What does Plan A look like? More importantly, how was I to get to Plan A from this perpetual place of permanence with plan B?
My days at the hotel were beginning to resemble a hamster wheel as I had all but joined the ranks there in soothing one’s daily miseries, sitting in a darkly lit pub with shadowy figures hiding in corners trying to forget where they are. To try and keep myself interested in societal interaction I was pouring myself more and more into our church. Consequently, like I had written about earlier, I was doing sound and my wife and I were doing the youth ministry but now I had stepped onto the board. Once again I had entered that symbiotic relationship dynamic that exists between the leadership of the church and those who simply attend the church.
This symbiotic relationship seems to resemble the classic chicken and egg question or a more existential approach of one simply existing to validate the other.Conflict is inevitably woven into the fabric of its structure, its compound, with the initial ideas around what constituted the need for a church lost in the church’s own history. Complex interpersonal dynamics further complicated by definitions and hermeneutical approaches to rank, reason, methodology, gender status, contribution, and participation.
In other words the very structure of the church closely resembles the mashing of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” and George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.
And I wanted to figure out a way to do this full-time.
Although, in all fairness to myself I was more interested in combining a theologically-based degree with a larger emphasis on counseling and therapy then on learning proper exegesis techniques for preaching. My draw to full-time ministry was from a place of wanting to help people – to care for people, and over the years that had become more defined as counseling and therapy. This leaning came from my larger community work when I was back working for corporate, along with my personal experiences of loss and trauma. Consequently, my cult experience provided just enough prodding toward counseling and therapy within a church context so that I could provide a safe and healthy alternative to a broken church and a harmful cult experience.
So I began to research what was available to me. Different schools, different degrees, different approaches. I wasn’t necessarily looking to move away for school as financially and emotionally this didn’t appear to be the best thing for our family. So I limited my searches to online courses. I found two schools. The first, ironically, was the university that I had first traveled to with my old girlfriend and where I had become so broken that I had attempted to take my life. I was now in a much healthier place so I wasn’t so keen on dismissing this school simply because of that past connection. The second school was located out in the middle of the prairies in a place I had never heard before in a land I knew nothing about.
Both seemed viable options. Both were accredited. Both offered online courses, although both had residency requirements, meaning at some point in this academic journey I would be required to be taking the final courses in person. One way or another that meant I would be living on campus or nearby for one year of my degree. When I factored the residency requirement into the picture the university at the coast ended up not being an option for the associated costs of residency were far too expensive. Conversely when I examined what those residency costs might be at that prairie school I was blown away with how much less it was. In fact, it was so cheap it was almost worth thinking about living there and commuting to work back here in this valley city. But I exaggerate.
With a school chosen I set out to begin this laborious journey of applying for admission. I needed to compile my life into neat compact forms, with various reports filled out by other people in my life, testifying to my worthiness or not. This arduous process took several weeks, if not months, to complete form after form after form. There were the full medical examinations, past transcripts, entrance essays and the such that needed to be sent into the school in a very specific sequence. Often during this process the school would contact me, asking for more information before approving that one step and allowing me to move onto the next step. It was never this complicated when I was younger and was approved for admission to those couple of post-secondary schools. I had wondered what had changed all these years later.
Finally, the school responded with a simple letter. I had been approved but in a different way then I had expected. Apparently, they were allowed to offer a very small percentage of their student body an exception on entrance. What this meant was that they were able to grant me permission to begin my post-secondary academic journey toward obtaining my Master’s degree without having completed a Bachelor’s degree. That was what all of the hoops and essays and documentation was about. They were doing an assessment on me to see if I met their standards. They did this automatically with ‘mature’ students and since I was applying just around their minimal age requirement they checked out whether I would qualify. As it turned out I did. I would be placed on immediate academic probation and would be required to achieve a very high mark on my first ten courses at which point the school would re-assess my application to see if they would allow me to continue with my Master’s degree or if I would need to take my Bachelor’s instead.
This changed everything for me. I had no idea such an opportunity existed and now I had been given this chance. To obtain my Master’s degree in Counselling opened up many more doors then I had previously been thinking about and so my wife and I had some decisions to make around what we wanted to do with this. There was most definitely a residency requirement – one that was much higher than with a Bachelor’s degree. I could take most of the ten courses online but if I was successful through my academic probation and granted access to complete my Master’s degree then I would need to move out to the prairies in order to finish this four year degree.
This meant another huge move for our family. Another rocking of our world and we weren’t sure if we could do one more move without severely harming our family in the process.