by Denise Plair
Grayson asks me “Why did I choose McCormick in the first place?” That is a loaded question! There is so much background to get to the answer to that question but I tell many people, “I did not choose McCormick, I believe that God chose McCormick for me.” And I add to that…, “Now that I have been to and through McCormick I am a part of it for life. You can’t get rid of me!”
I attended a Bible College part-time. During that time I would request packets of information from various universities and seminaries because I was searching for something and I didn’t know what that something was but I knew that whatever it was I would know it and it would be part of my life long journey. I was seeking answers to questions I did not know to ask and I needed to get the answers.
I experienced a very intense journey after answering my call to preach and teach God’s Word. I realized that God had been calling me to prepare for a ministry that I was destined to do. I recognized that my calling was not limited by any means to race, gender, class, age, etc. So, after several months of not receiving any material from universities and seminaries I received some information from McCormick. This time I was moved to contact the seminary (I was still attending Bible College). I called and they invited me to tour the school. The students and facility were welcoming. I met with admissions and recruitment, and then assigned me to spend the day with a couple of the students and I sat in on Dr. David Daniels history class with one of the students. I said “Wow!” I watched this professor teach a class in history that captivated my learning senses. The students were diverse. They were asking questions and were interested in the class and his answers to their questions were clear and precise. A small intuitive inner approval said McCormick was the place of learning where I was to be. I also know that God chose McCormick for me because I received a tuition scholarship!
I studied at McCormick for three years and I graduated in May 2007. That was the one of the happiest times in my life. What an accomplishment! It was an accomplishment because I had so many life changing experiences to happen to me from the time I entered seminary until I graduated. I refused to give up. I refused to drop out of seminary. I had so much support from the students and facility. God provided for me. I stayed prayerful.
After graduation I was asked to serve on the McCormick Alumni Council and I have served every since. I have served as Chair of the nominating committee. I have been an at-large member, and currently I am serving as an at large member and member of the nominating committee on the council.
Since I graduated from Seminary I was Ordained as clergy to preach the Gospel. I completed one intense summer unit of CPE at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. I also completed a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education Chaplain resident program at Advocate Christ Medical Center. I was a part-time Youth Pastor for First Church of the Brethren, Chicago. I am now a full-time Hospice Chaplain with Family Centered Hospice. Currently I am actively serving at Lincoln Memorial Congregational United Church of Christ.
There are several formative moments for me at McCormick one of them was my experience as one of the moderators of the Pan African-American Student Organization (PASO). Leading this organization exposed me to various preachers and preaching styles. This was yet another opportunity through McCormick for me to become involved with church leaders within various communities which was a role I had been doing prior to attending McCormick. PASO gave me the chance to become more involved with the students, facility, and community and to hear the voices of many. Secondly, McCormick’s professors have left a lasting legacy on my life. From the Professor of Experiential Education and Field Studies that teaches about ministry and lives it out selflessly; to the prophetic voice of Dr. Ogbu Kalu ringing out “Hey Preacher!” whenever he saw me which encouraged me to continuing towards the goal; to my Professor of Children and Youth education, who teaches the value of a welcoming spirit/space/place when teaching others. Teaching me to teach others in such a way that the atmosphere is speaking “You are welcomed in this place.”
I have made some lifelong contacts at MTS that have been very instrumental in my life during and after seminary. I continue to communicate with many of my MTS colleagues and when I’ve had events to celebrate they have been resources to help me with the celebrations. They attended my Ordination and some participated in it, and they helped me celebrate graduation from CPE. I have also supported my colleagues in their efforts too.
McCormick has equipped me through education and experience to be exposed to the nurturing God, the provider, the healing God, the on-time/in-time God, etc. While at McCormick I was exposed to many ways others experience God in their particular faith. The ecumenical and multicultural flavor of the school helps me to broaden my discovery of God in many ways and venues. At McCormick I was able to experience and learn about others view of God as I prepare for ministry.
Therefore, I can say that I have recommended and encouraged others to attend McCormick Theological Seminary (MTS) for some of the same reasons that MTS impacted my life. It is because of the professors, the contacts and the spiritual growth that I received when I attended seminary.
Some future plans for me are to fulfill some necessary ecclesiastical steps in the immediate future with United Church of Christ. Secondly, to become Board Certified as a Chaplain. One thing I have learned from McCormick and that is “reflection, reflection, reflection!” and I have not gotten away from writing papers at all!! Thirdly, my goal is to continue offering service to and volunteer for mission ministry which can include going abroad teaching where needed at least once or twice a year to help others in Kingdom building.
“Now that I have been to and through McCormick I am a part of it for life. You can’t get rid of me!”