Yes, I’m teaching this year, but I’m still a student. I don’t think you can be a teacher without also being a student. Being a student means being curious, being passionate, getting excited about new things (at least, it ought to!). And I certainly fall into that category. Nothing excites me more than a long, intense conversation about “all that God stuff”. It’s like having a great meal when you’re really hungry.
The conversation might be with a newbie, someone just coming to Religious Science, but open and wanting to learn. It reminds me of how excited I was at that stage, when I was just learning the principles and seeing them go to work in my life. I love it when people ask me to explain what Religious Science is and, after I tell them, hearing them say, “That sounds like how I’ve always believed, but I didn’t know anyone else thought that!” I thought that 32 years ago and thought I was the only one. Since then, I’ve seen what a common experience that is.
The conversation might be with my prayer partner, a long-time friend and student of Religious Science. The insights start to flow back and forth, cartoon light bulbs alternately flaring over my head, then hers. She’s challenging and “leading is shared and mutual. Our daily prayer sessions usually run to 5 minutes of praying, 55 minutes of laughing, but over-all, 60 minutes of growth.
As a perpetual student, I’ve known many differnet kinds of teachers in my time. Most of them have been a blessing and I’ve incorporated their sayings into what I say so much that my students now quote their sayings as “Rev. Mary says…”! Once in a while you meet a teacher who’s just in it to hear themselves talk. They like the whole “sitting at my feet, gaining my pearls of wisdom” thing. It’s pretty unbearable. Not to mention static. I feel I’m a student, too, because I expect to learn as much as I teach or I’m disappointed. Every person has led a life. Every person has learned things. Every person has something to share. Sometimes I’m in awe of what they teach me.
This happened with one of my very first classes I taught here. The class went for four years, waxing and waning in numbers, but Vicky Heffner, Nora Goya, and Rev. Don Kerr were constants. I’ll never foget their class because they becam “the thing that wouldn’t leave”! At that time classes were 9 months (not 8 weeks) long. After the 9 months were up, I assumed we were all ready for summer break. They weren’t! They said, “What else would we do on Monday nights?” I was so stunned and excited by their excitement, I made up more curriculum and we met right through the summer, when they, once again, wanted to continue, I sai, “You are going home!” in no uncertain terms. But they countered with “What if we taught ourselves?” I said it would be all right if they opened the class they taught to the whole congregation and they did! The students became the teachers.
I will always consider myself a teacher first, a minister second. I’m just geared that way. And that class will always be in my heart as an example of the joy of learning at its highest. Learning for its own sake is reason enough to learn. But when you learn something you can actually apply to your own life and improve it, transform it…well, what more could you ask for?
Thanks to all my students for allowing me to keep on learning, feeding my deepest appetite.
Love, Rev. Mary