Status Quaestionis

Over the past couple of weeks a lot of people have asked me how Seabury’s recent announcements affect me and Margaret and Pippa. I’ve been corresponding with Seabury Headquarters, and this is where we come out.
Seabury will need to cut faculty. I’m a full professor who teaches an area that Seabury is confident they can cover by drawing on courses from other local institutions or adjuncts, if necessary. Nothing I teach was enumerated, for instance, as a course Seabury was committed to teaching next year. Now, Seabury would be obligated to see whether there is some other function I could serve in the institution — perhaps I could teach outside my main area, or serve as a registrar — but given what it would cost to employ me in those capacities, and given that other people are actually better at those functions (and enjoy them more), that doesn’t make sense. So although the formal decisions won’t be made for another month or so, I have communicated to the leaders and to my faculty colleagues that I expect them to terminate my contract, that that makes sense to me, and as of this week I am fully, officially, looking for another job. I will continue under contract to Seabury through June, but I do not expect to return there unless for a quick visit relative to disposing of our household furnishings (Margaret has stepped forward to tackle the gritty “this we keep, this we sell/give/dump” work, bless her kind heart). Seabury may call me up if I need to cast a formal vote on something, but I have asked not to be part of the deliberations that presently occupy the institution.
So I’m pretty much a free agent.
That’s difficult, because this is a miserable time of the academic year to be looking for work. I have applied for one position, but that won’t be decided for a couple of months. One-year appointments don’t make sense for me, because I will be covered by a severance package; as Margaret reminds me, I should just take the next year as an extension of my sabbatical. I hate not having a job, though; joblessness haunts me, so I’d rather find a place to latch onto. Of course, if someone wanted to offer me a job beginning the year after next, that would be another story.
We need to find a place where Margaret can pick up some teaching too, either full- or part-time. We prefer to live closer to the east coast than further, though we’re not in a position to rule out an attractive opportunity elsewhere. (If you hear of such an opening, feel free to nominate whichever of us it fits.)
We presently plan to live in or near Princeton next year, unless a permanent alternative comes into focus. It’s a good location we know well, and (most important) Pippa has grown strong connections to Trinity’s choir and to her music teachers here.
Seabury and I had persistent differences, but now is not the time to talk those out. Now, they need to chart a new future, and Margaret and I need to find jobs.

15 thoughts on “Status Quaestionis

  1. “…this is a miserable time of the academic year to be looking for work.”

    I thought so, too, but was heartened when the person who decided to eliminate my position told a colleague expressing concern about my prospects, “Oh, he’ll be fine! There are plenty of jobs!” After I ask where those plenty of jobs might be found, I’ll certainly let you know.

  2. And of course you, my friend, await that invisible bounty of professional opportunities without the insulation that severance may provide.
    Take care of Gretchen and Checkers first; don’t worry about me till they’re provided for.

  3. I am sorry I never had the chance to have you as a professor; I always enjoyed our interactions at Alumni Days. So I am grieved to think you won’t be a part of Seabury, but then Seabury isn’t going to be Seabury any more anyway. I think this is a wise move on your part– I hope you and Margaret have a soft landing, and blessings to you as you discern where God is calling you next.

    I had the pleasure of working with Tom Whittemore from Trinity at an RSCM course I was chaplain for this past summer, and if Pippa is singing with him, she is blessed indeed! Although I could never quite get over the fact that he looked like Kenneth Branagh, and I kept waiting for him to burst into a St. Crispin’s Day speech in the middle of choir practice.

  4. Well, Ref, Polson is indeed east. . of Spokane. I’ll talk to Margaret about it.
    As for Wesley, Pascale: When I asked them last fall, they indicated pretty firmly that they would hire at the entry level. I expect that they’ve already drawn close to making a choice, but I suppose I can ask about their search.

  5. AKMA,

    I’m really to hear about all this. I have several friends who went to Seabury from the Diocese of Indianapolis, form where I also hail, although I’m now serving in the Diocese of Newark and attended General. (You might know Dr. Charles Allen and Davies Reed, among others.) In any case, someone suggested perhaps back to parish ministry. Newark, New York, and New Jersey all have various openings and you could stay in this area. these are excellent dioceses at the moment. I believe PA does as well, but I don’t know for sure given their turmoil. I might stay away from LI for a while.

    If you’re committed to academia, you might just check out General. Bill Danaher just announced he’s leaving General at the end of the term – he was teaching ethics, and I don’t know if that’s much of your field or not. But there’s also an opening as professor/director of the Tutu Center which you might want to check out.

    I also know Hunter College in Manhattan has used a lot of adjuncts in the dept. of religion recently – I almost took a course myself. NYC would be chock full of opportunities, obviously; those are just the ones I know about.

    Lenten blessings,


  6. Alas, neither of us really qualifies in Christian Education (as a field — I’m not running down our standing as teachers!).
    RFSJ, thanks for the tips. I’m a little leery of going directly to parishes; I’m not what they probably would expect of a rector. (Of course I remember Charles and Davies!) I don’t qualify for an ethics position, though Margaret might, depending on how they frame the advertisement. We’ll keep an eye on developments there.

  7. Time to start wearing that “Unemployed Theologian: Will Exegete For Food” shirt.

    Hoping you find something which is agreeable to you sooner rather than later.

  8. AKMA: rough and tough. All these seminaries seem to be going at once — EDS selling half its real estate — maybe you could be the Dean there (!) — Bexley doing what Bexley does best …
    What a depressing scenario. Being in the ordained ministry is like skating on ever-thinning ice.
    Love to Margaret and Pippa, to Si and Nate. I love the idea that you would be cerca de Princeton — Seth and Laura being at Temple. We will stop and visit.
    You could write a thinly disguised novel about your experiences, more like “The Wire” than “Barchester Towers.”
    I do hope I am not just curmudgeonly here, but the collapse of the ordained ministry as a profession where one might reasonably expect to be employed throughout one’s useful working life, and of the vocation of academic clergy such as yourself, has come with a much more rapid and mighty thud than I imagined possible.

  9. AKMA, my prayers, and best wishes, being jobless in Western culture is the pits, one feels so useless regardless of the facts! I would suggest though that if (a) jobs are slow at this time of year in the USA and (b) you are covered financially for a while, that you think about spending a few months teaching voluntarily in an institution in the Majority World. There are thousands of seminaries and hundreds of Universities who could really use a semester of your time and would house and feed you if you could afford the airfare. It is only in the West (almost) that Christain Theologians are a glut on the market 😉

  10. Church of the Advent, Cape May (just a thought. . . good summer music camp in the area – so I hear). Seriously, can’t offer much help on the front end of searching, but would be delighted and honored to serve as a reference should you want one from a former-non-student who often found herself writing lugubrious sentences near you and then laughing at myself.

  11. I’m grateful that I was at SWTS during The AKMA Years. No matter what lucky place gets you next, your passion for teaching (as well as that unforgettable laugh that could be heard through several closed doors) will linger with those of us who were there.

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