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A Circe Apprenticeship Odyssey: Paideia and Pentecost in Pestilence and Poetry

The following talk was presented by Carrie Eben at the CiRCE Apprenticeship graduation ceremony. 

A Circe Apprenticeship Odyssey: Paideia and Pentecost in Pestilence and Poetry

Introducing the East Coast Apprenticeship III (which should be renamed to something far sexier, I think—like the Virgin Muses, or Mighty Aphrodite’s—but I digress).We are an all-female flagship group headed by mentor, Heather Shirley. We are her first graduates, so this is a special graduation for both Heather and the rest of us as we all learned during this process. Our three years can be characterized in the following themes: Year One, Paideia in Progress; Year two, Pentecost amid Pestilence; and Year Three, Poetry in Pedagogy.

Year One, Paideia in Progress

The first year of apprenticeship was characterized by Paideia. Heather Shirly hospitably led us into the good life by meeting us where we were and urging us to take time and gaze on loveliness. We were welcomed into her family, banqueted in her home and enjoyed her husband’s knack for smoking meat. Nancy took care of our physical needs; Patty took care of our anxieties. Our first year, we were given a Latin name, and this cemented the truth that we were seen. Seeds of friendships were planted.

Year Two, Pentecost amid Pestilence

The second year of apprenticeship was characterized by Pentecost amid Pestilence.  since COVID hit at the end of our first year and a couple of members needed to shelter in place at the year two summer retreat. We dearly missed those who could not be with us in person, but still, we had a sacred space for Pentecost moments: I remember an especially poignant lesson given by Lydia that year about antithesis in Hamlet. We realized that Polonius spoke differently to his children: to one, Laertes, he spoke in antithesis, but with Ophelia he was directive, and it made such a difference in his message. It made us realize that how we speak to students (and our own children) is important. We need to give them space to think and be. Though COVID tried to fragment, our learning together made our souls whole. 

Year Three, Poetry in Pedagogy

During year three, our group began to embody what we learned. Mimesis was becoming part of us as we created lessons beyond the Lost Tools of Writing and dabbled in Socratic dialogue. We all feared the Socratic dialogue, but we were truly amazed at our growth in the end. It was an encounter with the divine as we dialogued toward truth in many dimensions. 

In poetic fashion, I will end with a portion of a poem which sums up this year’s graduates. It is written by an apprentice who will graduate next year, Rebecca Steffens. 

I have a picture in my mind

Of a group of women, kind,

Walking the road of life together.

At their head a Faithful Guide, (Pauline)

With a Harmonious Muse at her side, (Carrie)

Urging and beckoning the others onward.

A Divine Listener relays the call (Lydia)

Of the instructions for them all;

A Gentle Physician nourishes their souls along the way. (Karissa)

A Bountiful Weaver gathers and arranges the words of the women, kind; (Lee)

A Humble Steward thoughtfully makes plans for where they stay. (Rachael)

For a time we had them near

And that time with them was dear.

They enriched our lives and souls in every way.

May God bless them as they go;

May their faith and love continue to grow.

Dearest sisters stay the course God does display.

In the meantime I will bide

Where the Doorkeeper and Faithful Scribe (Nancy, Patty)

Help the Steward of Holy Mysteries lay a feast, (Heather)

Where a Faithful Navigator and Prudent Integrator sit each side of a Generous Friend, and 

A Merciful Illuminator and Vitality Author take their place.

I, a Teacher Meek, am so thankful to have a seat,

And thank the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for this grace.

At this table we come to know

How much we still can grow,

And we thank the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we eat.

We invented and generated ideas and created beauty together. 

Thank you!


Learn more about the CiRCE Apprenticeship Program.

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