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“Under what conditions are you most productive?”
Her question surprised me.
As a wife, mother, writer, coach, pastor’s wife, grants director and who knows how many other titles I carry, I have learned to be productive in a variety of conditions.
If I can get 15 minutes to do research for my forthcoming book on my phone in the after-school pick-up line, that is 15 minutes very well spent.
Without much thought, however, an answer fell out of my mouth.
“A big open room with lots of natural light, good internet, and easy access to a number of electrical outlets.”
I figured if she was asking, I might as well ask for the moon.
I then forgot about the question until I arrived on campus.
As soon as I arrived at The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary for my week as a Guthrie Scholar, I was given a beautiful large open room with a wall full of floor-to-ceiling windows streaming with natural light.
There were a variety of chairs and tables to spread out for different workstations.
The internet was stable.
Not only did my host point out the multiple electrical outlets, but they also gave me a surge protector and extension cord “just in case.”
On my library tour, my gracious guide said, “I heard you like natural light, I want to show you some alternate spaces.”
She showed me the best places to work for the morning light, and afternoon light, and which areas had the best views of the peak changing fall foliage.
My week as a Guthrie Scholar was one of the most productive writing sprints I have ever had.
I felt encouraged, supported, affirmed and nurtured.
Different folks stopped by enough to show support and offer encouragement, but not enough to distract or annoy me.
Even though it was a small number of seminary employees with whom I interacted, I felt the support of an institution behind me.
The gravitas that came with institutional support gave me energy, confidence, creativity and stamina.
To them, my writing wasn’t a side project, hobby, or something I worked on when I had time after work and in between soccer games and church events (and sleep).
They centered my writing as the most important work.
They made it clear that my work was the main event that week and they were invested in my flourishing.
The CCL at CTS was an ideal place to make significant progress on my book about the need for holy friendships- mutual and sacred relationships deeply rooted in God’s love- for the sustainability and flourishing of pastors and leaders.
I knew Dr. Mindy McGarrah Sharp and Dr. Israel Galindo from previous work together.
Their friendships, alongside my newly formed holy friendship with Dr. Sarah Erickson, were pillars of strength and endurance when I doubted myself and sounding boards for my questions.
They celebrated my small wins as they added up to significant progress.
In my time as a Guthrie Scholar, I knew I wanted to make progress on the book.
Thanks be to God, I accomplished that progress, and also (re)connected with a community of cheerleaders and holy friends who prepared for, invested in, and continue to support my professional productivity and my personal flourishing.
Victoria Atkinson White is Managing Director of Grants and Leadership Education at Duke Divinity. She participated as a Guthrie Scholar in November 2021
The Guthrie Scholars Program invites participants to the CTS campus for five days of independent study to pursue a topic of their choice that engages a pressing theological issue of the church from a Reformed perspective.
The intention is that plans and resources will evolve from this program that will enhance each participant’s setting for ministry. Guthrie Scholars is a theological learning opportunity offered each fall on an application basis. Click here to apply.