Day 44: Passion From Within...
I arrived onto the Princeton Seminary campus early fall of 1993, moving into the Alexander hall dormitory room assigned to me.
It was a single, corner room on the second floor (far right here), with a good view of the driveway into the heart of campus. Ancient trees stood close by, and the then-Speer library whispered from off in the distance. [Theodore Sedgwick Wright Library now, re-named in 2021 after the first African-American seminary graduate in the mid-1800’s].
My next door neighbors shared the doubles that were common only in Alexander Hall—a large room conjoined with a smaller room: architecture to serve Southern or slave-holding states’ white men matriculating at Princeton, bringing a slave with them. I remember we three white women naming that aloud, followed by an awkward, ashamed silence. We moved on into polite get-to-know you chit-chat. [Alexander Hall is currently closed from residence. In 2018, Princeton Seminary did complete an historical audit of its participation in slavery.]
Amidst such complexities, I was still in a heaven, of sorts. I had spent nearly a year, while in Pasadena, immersing myself in church history. A long walk during a Spring Break in 1992 had landed me with great surprise at a seminary campus there in Pasadena—Fuller Theological Seminary. I had known nothing of its existence until I meandered aimlessly onto campus. Spring registration was happening in the social hall, and I found myself signing up for a Saturday morning course, perfect for fulltime school teachers, which I was at the time. James Bradley was the professor. He gave a little sermonette before each class. Sitting in a classroom again, learning about the faith-struggles and learnings of the ancients before me? I had been primed for this, and simply could not get enough. I’d teach all day, coach in the afternoons, then land at the local Shakers’ Restaurant to read church history until 12 or 1 a.m. Sleep and repeat.
In my awareness then, I was finally surrounded by other human beings similarly fascinated and drawn to this Holy Fire I felt within me. In an historic American town, with multiple libraries and an ethos of intellectual rigor about things of faith. Church History. Old Testament. Speech Communications (the preamble Princeton is known for, required before any Preaching classes). There must have been other classes too, but I don’t remember. I pursued and got a job at the Olive Garden out on Route 1, wanting to keep some attachment to "normal" life.
Autumn in Princeton, New Jersey. Responsibilities to read and write, study and learn. Free pasta from the Olive Garden. New friends I thought I’d have for a lifetime. I felt blessed and seen and heard, in a passion so new to me, even as it had been seeded within me for years in breakfasts with Dad, reading C.S. Lewis sermons.
I finally had a purpose, a direction, that was fired from within me, a passion in my belly.