. Ed. Kelly W. Puckett. N.p., 11 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015. .

"Jerome." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.,, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015. .

Kiefer, James E. "Jerome, Scholar, Translator, and Theologian." Jerome, Scholar, 
Translator, and Theologian. Society of Archbishop Justus, 29 Aug. 1999. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. .

This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 23 September 2015.

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