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Meet a Professor | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Meet a Professor

Good morning everyone!

Folks here at McCormick don’t just work here or study here, we also do other things! One of our professors, Deb Kapp, our Urban Ministry guru, has just started her own blog on, what else?! Urban Ministry! It’s called Footloose:Thoughts on Urban Ministry. So, I sat down with Deb about her blog and what she’s up to with it. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us your name, title and what you teach here.

Deborah Kapp, Edward F. and Phyllis K. Campbell Associate Professor of Urban Ministry. I teach Urban Ministry and congregational leadership (mostly – but not exclusively – I teach the latter in the DMin program).

What made you want to start a blog?

I wanted to get some ideas into the urban conversation, and involve urban practitioners in thinking about some key dynamics of ministry in urban settings. I thought of trying to write a book about the ideas I’m interested in exploring, but then I thought that blogging might actually be a better way to share ideas, hear responses, and get some interchange going.

What do you think is the importance of doing a blog like this?

Well, that’s a good question. I’m not sure I know. I think that is part of what I will discover.

What exactly is the definition of “urban ministry?”

Ministry that takes place in an urban setting. Urban settings have large populations, dense concentrations of people, lots of heterogeneity, and lots of mobility. People and organizations function somewhat differently, I think, in the midst of the density and mobility, which is part of what I’m trying to explore in this blog.

How exactly does one ‘do’ urban ministry?

That’s another good question and there is not a single answer, or even a few good ones. There are, literally, dozens of ways to do urban ministry well. Depending on one’s ecclesiology, population, context, resources (or lack thereof), and imagination, one good urban ministry can look quite different from another.

What are some of the ways that students in the city can become involved in urban ministry here in Chicago?

One could (1) attend church regularly and get involved in a faith community and its ministry, (2) volunteer at various service agencies throughout the city, (3) get involved in some community or other organizing in the city.

How did you get into ministry yourself?

My pull to ministry was both intellectual and personal. I was always interested in religion and majored in religious studies in college—what could one do with that sort of degree except go to school again? Probably more formative was my experience with the church as a young person; the institutional church was a source of steadiness and strength to me at a couple different points in my life.

What do you get out of your own ministry?

Deep satisfaction, wonderful friendships, the privilege of sharing life with others, and a persistent intellectual challenge. It’s never boring.

Well, there you have it good people. Just one more way that our faculty and staff are reaching out to the broader community and encouraging the students to do the same!

Until next time!


Shelley D.

Greeting McCormick community! If you’re a middler or a senior here, then you know all too well, going to Min 404/405. It’s the class you take in conjunction to your field educational studies here at McCormick. I took the class last year, along with my work at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Evanston, IL. Now, this class gets a bad rap some days. Take it from someone who finished it last school year. Here’s what really happens…

Second year (or whenever you take the class), you’re not only taking classes and possibly working a part-time job (or maybe even full-time), and then you might even have a family to take care of as well; now let’s tack on 12-15 hours per week at whatever church or organization that you’re working with for your experiential education. It’s rough. There’s a lot to do. But that’s not what gets people. What gets them is simply going to class (well, atleast for many). You’re out there doing this hands-on learning, and let’s be honest, sometimes, seminary feels like it is a regurgitation of your feelings. I, for one, am not a fan of this. But my past life as a facilitator for groups in the outdoors and with experimental education tells me that we all need this “regurgitation” time. It’s a time for processing everything. There’s a lot going on in your life at the moment. And you need to talk about it, you need to think about it and compare battle wounds with other students. It’s pretty important.

While you’re out there saving the world at your field site, it feels stagnant to sit in a classroom. You know you have a paper to write for Reformed Traditions for Ken Sawyer and Anna Case-Winters. You have a Greek test just around the corner, and you have a sermon to write for your preaching class with Brad. But here’s the truth, even though you might not enjoy it while you’re there, you’ll appreciate it once you’re really out there.

So, I sat down for a chat with Joanne and Nannette. They are the ones who make all this happen. Well, them and a few others. The class consists of small groups; Joann serves as one of the leaders, and then there are 4 more:

Rev. Dr. Ozzie Smith with Covenant UCC in Indiana

Rev. Dr. Linda Wygant with Graceseeds Ministry

Rev. Patrick Daymond with Sixth-Grace Presbyterian Church in Chicago

Rev. David Watkins Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church

So ladies, tell us your names and job titles.

