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McCormick Classes | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: McCormick Classes


McCormick has been preparing women and men for ministry for well over 150 years, and today on the CURE you’ll get an insiders look at what life is like when you leave the classroom and get into the ministry God has called you to! I’ve asked two recent McCormick grads to share  about their lives after seminary and how McCormick helped shape them to live into their calls. Sharing is 2012 M.Div graduate TC Anderson who works as the director of Youth Ministry at at the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington Heights and 2012 MTS Graduate Ryan Wallace, an organizer for the Civic Action network.

Up first is TC Anderson-

Did McCormick prepare me for my ministry? Yee…. Nnnn…. nes! It’s a complicated answer, so allow me to try and flush it out. First, I’m working in youth ministry because that’s where I’m called. I knew that going into seminary and it hasn’t changed. McCormick is very much focused on ministry from the pulpit. This does not mean that there aren’t classes or even professors geared towards other areas of ministry, just that the majority of what I was learning was for ministry from the pulpit. That being said, I think that McCormick did exactly what I needed McCormick to do to prepare me for my ministry going forward. I needed something to deepen my own faith, I needed something to expand my understanding of my religion, I needed something to connect me with other Theologians who both agree and disagree with me so that I could stay in contact with them when I needed to talk about this ministry. McCormick did all these things. Having worked in ministry for 7 years before going to McCormick I didn’t need a class to tell me what to expect in that ministry field. I have found that books and lessons can only take you so far in that respect anyway. Hardly ever does a problem happen exactly like one of your case studies. The only real way to prepare us for the ministry is to strengthen our faith, give us a support net, and increase the amount of knowledge we have about our beliefs, the rest is experiential. So I guess my answer, now that I’ve flushed it out more, is yes. McCormick did exactly what I needed to be done to prepare me for this crazy, unexpected, difficult, fulfilling thing called ministry. Thank you McCormick!

TC's ministry in Action!

And finally, Ryan Wallace –

I began in the MDiv program at McCormick in the fall of 2010, just a couple of months after formally initiating my ordination process in the Chicago Presbytery. I had sensed a call to congregational ministry from a very young age, but I entered McCormick with a genuine uncertainty about my future. I never felt reason to question my call to ministry, per se. It’s just that, as I grew older, the world got bigger and so did my notion of what “ministry” might mean.

And then, McCormick pried open my world more yet. Fellow students, professors, and classes challenged me to think about myself, my ministry, and the Church in new ways. I learned the difference between charity and justice. I reckoned with my identity as a straight white American male from a well-to-do suburb. And I came to the somewhat difficult realization that I don’t need to be Rev. Ryan Wallace to do God’s work in my community.

In February, I reclassified my degree from MDiv to Master of Theological Studies. And though I’m still in prayerful conversation about my ordination, I’m still not sure what, if any, formal leadership position I may one day hold in the Presbyterian Church. Nevertheless, I am quite confident that I am called to the ministry I’m now doing.

Today, I am a congregational organizer with the Civic Action Network at the Community Renewal Society, a 130 year-old Chicago organization that addresses racism and poverty through community organizing. Our network is comprised of some eighty-odd churches across the Chicago metropolitan area. I am the organizer for our member churches in Lake County and suburban Cook County. Ultimately, my goal is to develop leaders in those congregations who can mobilize its members to act as a force for change. Each year, we listen to the people in our churches to understand the issues they face in their communities, and together we build campaigns to create positive change. We fight for jobs for ex-offenders, housing for those without it, adequate funding for all our children’s schools, and gun control in our communities among other issues.

In our modern culture, I believe the Church is becoming irrelevant because we too often deliver a message about eternal salvation to a people who need and long for a message about salvation in the here and now. We, the Church, often declare our vision—full of love—for God’s kingdom on earth. But seldom do we acknowledge our latent power and set out to use it for the fulfillment of that vision. Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Power without love is tyranny, and love without power is sentimentality.” With his words in mind, let’s refuse to be the sentimental Church who dreams only of what could be or might be, and instead become the Church that plays a powerful role in the building of our communities that will be.

Thanks so much to TC and Ryan. I hope you’ve seen a little about the paths McCormick students might take after leaving seminary – but their stories are only two of the many many voices to be heard, so I encourage you to come and visit McCormick, talk to our students and faculty, speak with Alumni and see for yourself what McCormick can do for you and the ministry that God has called you to.

