Returning to the Scene of the Crime

By Angela Batie

I found myself listening to NPR as I drove a borrowed car northbound on I-91 in Connecticut this past weekend. The theme of “This American Life” was “Returning to the Scene of the Crime,” a topic which seemed to describe my weekend as well. I had returned to Yale Divinity School, the scene of the crime of my graduate studies – a crime that robbed me of the comforts of complacency in my faith and left me with a concern for ecumenical sensitivity and an acute hermeneutic of suspicion.

I came back to New Haven as a panelist in a conference on “The Future of the Congregation”. Our panel, comprised of ministers who graduate from YDS in the last five years, shared our experiences of working in congregations and our sense of what is happening in the church now. I was the only non-Protestant, the only non-ordained, and the only one not working in a traditional parish context.

The discussions throughout the conference were rich and lively, and I felt thankful to be part of it. Yet, there was a discomfort that crept through me during the two days. I had returned to the scene of my theological formation, a place that ignited my imagination, seduced my intellect, and broadened my spirituality. I emerged from YDS confident in my liminal position in the Church – minister, yet lay; pastor, yet woman.

It is not that my confidence has diminished in the two years since graduation, nor that I no longer believe the ideas that were fostered at YDS. Yet, as I returned to YDS, I had to come face-to-face with the ways I have changed since I left. I realized that being submerged in an all-Catholic context for two years has eroded parts of me, while building up others. Just as attending a non-Catholic school for the first time in my life shifted my perspective tremendously, returning to a Catholic context has again changed my understanding of myself, my faith, and my Church. The words of conversations that I once spoke fluently now felt awkward in my mouth. The worship service with inclusive language that I dutifully attended as a student now felt like a canteen in the desert.

It may sound strange. Of course I’ve changed since I graduated! How sad it would be if I hadn’t! Yet, there was a little bit of grief in there for me, because now that means my experience at YDS grows more distant by the year. It also convicted me of my need to continue the conversations, exploration, and risk that began during my time at YDS. Perhaps struggling with that is the sentence I will serve.

Angela is a campus minister at a Catholic university in the Midwest. She has never been convicted of a felony.

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