(Reverend Dr.) Joanne Lindstrom, the Jean & Frank Mohr Director of Experiential Education & Field Studies and Associate Professor of Ministry

Reverend Nannette E. Banks

Why do you do what you do? (your jobs, that is)

Joanne: I have often said that “I have the best job in the joint!” I get to see/share/experience student transformation and growth in extraordinary ways…..from the first sermon jitters to a sense of confidence in preaching; from the fear of the first hospital visit to seeing oneself called to hospital chaplaincy or hospice care. I get to see how a student’s call is deepened through testing and experience. It is an absolute joy to watch students “come into their own”. And sometimes the transformation is so great that I can see a physical change – in the way the student walks and talks. What better “job” than to see God working in people’s lives!

Nanette: I am excited to journey with students who are actively discerning their current and future impact on the church and broader community. I am always stoked when students integrate their creative expressions (poetry, painting, dancing) and theology which reflects and embodied ministry.

All students studying for a Master’s of Divinity have to do field studies. In your opinions, what is the importance of doing field site work?

Joanne: Field Studies allows students the opportunity to test out classroom learning and theory in a living, breathing ministry context with real people. It also allows students the opportunity to observe Christian leaders, pastors, institutional directors and to learn from the best! It provides mentors and colleagues who often remain connected to students for years to come – a “wisdom circle” to use the language of Dr. Braxton.

Nanette: It was in the midst of my field studies experience at Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministry when I realized that I am called to “The Church” not a particular church context. As I explained to the supervisors during this years’ training students’ minds will be blown and God’s providence expanded to encompass all.

We all know that MIN 404/405 does not have the reputation for being the most enticing class. From what I hear there are many nicknames for it. What should people really know about it? Why do you do it? (teach it and offer it is, that is)

Joanne: What do you mean MIN 404/405 doesn’t have a reputation for being the most enticing class?????? And I have heard no nicknames for it – so what do you call it – inquiring minds want to know – smile. My experience is that folks do not appreciate MIN 404/405 until they are in ministry for a couple of years. Then folks come back and tell me “Oh, I get it now. I wish that had paid better attention. I wish that I had taken advantage of the experience.” I think the “doing” of ministry is ever so much more exciting to students than engaging in the “being” – the journey into self-awareness. As Paul Tillich says,” The pain of looking into one’s own depth is too intense for most people. They would rather return to the shaken and devastated surface of their former lives and thoughts.” However, once you are fully immersed in ministry you find out that you must delve into your own depths in order to touch the lives of those you have been called to serve.

Tell us something about yourselves.

Joanne: I have a purple bike that I love to ride along the lake shore. I’m a gym rat – work out at least three times a week and usually more. I fondly call my weight trainer either ‘the trainer from hell’ or “Arron the Terrible” and my pilates trainer I call “his (Arron’s) Evil Twin”. I have god children in Hawaii and Ghana and try to get to each place at least once a year. Fortunately my newest love, 7 month old Jaden, called Bliz because he was born during the blizzard, just lives a few blocks away.

Nanette: I am a 2009 graduate of McCormick having won the Martin D. Kneeland Sermon Delivery Award. I hold a Masters of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and I love to write. I am an ordained Elder in the non-denominational church, now pursuing ordination in the United Church of Christ and currently worshiping at Covenant United Church of Christ with Pastor Ozzie Smith.

So, what else do you two lovely ladies do outside of McCormick?

Joanne: I am the Associate Minister at the First Baptist Church where I do general ministry stuff, am overseeing the ordination process (which includes major theological papers) of two sisters in ministry (they were not happy to find out that one of my MIN 404/405 nicknames was “The Hammer”) and serve as spiritual advisor to the young adults. I serve as a speech coach for a couple folks and have 2 Dmin in preaching advisees. Geez, this is a lot of ministry stuff – I need to get a life. Oh, yeah, taking dance lessons from one of the ladies in my church – no, not liturgical dance.

Nanette: Besides sample new restaurant cuisines, write/teach poetry, and preach I serve as a Coordinator/Planning Team for the Chautauqua Institute New Clergy Program.

What is one piece of advice, concerning field sites and MIN 404/405, that you would give to first year students or to students who are thinking about coming to McCormick?

Joanne: Chicago is an incredible place to do ministry – all sorts of ministry sites and opportunities. Don’t wait until the last minute to check things out. Come talk to Nannette or me with your ideas, concerns, questions. We love finding just the right place for you!

Nanette: Be open, be prepared, be transformed and be a transformer!

Thanks for the interview ladies!

Below, you’ll find a list of all the current field sites.

