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Back to School at My Age?

The Rev. Lawrence (Larry) Garcia
Pastor, Hill Country Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Spring Branch, TX
Masters of Divinity, class of 2012 

Previous occupations: surgical technician, athletic trainer, 18-wheel truck driver, personnel manager, and then 30 years as an attorney board certified in family law.

Pastoral experience before coming to Phillips: 11 years as a licensed and commissioned Disciples of Christ minister serving long-term interims and then as senior minister while still practicing law.

What advice would you give to a prospective seminary student returning to school after being out for many years?
Get ready by reading. I read lots of historical novels.  It doesn't need to be theological. The technology gave me more problems than the theology since in the secular world, “I have people to do that.”

Five words that describe the Phillips community as you experienced it.
Scared. Included. Nurtured. Loved. Challenged.

What is the change or transformation in the world you want to see?
I want the church to be rediscovered as a source of comfort, empowerment and service to others.

How did you change as during your years at Phillips?
Phillips put a mix-master in my brain and churned up all of my theological thoughts.  It somehow made God more theoretical, but more personal at the same time.  It helped turn Biblical inconsistencies into spiritual mysteries.

Talk about a time you felt challenged.
I felt challenged at every turn, especially when professors pointed out inconsistencies and impossibilities.  Most support came from fellow students, but I can’t discount the ever-present support and accessibility of faculty.  

The importance of financial aid.
I could not have afforded the Phillips experience without the financial aid available.  Travel and lodging were a big expense, and I hope there will be more options in this regard in the future.

Talk about your experience of online courses.
I honestly believe the online experience was more personal and interactive than a classroom setting.  While I preferred Blackboard to Moodle, I found there were quick responses to questions and concerns, and students were much more free in expressing beliefs and doubts.

Tell us about being a student and a pastor at the same time.
Initially, while my church was supportive, they did not appreciate my sermons becoming historical, theological and theoretical.  I am only now returning to storytelling, but I still sneak in history, theology and theories.

Tell us about the relationships and friendships you made at Phillips.
I now have an instant resource of support, insight and advice virtually all across the country.  I feel I can call on many in times of joy or trouble.

If you had one sentence to convince someone to choose Phillips, what would you say?
When you watch a joyful movie, but get a tear in your eye because it reminds you of good and happy things in your own life; that was and continues to be Phillips for me.


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