Name/Title here? Dean of Students/Vice President of Student Affairs
Who makes up your family? My husband Paul and our daughter Adrienne. Our siblings and extended family live on the east coast (New York, New Jersey and Baltimore). We may get a kitten soon – most likely from PAWS. We haven’t had a pet in nearly 10 years and our daughter keeps insisting a pet will help us live longer!
Tell us about your seminary career and what led you to it.
Went to seminary in mid life without plans to be ordained, though I did enter the ordination during my first year, just in case. I wanted to become biblically and theologically knowledgeable, so I could be a more effective teacher within my congregation. As a member and then chair of the Christian Education committee at my church, I had a particular interest in adult education and faith formation and often taught sessions at the church. The experiences of field placement ( I interned at Lincoln Park) and particularly CPE had a radical impact on my sense of call and midway through McCormick I realized that I wanted to be ordained to the ministry of Word of Sacrament.
Can you tell us a bit about your job and what it is you do?
I practice what often feels like “a ministry of interruptions.” As Dean of Students, I wear multiple hats — chaplain/pastor to the students, worship coordinator. I help plan and often facilitate many of the vocational planning workshops we offer each year. I’m a general “nudge” for issues of spiritual formation and more; I collaborate with the Associate Dean for Advising and Formation to help provide support for students who are having issues that might interfere with their success at the seminary.
As VP for Student Affairs, I sit on the Administrative Cabinet and constantly (and, I hope, faithfully) advocate for student needs and concerns. I supervise the Office of Student Affairs and serve as a member of the Anti-Racism Committee. I teach two classes each year and also serve on team that leads the required Boundaries Training workshops.
What classes do you teach?
I am part of the PIF team in the fall term and in spring term, I teach Spiritual Practices for Faithful Discipleship with my good colleague Joanne Lindstrom.
What’s the best part of your job?
Relationships with students and colleagues. And reminding myself every day to rejoice that God has placed me in this ministry.
What are some observations that you’ve made over your time here about the students of McCormick?
They make me feel hopeful about the church! Super bright and committed to increasingly varied forms of ministry that are emerging in response to the changing church landscape. Outspoken on so many issues of social justice. Deeply faithful and also willing to question just about everything. I admit that their addiction to their iPhones, laptops, Facebook and Twitter makes me crazy and I also worry that some of them seem hard pressed to allow themselves to unplug and simply be.
So why do you do your job?
Because I love God and the church and feel called to a ministry of mentoring and relationships. Because I believe that relationships are a sacred trust; and I feel privileged to stand on holy ground with students any time they allow me to enter into some of the most private and intimate spaces in their lives. Because it is awesome to walk with students as they go through these several years of transformation. Because I get to share laughter, tears, vocational plans. theological and personal questions, joys and disappointments and so many moments of worship and prayer. Because I love working with persons who are discerning how God is working in their lives. Because there are days when it’s just a lot of fun (except when it’s not!).
Let’s be honest, there just aren’t as many jobs in the pulpits as there once were. So why do people go to seminary? Why should or shouldn’t they?
Is there really a “should” about going to seminary? I believe that students come to seminary for so many reasons, not the least of which is because they feel called to do so and because their pastors, colleagues, friends and broader communities of faith have seen in them gifts and skills for ministry. Not all are called to ministry of Word and Sacrament; they want to learn, be challenged and stretched and involve themselves in God’s world in ways that will make God’s realm more visible in the here and now.
It’s true that there aren’t as many pulpits available at present – often because many ministers are working until they are 70 or older, and also because the overall number of churches has declined (in the PCUSA, for example, there are about four times as many persons seeking pastoral calls as there are pastoral openings available). But there are lots of possibilities: small churches, rural churches, churches in need of redevelopment and transformation. Students, churches, judicatories and seminaries need to be thinking more broadly about ministry in settings both in and outside of congregations; we all need to be more creative as we think about preparing ourselves for bi-vocational ministries, tent making ministries, planting new churches, etc. And students need to be more flexible about the kinds of ministries they will consider and the places they are willing to go to do God’s work (As Dr. Seuss once said: oh, the places you’ll go and the people you’ll meet……)
So, tell us some of your favorites. You know, food, places to shop, those kinds of things…
I love to eat just about everything (but please don’t ask me to eat tripe or haggis) . One of my favorite restaurants is Café Bionda and Lib Caldwell recently introduced us to Amelia’s at 47th and Halstead. I like to shop at outlet stores and on-line — though I browse more than I buy. I love movies and live theatre and the Chicago Symphony. And I love to read for escapnovels, mysteries(The Nation, Atlantic, Vanity Fair – for the articles, of course!) and my guilty pleasure on the supermarket checkout line is PEOPLE.
As an ordained minister, I know you’ve got some good stories, anything you’re willing to share about your time in ministry?
My favorite is from when I served as an associate pastor in Lake Forest. During one particularly hot July I was preaching and celebrating communion with a close colleague as the liturgist. We both wore our clergy robes, but I decided to wear sandals. After the service a number of the older women came through the line to greet me and tsk-tsked me for not wearing “proper shoes.” I asked them why they were looking at my toes and then I offered the opinion that sandals had been good enough for Jesus and disciples….
There was the wedding where the bride fainted, fell on top of my colleague and they both ended up in a heap on the chancel steps.
And last summer I officiated at a sunset wedding on a small cruise ship. We sailed along the Chicago River and the captain spontaneously stopped at a spot with a breathtaking view of the city skyline …BUT we also discovered we had an up close and personal relationship with the El trains that periodically went screaming by during the service. They had not thought to bring a sound system and anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that my voice is less than stentorian), so the service was filled with pauses for what I called “the music of the city.” Luckily everyone had a good sense of humor ……
Lastly, if you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
ONE food?! That’s just not fair. Does “Italian food” qualify? Probably not. So I’ll say asparagus — I know that’s weird, but it’s such a VERSATILE veggie.
Until next week!