Advocate Trinity Hospital

A Just Harvest

Bay View United Methodist Church (Milwaukee)

Calvary United Protestant Church

Clarendon Hills Community Presbyterian Church

Christ Community Church

First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette

First United Church Oak Park

God Can Ministries

Greater Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church

Interfaith Worker Justice

Kirk of the Lakes Presbyterian Church

Korean United Methodist Church

Lakeview Presbyterian Church

Liberation Christian Center

Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church

Living Springs Community Church

Northminster Presbyterian Church

Prayer and Faith Outreach Ministries

Protestants for the Common Good

Pullman Presbyterian Church

Ravenswood Presbyterian Church

St. James Cathedral

St. Sabina

The Night Ministry

Victory Apostolic Church

VITAS Innovative Hospice Care

Wicker Park Grace

Until next time! Peace!

Shelley D.

Welcome to my little corner of McCormick Seminary  — which is NOT actually a corner, but an office in the middle of the second floor of the seminary building – a veritable Grand Central Station of activity.   It’s never a boring place, rarely a quiet place, and it’s filled with the comings and goings of staff members and administrators, students, faculty, prospective students and all manner of guests and visitors – all engaged in some form of active ministry, learning and faith formation for leadership in the church of today and tomorrow.    Which is what I hope this blog will be about – leadership, spiritual formation, and what it means to take this uncertain,  yet incredibly awesome journey into ministry.

And that makes me think of Moses and his progressive formation as a leader of the Israelites (a logical segue).   Having crossed the Red Sea to escape from Pharoah and his armies, Moses and the whole congregation “journey[ed] by stages , as the Lord commanded (Ex. 17: 1b),” moving through the perils and challenges of their trek through the wilderness.

At first glance, Moses doesn’t appear to have qualities that would make one think he’s a natural leaders – he’s not a genius; he’s not an eloquent speaker – after all, he stutters; he’s on the lam after having killed an Egyptian who was beating “a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk (Ex. 2: 11).”  And when God calls out to him from the burning bush, he is filled with doubts about his ability to do what God asks of him.

Yet Moses does have an alertness to the presence of God; he turns aside to look, listen and discern what God commands, and he demonstrates a willingness (after much protestation and many excuses) to take on the responsibility that God lays upon his shoulders. He agrees to put himself at risk to do what God says  needs to be done, and to serve God when he might have preferred to do anything other than……  Moses drags his heels, but ultimately he understands  that the best and most faithful ways to lead others is by serving – by always listening for God’s leading, and not his own desires.

As you consider seminary, or journey through seminary, or continue to practice whatever ministry you believe God has called you to follow, ask yourself what you’re willing to risk.   What things need doing that are the things of God?   Are you willing to be God’s humble servant, even more than you are determined to be God’s chosen leader?

Greetings Readers!

I know, it’s a Monday. And you’re asking, “Why is the CURE posting on a Monday?’ Well, I have an answer for you Tomorrow, we’re hosting our very first virtual seminary tour of McCormick. Well, actually, all of the 10 major PCUSA seminaries are doing it as well.

Here’s the thing. As technology enhances, we have to enhance with it. I remember getting our first computer at my house as a kid and it was that big hunk of machine with the blinking green light. Then we evolved; we got better computers and games like Oregon Trail. Let’s be honest, if you went to school in the early 90′s, you died of typhoid or scarlet fever, atleast once. And as difficult as it seems, we’ve progressed yet again. We find ourselves with smart phones where we can check our e-mail, watch TV, and find an online date, all from our pocket-sized phones. Could you have imagined doing that on your old Zach Morris phone? Nope. You couldn’t. But now, you can. So, here are some basics about this virtual tour.

If you, or anyone you know is thinking about seminary, this is a great way to check it out and even chat with folks like me: all from the comfort of your own home office, studio, car, wherever you have something that resembles a computer! Maybe it will even work on your smart phone!

Also, at McCormick, we like to save trees. They are our friends. (No, I’m not some tree-hugger but I do realize the simple fact that without trees you and I would be unable to breathe.) So, we designed this super-sleek invitation, all online. So first, before reading any further, check it out, here. Once you’ve finished reading, come back!

Next, you register. That would be here. And don’t forget to come back yet again!

Ok, here’s the cool part. Once you’ve read the invitation and registered, on October 4th (tomorrow!), you’ll enter into the portal. Once there, it will look like you’re going down a hall with booths. Similar to a college fair, but with a twist (that is, you can wear your pajamas if you want!). You’ll see banners for each school and you simply click on the banner of the school you want information on. In each “booth,” you’ll be able to text chat with people like me, other students, as well as our awesome Recruitment and Admissions Director, Rev. JC Cadwallader and our Associate of Admissions and Recruitment, Jamie Wasowski.

