“I Am NYTS” Student Stories – Dr. Jerry Reisig, NYTS Professor
Dr. Jerry Reisig, NYTS Professor
During interviews with prospective students, I always ask the question: “Why NYTS?” My 12 years at the seminary have taught me the strength that is only possible through prayer. When I came to the seminary my sense of the power of prayer was limited to asking for my lost house keys and the success of the 1986 Mets. Other than these magical rites, prayer was for pious people, who were not like me.
At NYTS, I have come to understand that prayer is the force that creates and maintains communities. It is everywhere in the process of teaching; it begins and ends every class and every faculty meeting. As a teacher, I knew I would have to say profound things; I never imagined that I was called to NYTS to learn how to pray. In one of my early classes, I had an interaction with a student where my Quaker calm left me and I spoke rather harshly. To my astonishment the student was in tears. After class I was numb at my behavior and wondered why I even considered myself a teacher. While I beat myself up, a young woman from class came back and stood by me. “I screwed up,” I said. She did not respond to my need to be the bad guy, but said, “I think that you need a hug.” I was literally blown away; I would never have had the pluck to go up to a professor of mine and do such a thing. But here was this small African American woman who was offering simply to hug me; that was it, no fuss, just a hug. But in accepting it I began to understand what prayer was.
At NYTS, prayer is integral in coming together; it is the recognizable oral prayer and the prayer of action in support of another. The phrase, I will pray for you, means more than I am thinking of you; it is not only a memory but also a call to caring action. Students openly pray for one another, get notes for one another, counsel one another, create community with one another. Every second of every hour of every day, those communities of care arise naturally among students faculty and staff. Prayers are constantly given for other members of the community, prayers so honest that even God cannot deny them. Prayers of need go out from those in need for those in need. The community grows deeper and closer out of need, out of care, out of rejoicing. Even a balding white professor can learn to accept his need for a hug and a prayer. So why NYTS? Because we need each other.