Our Fall Inquiry into Ministry is right around the corner – so take advantage! Register here: Fall IIM Registration

Meet a Professor: Dr. Reggie Williams

Happy Wednesday McReaders!

This week, I’d like to introduce you to  McCormick’s newest professor – Reggie Williams.

Reggie has been with us only a few short weeks, but he has quickly found his place in our community. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions:

Wes: Tell us your name and what you do.
Reggie: My name is Reggie Williams, and I am an assistant professor of Christian Ethics. My wife Stacy and I celebrated 17 years of marriage this summer, on August 26th, and we have two children, Darion (13) and Simone (11). They are both in the 7th grade.

W: How is it you came to McCormick?
R: I was appointed to the faculty of the Religion department at Baylor University in the Spring of 2010. I completed my dissertation that summer, and joined their faculty in the summer of that year. That meant moving my family from Pasadena, California, the place my children will never stop referring to as their real home. We lived in Pasadena for 6 years, which isn’t very long, but it was for them, a significant part of their childhood. Fuller Theological Seminary is there, and that’s were I completed my master’s and Ph.D. degrees. I did not expect to leave Baylor, at least not any time soon. But early in my first semester there, I came across the job description for this position. I had visited Chicago on a number of occasions for scholarly conferences, and already loved the place. I’d heard of McCormick Theological Seminary, and a number of dear friends told me that it would be a great fit. And although Baylor University is a very good school, with a fantastic athletics program (I played basketball in college, and professionally), I really wanted to teach in a seminary. McCormick is a perfect fit. I was thrilled to be offered this position. That’s the extremely abridged version of my journey to McCormick.

W: How has your family adjusted to the big move?
R: My children have had to move to two different towns, and schools to start all over again making friends, twice within one year. That has been very difficult on them. But for now, they seem to be adjusting well. They seem to enjoy their new school. They tell me that they wish they could pick this school up, and plant it in Pasadena, where they could feel at home in a school that they really like. But if they did that, they wouldn’t have the museums that they’ve come to love, or the SkyDeck at the Willis Tower
which my daughter loves, or Navy Pier which we all love, or the lake views with the city skyline, or our house which we’ve recently purchased. I could go on. Stacy and I love it here. She was ready to walk here from Waco, Texas, if we had to. There has been no need to adjustment for us, only a need to reorient ourselves to a different geography. We miss friends in Waco, but we like Chicago, and McCormick, very much.

W: What are your hopes for your first year as a faculty member at McCormick?
R: I hope to learn a lot from students and colleagues here. I am very excited about McCormick’s emphasis on justice and ecumenism. In this first year, I hope to learn how my voice can contribute to the conversation about church and society, going on here. From what I see so far, this institution is one of the most important Christian institutions of higher learning in the country. That can be deceiving because we are so small, but so was Gideon’s army. And in this small, and important institution, I plan to learn at least as much as I teach this year, so that by the end of the year, I have a greater understanding of the expectations of McCormick students, and how my research and teaching corresponds with the call of God on their lives that brings them into my classroom.

W: I had the pleasure in sitting in on a lecture you gave while you were in the interview process and really enjoyed hearing from you. How is it that you became interested in Ethics?
R: I began my studies at a small Christian Liberal Arts school in Santa Barbara California – Westmont College. I was a French major at first. But after my first semester there, I changed my major to theology and church history. I wanted to “see the gospel at work” in society. I led a ministry to the local juvenile hall, in the summers, I lived in a group home for convicted teens who had drug addictions. When I graduated, I married my college sweetheart, and my first job was as a counselor at a juvenile hall. All of this was motivated by my pursuit of living the gospel. Years later, when I was near the end of my masters degree, the only African American professor of religion that I ever had strongly urged me to enter a Ph.D. program “if you don’t, it would be a mistake.” Those words from Pasor J. Alfred Smith of Allen Temple Baptist church in Oakland, Ca. were the push that I needed to go in the direction of a Ph.D., and the desire was still there to “see the gospel at work” rather than accumulating theological knowledge. I saw both endeavors as important, but without the ability to do theology, I didn’t see the value of learning about it.
Near the end of my first year in a Ph.D. program, something brought to mind an encounter that I’d had when I was in the 3rd grade. It’s funny to say, that when I was in the third grade, I was taking my faith very seriously. And that year, I faced violent racism from three classmates. In that encounter, I struggled to know what Jesus wanted me to do in the face of their unmerited anger at me. So, at the end of my first year as a Ph.D.
student, I saw that I’d been on the journey of “how does one live what we believe” for many years.