Each seminary will also be hosting an hour where they will do a live video chat. McCormick’s live video chat will be from 12pm-1pm EST (11am-12pm Central). So not only can you chat online with us, we’ll even let you see our bright and shining faces. Mine might not be so bright and shining depending on whether or not I’ve had my coffee…

“Well, what else is there?” you ask. There will also be online brochures as well as other information and social media sites so you can learn more about each school you’re interested in.

What are you waiting for?! Click the links, get registered and ask us some questions! We like the tough ones.

That’s all for now! Until we meet again on Wednesday!

Peace~ Shelley D.

Frank Yamada ain’t no fool.

Welcome back my fabulous readers! Today we’re bringing you an exclusive interview from Rev. Dr. Frank Yamada, McCormick’s latest president to take office. Now, I tried getting an interview with this man while he was still one of our professors, but to no avail. But it seems as though all my pestering and begging has paid off, I got my interview! Man, I feel like Barbara Walters when she gets one of those exclusive interviews with celebrities that only speak through their agents, but that’s not Frank. So without further ado, here’s Frank!

Your Name, Title, and what you do at McCormick?

Frank Yamada, the 10th President of McCormick Theological Seminary.

Who makes up your family?

Michelle is my spouse of almost 21 years. My two children are Stephen (20) and Adam (17), and our dog, Roy.

Frank and his super-awesome wife, Michelle

Michelle and their two sons

Roy, just after getting a summer shave

Where did you grow up? Go to school?

I grew up in Huntington Beach, CA (yes, the same city that one this year’s Little League World Series). I went to one grammar school and one high school (Marina H.S.).

I was one of the students lucky enough to have you as my small group leader in PIF, and I remember you telling us about growing up in a Buddhist family. Can you tell us a little about that and how that has shaped your views as a Christian and as a leader in the church?

I grew up in a nominally Buddhist family. There are twice a year Christians—those that go to church on Easter and Christmas. We were twice a year Buddhists, which means that we went to church (yes, they called it a Buddhist church), when someone died or got married. In both instances there was incense involved.

Being Buddhist was synonymous with being Japanese American for me. I didn’t really think of Buddhism as a religion that informed my day to day living; but it very much shaped my sense of cultural identity and ethnic belonging as a child, even if I never would have identified it as an influence. Mostly, I associated Buddhism with big family gatherings on big moments in our my family’s life.

Buddhism and being Japanese American shaped my views of being a Christian leader in the same way that being an American shapes my view of the world. It has always been there in the background. When I served as a jundosanim (youth pastor) at a small Korean immigrant church, working with second generation or 1.5 generation youth, I began to realize as an adult how ethnic churches and religious communities play such a crucial role in affirming and shaping a young person’s identity.

How did you come to McCormick?

I actually taught as an adjunct at McCormick while I was still a Hebrew Bible/Old Testament professor at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston. I had also taught in the Taste of Seminary program when Laura Cheifetz was the director. When Seabury declared financial exigency, David Esterline, who was then Dean of Faculty, invited me to submit my application to be the Director of the Center for Asian American Ministries. The rest is history.

With the 2011-2012 school year kicking off, what are you hoping for in regards to the students of McCormick? Faculty? Staff? Etc.?

I told the students at orientation last week that they should expect to be stretched. Behind that statement was my desire that I have for all students, that is, I want them to learn and to grow. I want and expect them to be leaders. God has not called them here to just get a degree. God has called them to become leaders. That doesn’t start after seminary. That starts now. That starts with their learning.

My hope for the faculty is that they regain their love for what brought them to McCormick in the first place—their love for teaching, learning, and scholarship. The financial crisis in our nation during 2008 was hard on all of us in higher education. My hope is that we rekindle our passion for learning and for theological education—something that we never really lost. After hearing the faculty begin to take on the work of revising the Masters level curriculum around our mission/vision at our last faculty conference, and the energy and creativity that they brought to this work, I was very, very encouraged. This is a great faculty, who cares a lot about what they are doing. It was fun to see the generative spirit in the room.

