Verse – Clandestine Communication

We used to pass notes while in school,
The teachers said “No! There’s a rule!”
But students today
Will have their own say:
A smart phone helps them play the fool!

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, August 29, 2015

Verse – A Sign for Locker Rooms

The best coaches in sports are all teachers,
Although some it’s true also are preachers,
But the one that we fear
And try not to go near
Is the coach that consistently screeches.

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, Feb. 19, 2015

Verse – learning when age-ed

the teachers now are all younger
they have read more than i ever
will their devices seem part of
their hands but words and books they love
still as well as screens and apple
will my swiss cheese mind prove ample

-Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, September 19, 2013

Swiss Chees Brain

Swiss Chees Brain

Steve is bringing his Swiss cheese mind to Tuesday Dialogues at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN on Tuesday, October 1.

Marriage Equality in Minnesota

gaymarriageMy younger son is gay. For 12 years he’s been in a committed relationship in New York.

His response to the news that Minnesota will now become a marriage equality state was:

“Great. One more state in which I get to choose not to get married!”

He doesn’t want to get married. He just wants for anyone who chooses the covenant of marriage to have that choice. He just wants to live his life.

In 1978 students at The College of Wooster began “coming out” to me in the safe space of my office at The Church House”, the campus ministry center that housed the offices of the College Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church. I served the dual role of Pastor of the church and Pastor to the College of Wooster.

Dr. Violet Startzman, the physician at the College’s Health Center, came home with the results of a three-year study on homosexuality commissioned by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Westminster sponsored public forums, adult studies, and less formal conversations about the core finding of the study: same-gender orientation is not a choice; it’s part of the natural spectrum of human sexual attraction and love.

It was in that context that previously fearful or confused students shared in the privacy of the pastor’s office and found affirmation. They were active in the college church. They were ordained (student) elders on the church board.

My story since then is complicated, more so than I would like it to have been, in retrospect. Pastors are teachers and educators as well as advocates. Those of us who seek to minister to a congregation wear the mantle of conflicting responsibilities of conscience, patience, unity, and advocacy. We are first and foremost rabbis (teachers). Teaching is different from preaching, although the good preacher is also a teacher. And teachers begin by respecting their students, no matter what their views are on a given subject. Each of us perceives the world through eyes that see what experience has taught us to see.

When my son came out to us, we were grateful. Grateful for his self-knowledge. Grateful for his trust. Grateful that a (not-so-secret) secret was no longer a secret. So very grateful and proud of who he was as a young man and all that he had done and stood for.

Now, today, I am in Minnesota. He is in New York. I, like him, am grateful that there is one more state in which he can choose whether or not to be married.

From Students, teachers should receive…

From students, teachers should receive

much money:  for the smart believe

they learned so much–and from the dull

because they raised unholy Hell.

(after Isocrates, 5th C., BCE)

– a Chreia

Isocrates, Greek teacher and rhetorician

A chreia in classical Greek culture was a brief, useful (“χρεία” means useful) anecdote attributed by the author to a particular character. In this case it was in honor of Isocrates, an honored rhetorician.The chreiai are remembered primarily for their role in classical Greek education, a system known as paideia in which wisdom was the goal. Children were introduced to simple chreiai almost as soon as they could read. These chreiai served as the means of character formation and the increase of wisdom for living in a civil society.

Later in their education, as they prepared to practice rhetoric (the art of discourse, both written and spoken), these chreiai served as the basis for formal eight paragraph essays in which the student elaborated on the subject of a chreia. The student would praise, paraphrase, explain, contrast, compare, provide an example, make a judgment, and, in conclusion, exhort the reader.

Thanks to my fellow student Steve for sending “after Isocrates.” In honor of my teachers – Gordon Kidder, Mrs. Martino, Mr. Thompson, Ms. Manlove, Harold Miller, Helen Semar, Esther Swenson, Ted Campbell, Lew Briner, Tom Parker, Krister Stendahl, my father and mother –  I’m going to write an eight paragraph essay on this chreia.