W: You’re teaching a course on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. this semester. Why these two individuals? What do they have to offer seminary students?
R: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr. offer us some insight into what it took for them to be prophetic Christians in a social environment, and cultural/historical context that saw Christians taking sides against what they saw as true Christian witness. Hindsight is 20/20, and today we agree with them, that Christians should have agreed with how they described faithfulness to Jesus, in support of the oppressed and marginalized. But many Christians saw themselves as faithfully following Jesus, in opposition to them. Today we call their opponents wrong, and Bonhoeffer and King
are seen as prophetic Christians, even martyrs by some. What are we opposing today? What are we ignoring? What do we advocate? What does our faith give us to guide our advocacy? King and Bonhoeffer can help us faithfully follow Christ today.

W: What else do you hope to bring to McCormick in terms of classes or
anything else?
R: My academic project is to recalibrate what it means to be human, since modernity. That involves the critical analysis of race, and the mingling of race and religion in modernity. One particularly crucial moment when critical analysis of race and religion occurred is called the Harlem Renaissance. I study the Harlem Renaissance, and the critical analysis of race and religion occurring within it by folks like Du Bois, Zora Neil Hurston, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and a whole host of black intellectuals.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was not in Harlem at that time, but the time period corresponds with her social justice advocacy, and her work is a part of the womanist cannon of theological ethics that I pay attention to, as well. The project of “recalibration” has in its scope, ecological ethics, biological ethics, as well as social ethics, since the modern construction of humanity sees only some folks as human, and domination as the right relationship between the humans and the “others.” With that in mind, one of the
next classes I hope to teach is a study of the literature and theology of the Harlem Renaissance, or perhaps a detailed exploration of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s experience in the Harlem Renaissance. Those two are the first courses that come to mind for my immediate new course offerings.

W: We’ve heard about some of your academic background. What about Reggie the person? What is it you like to spend your time doing when you’re not at McCormick?
R: I am still somewhat of a jock. I played college and professional basketball, and being in the gym is somewhat like therapy for me. But I’m an old guy now. So I’m looking for a basketball league here in town to play on, that is ok for old has beens. I also really like fishing, camping, hiking, and gardening; but not in that order. In my family, we are outdoors folks, but we haven’t had the opportunity to get out and explore as much, recently. Hopefully now that we’re settling in to our new home town, we will!

W: Food is a big part of life at McCormick – What’s your favorite food, why?
R: I love seafood and Chinese food. I also love to eat breakfast, any time of the day. Those are my food weaknesses! And, after I eat any meal, I’ve gotta have a dessert. I’ve got a very active sweet tooth.

A big thank you to Reggie for taking the time to introduce himself to all the CURE readers! See you on Friday!

Dr. Brad Braxton is preparing to leave McCormick after serving for the past two years as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar. He is a scholar, a preacher, a tireless advocate for issues of social justice and an engaging human being. He’s been a dynamic presence in our community and will certainly be missed by many of us. He is starting a new position at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in the Lois Craddock Perkins Endowed Chair of Homiletics, the first African American to hold this position. His responsibilities include a full teaching load, mentoring students and working with his faculty colleagues. He will do all this while living with his family in Baltimore, Maryland where he has begun serving as the founding Senior Pastor of The Open Church, a new congregation located in the same city where he served in his first pastorate nearly 20 years ago.
Founding a new church was not something that happened overnight. Brad first envisioned The Open Church more than a decade ago (see CURE Blog post from April 17, 2012). Over the years, he has employed a great deal of thought, collaboration with others, frequent consultations with his family and the “wisdom circle” of clergy and other partners who have served as touchstones for him throughout his ministry. That, plus the serendipity of being called to SMC made it possible for him to launch the dream at this point in his life.
I asked Brad what advice and counsel he would offer someone who wanted to start a new church. What did he believe was at stake in such an undertaking? How does one begin at the beginning, and at the same time, begin with the end in mind? Brad believes you should know the goal of your leadership in starting a new church endeavor; you should he asserts, know “where you are going beyond your efforts to be ‘professionally holy.’ “ He reduced his advice to five essentials:
First, starting a church requires a sense of purpose. Brad believes you must “find that thing for which you are willing to die.” In other words, you have to be willing to take a risk and leave your old life behind you. It’s important, he adds, to have some knowledge of your own personality type and be comfortable in your own skin, and it helps to have a “questioning personality” that isn’t satisfied by the status quo or easy answers.
Second, don’t ignore the fact that structures of authority are being flattened and democratized; it’s important to recognize that you will continually need to hold democratization and collaboration in tension, along with your own understanding of pastoral authority. For Brad, pastoral authority is ultimately the bottom line; so he’s encouraging his leadership team at The Open Church to create a governing structure where there won’t ever be a need for him to break a tie vote. If that happens, he notes, his deciding vote will make it clear who’s in charge.
Third, you need to make certain that your family support system (in whatever configuration that takes) is part of your thinking and conversation from the start. The process of starting a new church (or revitalizing an old one) is time consuming, laborious and can be energy draining. It’s critical that your family be on board with you. It’s one of the reasons why he is adamant about supporting models of family life and church life that “promote fullness.”
Fourth, you need to ask yourself if this is the right time in your life and ministry to take this step. Where are you in your professional development that would make this the time to launch such an endeavor?
Fifth, and critically important: Ask yourself if you have the resources (or commitment from others for the resources) necessary to make this work. Give substantive and careful thought to what a start up budget for your dream church would look like. And don’t forget to take into account issues of space, necessary equipment, legal incorporation, liability insurance and salaries (for others, if not for yourself).