We have a very talented and committed staff. We have had a lot of changes in the past couple of years. Transition can be a very exciting time, but it can also be very unsettling. Our staff, however, has not been rattled. They take things in stride, and they have been very supportive of me in my transition. Most of our staff is here because their work at McCormick is more than a job, it is a vocation. We are more than co-workers, we are a community. So, my hope for the staff is that they continue to thrive in their work, as they support our mission to educate and train leaders for their ministries.

The seniors and middlers know you as a professor and there’s a different relationship that professors have with students than administrators do (most of the time); how do you see this working out with the role change? What are some of the advantages/challenges you might expect ahead?

Didn’t you ask me the same question when the students were interviewing me as a candidate? J Yes, my role will be different as a president. However, I was a down-to-earth professor (at least I thought of myself that way). I don’t expect that will change now that I have become president. I am and will remain a people person. I still intend to win our version of Iron Chef. Oh wait, that makes me more competitive than approachable. I also realize that my new position means that I have a different set of priorities. As a professor, some of my best time was spent mentoring and getting to know students. I will, of course, still get to know students. However, I will miss not being able to advise and mentor them.

In my relationship with students, are there advantages to being president? Yes, now that I am the president Marsha always makes sure that I have a fresh box of tissues for my visitors (That was an inside joke. If you weren’t at Feast of Fools last year, ask someone who was). Are there challenges? Yes, I am a little worried about the aforementioned event as the new president, especially with this senior class.

What are some things/projects that you are looking forward to?

I am looking forward to my inauguration (Save the date: Feb 8-9, 2011 with the actual inauguration service being on Feb 9th), which is a project of sorts. I look forward to working with our development team to create a plan for McCormick that will sustain our work for the upcoming decades. I am also excited to build new initiatives. I have already had a number of exciting big-idea conversations with local and national church leaders. I am very excited to hear from our alumni/ae to find out how we can do what we do better.

So, you’re a facebook guy. Last summer when I was working with the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler Seminary at Emory, they kept talking about what it meant to be a public theologian and social media got brought up, a lot. How do you see facebook, twitter, or other social media outlets as being important to being out there in the public for you and for the students who are coming up? Or do you?

Bruce Reyes-Chow, the former Moderator of the PCUSA’s General Assembly, is much more of a “Facebook guy” than me. Watching him use Twitter and Facebook as “the Mod” taught me a lot about how to be a public person via [social] media. What we tend to think of as social diversions actually have a ton of potential for organizing people and movements. Obviously, recent world events have shown us how social media can facilitate radical change, even revolution.

Ultimately, I believe that the phrase, “public theologian” is or should be redundant. We do theology for the sake of transforming society for the greater good. Social media has changed the platform by which one can go public with one’s thoughts. One must remember, however, that the line between public and private blurs on Facebook. One must always know that you are public-self on social media. To use the theological phrase, in social media you are always bearing witness to the truth.

Ok, these are the important ones…

Your favorite food AND place to eat in Chicago (these don’t have to be the same)?

Favorite food: Del Seoul’s spicy Korean BBQ pork taco with a side of gamja fries

Favorite place to eat: Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill

Those of us here at McCormick know you to love some good music. What are some of the artists on your playlist right now?

The Arcade Fire, Radiohead, and Dar Williams

I know you were trying to give up on the coffee a while back. How has that gone for you?

I come off of caffeinated coffee periodically. It gives me killer headaches when I do. Right now, I am back up to a Vente a day (iced of course). However, I worry that coffee could be bad when combined with stress, so I may consider giving it up altogether. We’ll see.

If you could live anywhere that you’ve never lived yet, where would it be and why?

Hawaii, I am thinking that my next job will be to start a seminary there. Why Hawaii? Because I could surf before I preach, teach, or run a meeting with the board.

If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

That’s a weird question. I guess I would want to be an animal that doesn’t get eaten by other animals.

Reading anything good right now? Any recommendations?

Theological books: I recently finished Walter Brueggemann’s Journey to the Common Good in preparation for a class that I was going to teach with Jennifer Ayres (but then this presidency thing came up). I particularly liked his reading of Pharaoh’s dream in the Joseph cycle—very clever, very relevant.

Others: I just finished an audio book by David Allen, Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. This is one of the most practical and useful books that I have read/listened to in a long time.

If you could say anything to the incoming students for this new year, what would it be? You know, what are Frank’s words of wisdom?

Study hard. Studying at this level in the things of God is a real privilege that stretches back for centuries, even millennia (read Proverbs 1). Study hard, but live life well while you study.

Is there anything else you want to put out there?

Yes, so when are we going to start a flag football team and start taking it to those U of C students?

Well folks, that’s all for now. See you soon!

