I completely sympathize with the person who submitted this question, because I could ask the same thing. And the best part is that the second part of her question needs your input, because we focused on the first.
As a single woman who has my own household, bills, etc. I am finding the idea of uprooting all that and becoming a student again rather frightening.
(a) How does one do this? I need practical advice on selling a house, paying off a car, saving, wrapping up all the regular life financial stuff so I can go back to school. Heck what do I do with my lawn mower, my furniture, my CATS! I'm not even entirely sure what the question is, it's so large!
(b)If you could recommend one (and only one) book to a youngish woman starting her discernment what would it be?
OK, everyone, we're opening part B (and a good chunk of part A) up to all of you; please recommend one book for our questioner. After all, if all of you do, she'll have to read more than four books a week to get through all of them in one year.
But as for part A, let me start by reassuring you it can be done. It's not easy, and you may have to make some sacrifices—I know this because I've looked into it as well, and wound up taking a slightly different route for the time being since I'm still raising kids and the primary breadwinner for my family. But even with that the case, I've found something that works for me. I'll share that in a moment, but first, hear what our matriarchs have to say.
First off, it's hard to give specific information without an idea of which denomination you're in and what options you have. That said, says Peripatetic Polar Bear, "If you are from a denomination that allows you to choose your own seminary, I'd encourage you to start out your seminary experience near home. There are intensive courses at various seminaries (check out Marie at Loud, Brash and Dramatic--she's done this a couple times) or commute. This would allow you to stay in your home longer."
PPB continues, "If you must or wish to move to go to seminary, remember you will most likely live in an apartment there, too--the cats can come, some of the furniture will be needed! You'll have to weigh out what to do with the rest--remember it's a relatively short time and you may want all that furniture later! You might look into storing it."
Abi adds, "If you can't afford storage and your family can't keep things for you, have a major yard sale, and then whatever you don't sell, give away. Except for the cats! Try to live somewhere that allows cats. They are your family in a way, take them with you if you can, you will need them and they will need you."
A big undertaking
More from Abi: "It is huge what you are doing. Take a deep breath, and take it step by step and one day at a time. Make a list of what you don't need and what you will need, what you can do with out, and then go from there." At the same time, there is the question of how you will maintain yourself in the meantime. Do you have a financial advisor? As it happens, I presently work for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, and I know quite a few. Or, as Abi notes, there might be someone at your church you can talk to, or perhaps your minister or someone from diocese/conference/etc. office could recommend someone.
Also, says PPB, "Sit down with the financial aid officer at a few of the schools that you are considering. Find out if selling your house is going to help or hurt you. (You may be better off keeping it and renting it out.) My experience has been that most financial aid officers are a wealth of a information about the ins and outs of financial aid. They are on your side, remember! Lots of seminary students are still paying on cars. Pay it off if you possibly can, but it's not an entrance requirement!
And while PPB adds that she's no financial expert, "the financial and logistical stuff will resolve itself. There are lots of people who can and will help you with that stuff. I'm guessing that seminary in and of itself is probably freaking you out a bit. I'd spend some time with that question--do some visiting of schools, meet with students similar in age and life-circumstance to you--ask how they did it--not just financially, but major change of life-wise! Sit with the discernment questions. Sit with the what would it be like to go back to school again questions--money is scary but it is probably the easiest piece of it. My sister always says that any problem you can throw money at is not really a problem. That's easy for her wealthy self to say, but my poor self has figured out that there is some truth in it. When I'm most freaked out about money and logistics--it's usually not about the money or the logistics."
Jan shares a story on how far some people have gone to make it work, and you can consider this a cautionary tale. "We have supported several seminarians through the years and all have been single women. Unfortunately, one seminarian left with the expectation that our congregation would support her in ways that we found difficult to manage. She wrote letters to the church newsletter and to individual members which almost always 1) reminded us that she had sold all she had and this was really hard, and 2) we, as her congregation were responsible for her now. Well, yes . . . and no. We have a fund to support seminarians, but she also sent us bills for other expenses from plane tickets to groceries. Over-the-top stuff. She expected members to pay for hair cuts when she was home, for example. She sent us her papers, her sermons, her tests, her schedules saying that because she was going to seminary, 'we were all going to seminary.'
"This is an extreme example, but I share it because your relationship with your home church will be important," Jan continues. "Appreciate them. Let them know how things are going. Share details as they seem interested. But remember that this is your decision (with God's prodding, and I hope with your congregation's encouragement) and there are certain things they will not be able to do for you or with you . . . just like the congregation you will one day serve.It's important to establish good boundaries now, while also figuring out where to get the variety of support (financial, spiritual, emotional) you'll need. God-speed to you!"
Our matriarchs note that this is one area where their experience fails them, because, as Abi puts it, "Its been too long ago for me. And I went right out of college with nothing to Seminary.I hope some of you who have done this will speak out. And I hope some of you who are presently students will speak out too." Again, audience participation is a key on this AtM!