Full-time: Director of United Arts Fund
Part-time: Student Pastor at First Christian Church, Minneapolis
What advice would you give to a prospective students returning to school after being out for many years?
Three years prior to starting at Phillips, I completed a mini-MBA program in NonProfit Administration, which was not as demanding as seminary, but gave me a taste of graduate level education and the work required. When I started at Phillips, I started out slowly and deliberately, gradually increasing my load over a year’s time in order to adjust to the demands of seminary education, which is much different than a regular master’s-level program.
To someone starting out, work with your advisor to create a schedule that sets you up for success in conjunction with the occupation/family/ministry demands you currently have. Seminary is a journey, and it is better to take your time and be able to enjoy and learn from the journey than to be completely overwhelmed by it.
What are you doing with your Phillips education?
I use my Phillips education in my current ministry setting, using knowledge learned in classes to offer high-quality adult education opportunities. I also partner with organizations that serve LGBT youth to provide extravagant welcome, showing that the church welcomes the LGBT community with open arms. Additionally, I am serving in a denominational leadership role helping to demonstrate the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a people of grace and welcome to all. Long-term, I want to use my education as a base for further study in community ministry.
What are five words that describe the Phillips community as you've experienced it?
Welcoming, inviting, supportive, integrative, and life-changing.
What is the change or transformation in the world you want to see?
I want the world to see that the church is not a place of rejection, of closets, of intimidation, or of perfection, but a community that throws its arms wide open in extravagant welcome, following Christ’s example of mercy, servanthood, and challenging/changing the social norms, embracing our strength and weaknesses, and welcoming all to the table.
How have you changed during your Phillips educational experience?
To be honest, when I started at Phillips, I struggled with the idea of being a theologian. I didn't want to become one of those pastors who was knowledge-rich but experience-poor in relating that knowledge in real-world ministry. What I continue to be surprised by is the transformation into a practical theologian that integrates theology into life on a regular basis.
Tell us about a time you felt challenged.
There was a three-week period where our home was broken into, our neighborhood was hit by a tornado, and I had to deal with a serious ministry issue, all while trying to finish the semester. The classes I was in gave me the strength and information I needed to deal with the situation, and faculty and staff gave me the emotional support and grace to breathe within the uproar and finish the semester, and finish well.
Is there a topic or conversation that you have been drawn to at Phillips?
Historical Jesus without a doubt! Coming out of a conservative background, the concept of the historical Jesus was a foreign concept, and opened up a whole new world of exploration, one that I embraced with zeal. Jesus became a much different person to me.
Tell us about how financial aid has impacted your experience.
I have been very blessed by the level of scholarship support provided to me through the generosity of individual donors and churches that support Phillips financially. In addition, I have been blessed through regional and local church support. It has made all the difference in the world.
How would you describe the online class community at Phillips?
As a former high school music teacher, I have to admit that when I first started in the online program, I was somewhat skeptical about whether or not an online class could replicate what happens face-to-face in the classroom.
Thankfully, my skepticism was quickly erased, and I would say unequivocally that the online community is just as tight as the on-campus community. We may not see each other face-to-face except during intensive class weeks, but we are constantly challenging each other, encouraging each other, and having deep, rich, challenging interactions on our Moodle class forums. Additionally, the faculty work extremely hard to provide the best educational environment possible, embracing the latest technology and, if necessary, moving outside their own comfort zones.
Tell us about being a student and a pastor at the same time.
When I started at Phillips, I was serving two congregations in the midst of a merger process. Coursework helped me understand a variety of theological issues the congregations were facing, which in turn helped me provide pastoral leadership in the area of music and worship, giving the congregation stability during a time of incredible change. As I moved to a different church setting in my home denomination, I was able to spread my wings using the knowledge gained in classes to determine my passions in ministry.
Tell us about the relationships that you made at Phillips.
During my time as Phillips, I have made some of the deepest friendships I have ever experienced in my life. These friendships have challenged me to live 100% into the ministry call upon my life and to say “yes” to God, even when it takes me completely outside my comfort zone. I can go to this network any time for advice, support, and challenge when needed, and this network will exist the rest of my life. They will continue to influence and support me.
If you had one sentence to convince someone to choose Phillips, what would you say?
If you want a seminary experience with faculty who are at the top of their game, the chance to build relationships that will last a lifetime, and an education that will prepare you to move the church and community beyond the status quo, then Phillips is the place for you!