Miami Vicar

I returned for my second year of seminary a bit more prepared for the experience. I needed to take an overload of classes and also two classes the following summer to compensate for the term I had missed, but additional academic work was no worry for me. I also found a job off-campus. Five nights a week, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., I was a security guard for a major trucking firm I sat in a shack and checked truck trailers in and out of the lot. The job gave me time to do all my reading assignments and to write drafts of all my written assignments that I could then type back on campus. I even composed some creative writing of my own in that guard shack. When I started the job, I signed a paper indicating that any work I did while on company property belonged to the company. But no one has ever asked me for a copy of the papers I wrote that year or the short stories I composed.

In the dormitory, I found myself part of a group of friends. We visited and talked about classes and professors. We watched TV together. We played cards. We formed a temporary identity. For thirty years, since the campus had been designed and built, the dormitories had been designated only by letter names: A, B, C, and so on. We lived in Dorm C, but we decided that our building needed a real name. A paper was posted on the bulletin board, asking for suggestions. The only rule was that the name had to begin with the letter C. From the start, I knew that some name would appear just before the deadline that would be just right. Until that happened, the most popular candidate was Chemnitz. (Martin Chemnitz was a theologian a generation after Luther, one so important in expressing doctrine that he is often called “the second Martin.”) But the last-minute winner—and I never learned who proposed the name—was Clyde. I cut the appropriate letters out of black construction paper, laminated them, and put them after the C on the outside wall. A few days later, our neighbors to one side had renamed their dormitory Bonnie, while the neighbors to the other side chose the generic Dorm. Maintenance removed the names, but I replaced ours. Our identity of Clyde mattered, at least to me.

When we returned from vicarage for our final year on campus, the dormitories had all been named by the school’s Board of Directors. Bonnie was now Ambrose, Clyde was Athanasius, and Dorm was Jerome.

That year I also studied Spanish and associated myself with the students and faculty interested in missionary outreach to Spanish-speaking people in the United States. I had been around Hispanics for a while—during college I had a roommate from Columbia and, later, another from Venezuela. I was friends with people from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. During my half-year away from campus, I had become close to a family of Mexican ancestry. Involving myself in outreach to Hispanics felt comfortable to me.

The seminary respected my choice and supported it. When the time came for me to be sent to a congregation for a one-year internship, or vicarage, I was sent to a dual-language congregation in Miami, Florida. I worked there with Spanish-speaking Lutherans, many of them from Cuba. I learned about cross-cultural ministry, about Cuban culture, and also a bit about politics. At times I was uncomfortable and felt myself outside of my comfort zone. But, then, I feel that way most days. I was given passing marks on my vicarage. After a two-week missionary trip into Mexico with a non-denominational Christian group, I returned to campus, ready for the final lap that would earn a Master of Divinity degree and a certification saying that I was qualified to be a Lutheran pastor. J.


9 thoughts on “Miami Vicar

      • My folks had a brief stint in the Missouri Synod back in the early 60’s, then the rest of life in ELCA in Norwood Park. I am currently fairly active in our local ELCA church when I got “volunteered” a year ago to do the online worship services since it was a hobby. Now I’m trying to expand it a bit to get the old pre-pandemic crowd back. Family is buried in Mt. Emblem in Elmhurst.


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