Future Christian leaders earn fellowships, unique training opportunities

07-07-2010 by

Geoff Ashmun
Students at McCormick demonstrate a passion for discovering and engaging in more just, inclusive and imaginative ways of “being church” in the very midst of God’s diverse world.

Four current students – Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko, Amber Ellington, Melissa Gilbert, and Shelley Donaldson – have been publicly recognized in the broader Church for their commitment to ministries that enliven the Gospel in the communities in which they serve.

Enrolled in McCormick’s Master of Divinity degree program, Jennifer Ikoma-Motzko is one of only 20 recipients of the Fund for Theological Education’s 2010 Ministry Fellowship, which recognizes outstanding leadership abilities for ministry, high academic achievement, and the ability to empower others to pursue lives of faithfulness and commitment to God’s vision for the world.

Jennifer is a fourth generation Japanese-Okinawan American now living in Chicago and serving as an elder at River City Community Church, a multicultural, non-denominational congregation founded in 2003. A graduate of Cornell University, Jennifer brings a wealth of ecumenical campus ministry experience as a 10-year member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s national staff. She has served in IVCF’s Multiethnic Department, particularly in its Asian American Division, and has visited college groups around the country, planned conferences, and created and led training modules with a particular emphasis for developing ethnic minorities & cross-cultural teams. 

Jennifer is on sabbatical from her work at IVCF and will return to full-time work upon completion of her degree at McCormick.

Amber Ellington, a second-year Master of Divinity student at McCormick, is one of two recipients of the 2010 Joan B. Malick Seminary Scholar Award, established by the Presbyterian Women’s Group of Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, in honor of retiring pastor Joan Malick and her 20 years of devoted and caring ministry to the congregation.

A Presbyterian hailing from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Amber is a graduate of McNees State University, where she earned her B.S. in Early Childhood Psychology. Prior to entering seminary, she had been working as a teacher and commissioned lay pastor assistant at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Lake Charles. Having witnessed and lived amidst situations of poverty and racism, she feels compelled to seek ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament and help the cause of justice, reconciliation, and peace in places of division and conflict.

Both Shelley Donaldson and Melissa Gilbert were honored with fellowships from the Beatitudes Society, an organization developing a national network of emerging Christian leaders working for justice, peace, a more inclusive Christianity, and greater care for God’s earth. The Society selects a total of 20 seminary and divinity school students from four major cities – Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and San Francisco – and provides them the opportunity to take part in a six-week, immersive internship with a “social change agency.”

A second-year student at McCormick, Shelley will be serving at the Youth Theological Initiative (YTI) at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. Since 1993, YTI has been a center for research and the theological education of youth and youth ministers. Meanwhile, third-year student Melissa will be interning at Emmaus House in Atlanta, where this community-based ministry “seek[s] to diminish poverty and its broader consequences by strengthening individuals, families and communities through education, assistance and social action.”

McCormick’s Masters-level programs prepare women and men for the rigors of a variety of ministry settings. More information on the seminary’s degree programs, acclaimed faculty, and campus life.