It is not a classic calling story.
I went to seminary because I didn’t want to leave Canada. I couldn’t find a job that fulfilled the requirements for a work visa, so I signed up for a master’s degree. My vague plan to take theology classes parttime became a fulltime plan, which turned into a PhD, which became a job at VST.
I was driven more by need than by deliberation. I loved words, and those were plentiful at seminary, but I had little sense of vocation. It felt self-indulgent to do more schooling because I liked to read, and my immigration woes seemed irrelevant.
Now, the way I ended up at seminary feels appropriate to who I am as a biblical scholar. I write about land, land politics, migration, and ecology. I am interested in belonging, how the bible understands the relationship between land, animals, plants, humans, and God, in the claims places make on us, and the ways in which we turn belonging into exclusion. Choosing to study in order to stay somewhere now doesn’t seem shallow. My experience with immigration is a key inspiration for
my work. And few interests have served me better in biblical studies than my interest in words. Words and land together form the nucleus of my work, and those were present that summer when I didn’t want to leave Canada.
Some of you are at VST because you know exactly what you want to do. Some of you have stories like mine. Whatever took you to VST, I look forward to thinking together about words and the world, about the connection between what we read in the bible and how we live where we are. I am still not sure where I am going, but I am glad we are traveling together.
Dr. Mari Jorstad is the new Academic Dean and Prof. of Hebrew Bible at VST. Mari is a biblical scholar, whose research focuses on ecology, land, migration and belonging in the Hebrew Bible. She received her BA from the University of Toronto, a Master of Religion from the Toronto School of Theology (Wycliffe College), and a PhD from Duke University, where she studied with Ellen Davis.