No one ever said that ministry was easy.  Starting a new church is even less so.  But if that leadership endeavor calls out to you, find a way to begin.   As Brad said in a lecture he delivered last year atFourth Presbyterian Church:   “Leadership is neutral; it doesn’t make any difference until you shift it into forward or reverse.”    Could a new church start be the way your leadership is taking you forward?

Well, McReaders, this is the last blog you’ll get from me. Wes will be taking over soon, and I’ll be done with seminary after 3 glorious years.

Thinking about the past 3 years is a bit overwhelming. As I’m leaving seminary, I’m not one of those prefect Presbyterians who passed all her ordination exams in the first try; I’m not walking out of seminary with a job in hand, ready to become ordained; I’m not in the minority. I am, once again, in the majority. I’m walking out of seminary with debt, no job, very little idea of where I am going to live, and a car that requires prayer each time to drive it down the Dan Ryan (which, given the shape it’s in, I don’t go down the Dan Ryan with it if I can help it). It’s not that I don’t have skills, I have mad skills. It’s just, there really aren’t many jobs out there. Recently, several people have asked me, “So, if you had to do it over, would you do it all again the same?”

Yes. I’d do it all over again and I would not do it differently. Here are a few reasons why:

1. I met Megan, Alex, TC, Sylvia, Tracy, Jon, Joe, Holly, Kim, Jason, Bong, Lilit, Ching Boi, Tyler, Ken, Lora, Matt, Jenny, Hannah, Amber, Molly, Han Kook, Dave, Kristi, Meredith, Kristin, Robyn, Tina, Karl, Michele, Vimary, Abby, Nathy, Nancy, Jeanine, Sergio, Kristin, Deanna, Mo, Stephanie, Melva, Kathi, Wes, Liz, Albert, Mike, Monica, Daniel, Sarah, Sarah, Katie Jo, Kate, Kirk, Jamie, Matt, Allison, Casey, Phil, Jeff, JC, Honna, Jake, Kelly, Megan, Sarah, Melvina, Delores, Kay, Sheila, Chris, Brenda, Peter, Heather, Jamie… the list is endless. This only includes the people that I could think of in 5 minutes and doesn’t include staff, professors, students from other seminaries, people in the community… Need I say more?

2. The friendly folks at the Starbucks at 55th and Woodlawn know my name.

3. I now know that Joel is an actual book in the Bible.

4. Ted Hiebert taught me Hebrew and Sarah Tanzer taught me Greek.

5. Janaan Hashim and Bob Cathey answered all my ridiculous questions and never told me to shut up. Ever.

6. I got to be Lib Caldwell’s EA.

7. If you ask nice enough, Luis will put on his Dracula cape.

8. Christine Vogel lets me cry in her office and Frank Yamada lets me cry in the halls.

9. Dr. Daniels made singing “Welcome Table” my favorite communion tradition.

10. Deb Mullen helped me accept who I was on my first day of classes.

11. Joann Lindstrom has a puppy in her office.

12. Sam Evans talks in a French accent when he’s in the office.

13. David Crawford is my friend and I know how hard he works for the seminary and the people there.

14. My classmates are fabulous dog-sitters, bird watchers, fish sitters, and plant waterers.

15. Melody Knowles taught me how to write a better paper.

16. Ted Hiebert made me re-think how I read the Bible.

17. Jennifer Ayers made me appreciate food and be thankful that I have it.

18. Ken Sawyer.

19. Ken Sawyer’s Mustache.

20. David Esterline’s wife’s cookies.

21. Knowing that Priscilla Rodriguez is always laughing at my facebook posts and understands my existential angst and will always have a hug for me.

22. Christine Vogel has a constant and steady supply of chocolate in her office.

23. No one reads the Psalms quite like Nanette Banks.

24. Dr. Frank Thomas taught me how to preach like I was on fire and then he made us go play in the snow.

25. Joann Lindstrom has my back.

26. Deb Kapp is an awesome cook at Iron Chef.

27. Monica actually smiles, you just have to know how to make her do it.

28. Natasha thinks I’ve already graduated.

29. I sort of have teacher crushes on Bob Cathey, Ted Hiebert, Lib Caldwell, Melody Knowles, and Janaan Hashim.

30. Community meals are always better food than I have in my apartment.

31. David Crawford often confuses me and Abby Mohaupt.

32. Boundaries don’t actually exist at McCormick despite Joann Lindstrom’s attempts at educating us.

33. Kimchi and Chapchae are two of my new favorite foods.

34. After being her EA, Abby Mohaupt and I now know that Lib Caldwell drinks Diet Coke at break and her Starbucks order is a grande unsweetened passion fruit iced tea.

35. I learned more about YAV’s than I ever imagined was possible.

36. I learned that Frank Yamada used to be in a band.

37. Anna Case-Winters lets me call her A.C. Dub.

38. Ken Crews can eat ungodly amounts of fast food in one sitting.

39. Deacon retreats aren’t the same without Christine Vogel present.

And last but not least…

40. The University of Chicago has a library. Thank God, or none of my work would have ever gotten done.

Well, that’s it. There are other things I could have talked about on here, but this is all I had time for, I have to finish a project for Bob Cathey. Go figure. Graduation, here I come!

Peace – Shelley D.

Greetings McReaders! We’re back after a well deserved reading week here on the Southside of Chicago. Back to homework, reading, researching, going to weekly chapel, going to our respective meetings, and going back to class.In the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at some of the classes that McCormick offers students. Sure, we have the typical Greek and Hebrew and we have our theology classes, but our professors go out of the way to create specialty classes and environments where students can learn, explore, and challenge themselves based on their own areas of study and expertise.

Today I want to introduce you to one of those classes (and the professor that go with it). You won’t find a class like this one at any other seminary (well, you might find one similar, but not this one!).

Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Sarah Tanzer

Welcome to Bible 440, Life Cycles of Judaism! Sarah is one of our New Testament professors here at McCormick; she also teaches classes such as Greek Exegesis and Gospels (a must take if you love some NT). The class itself is designed to look at the Jewish calendar, Jewish practices, and, you guessed it, the life cycles of Judaism. Since being in this class, we’ve learned about everything from holidays and Jewish festivals, to learning how to blow a Shofar, a ram’s horn.

First year student, Tyler Orem, practices blowing the Shofar, the ram's horn which is blown on Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah

Now, it’s not about the super cool instruments and prayer shawls that we get to see in class, it’s really a class about learning where we, as Christians, come from. It’s a chance to learn more about our Jewish brothers and sisters and to gain more respect for the Jewish culture. It’s about appreciating the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Sarah even invites us into her home for a traditional Shabbat service. We are also sent out into Chicago, to visit a Synagogue of our choice (I’ll be visiting Congregation Or Chadash).

As our professor, Sarah brings a lot to the table. A practicing Jew herself, Sarah explores the class with the students (as she does in all her classes). This isn’t some class where you get a talking head for 3 hours. Nope, it’s a dialogue in which the students and professor interact in a mutual desire to learn and share information. Sarah has a love for teaching and she even makes two semesters of Greek Exegesis pretty bearable; you almost like it when you leave it! One thing that I can say, on a personal level, is that Sarah is invested in her students, and she is always around to help.

This is one of many classes that you can expect to see at McCormick. Next week, we’ll be talking about one of our Christian Education/Bible classes with Lib Caldwell and Ted Hiebert.

Have questions about more of our classes?! Contact one of our student reps in the Office of Recruitment and Admissions and we’ll be happy to tell you more!

Stay tuned to see what Wes will be bringing to the table on Thursday. Until then, happy reading!

~Shelley D.

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