Peace ~ Shelley D.

Greetings again everyone! Today we bring you a special edition of the blog. We have an interview wih Rev. Dr. Christine Vogel, our Dean of Students here. She’s one of our favs. Hope you enjoy!

Rev. Vogel with Herald the Ram at GA this past summer

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!


Shelley D.

Meet Ken Sawyer, Associate Professor of Church History and Recovering Librarian

Here at McCormick, we have wonderful professors. Today, I’d like you to meet Ken Sawyer, Associate Professor of Church History. Ken’s been at this a while and he’s got lots of knowledge to share with his students and his wider community, which he is an active part of. Pretty much everyone goes through his class within their first semester, taking his History of Christianity 1 class in the Fall. I did not get this privilege as I took a class that was in the way, but I do have him now in Reformed Traditions (with Anna Case-Winters) and  I’ll have atleast 3 more classes with him before I graduate. I am not complaining in the least bit, I’m actually telling you to make sure and take his class. Not only will your knowledge be expanded in Church History, you’ll have many other fun times in class with Ken. Such as getting a Reformed Turkey activity for the holidays.

So here is the famous Ken Sawyer!

Ciao for now!


Shelley D.

Name: Ken Sawyer

Job Title: Associate Professor of Church History

Family: I am married with Patricia Cloud. We have three daughters: Elisabeth (soon to be 25), Anna (20) and Jane (20) – all quite grown – each is a blessing to us!

Congregation: Progressive Community Center, The People’s Church (48th and Wabash) http://progressivecommunitychurch.org

Favorite food: Bi Bim Bap anytime, anywhere, but especially if served in a hot stone bowl (dol sot)

Favorite Restaurant: Valois (53rd and Lake Park)

If you could be any animal, what would it be? Easy! The wondrous Okapi. (Okay, we had to look that one up!)

College/Graduate School/Post Graduate Work: After Seminary, I came to Hyde Park to go to the neighborhood university.

Why teach at McCormick? A welcoming place with profoundly friendly, faithful people.

How long have you been at McCormick? I joined the McCormick community in 1980 on the staff of the JKM library. I began classroom teaching as an adjunct teacher in 1988.

What classes do you teach/have you taught? Reformations! Early Church! Reformed Traditions! Survey! Church Mothers and Fathers! Calvin! Western Spirituality! Presbyterian History!

Why do you like to teach at McCormick? Classroom conversations – learning in the classroom. Wonderful colleagues. Partnership with the LSTC community.

Where else do you teach? In congregations wherever asked. I have taught at Dominican University and at Catholic Theological Union.

Favorite memories at McCormick? Memories of Ogbu Kalu. Memories of Anthony Biddings. Team teaching with David Daniels. Team teaching with Anna Case-Winters. Laughing through Feast of Fools skits. (Oh, Ken. Just wait until this year!)

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen happen here at McCormick? The opening of McCormick to new generations of students.

In your opinion, what does McCormick have to offer/what makes it different from other seminaries? McCormick is very different every year because our community forms anew each year.

Favorite theologian? Ancient: Gregory of Nazianzus; Reformation: Heinrich Bullinger; Early Modern: Thomas Goodwin or Richard Sibbes or Lewis Bayley…

The best thing you can imagine doing in your spare time? Walking with my wife anywhere, but especially from Regenstein to meet our children, or swimming in Lake Michigan!

Ken has many other favorites, such as…

Macrina the younger, the book of Psalms, the LRWC, Rome and Istanbul, Cappadocia, George Eliot, cottonwood, Alvin Ailey, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Growing Power (South side of Chicago), Favorite weekend commuter: TC Anderson, Marilynne Robinson, Amanda Berry Smith, John Timothy Stone, Barack Hussein Obama, FDR, Reinhold Niebuhr, Katie Cannon, Perpetua, Bronzeville, favorite editor of one blog and two dogs (one blind): Shelley Donaldson, Evernote, Martin Bucer, Katherine Zell, Freedom of the Christian, Augsburg Confession, the Thirty-Nine Documents, “Where is this Stupendous Stranger” by Christopher Smart (d. 1771), Second Helvetic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Confession of 1967, Brief Statement of Faith, Strasbourg, Andrew Sullivan/AndrewSillivan.com, James Cleveland or Shirley Cesar or both!, W.H. Auden, Nanette Banks, Bob Cathey, B. Herbert Martin or Brad Braxton or both!, Advent, Walter Bruggemann, Jack Benny, John Boehner, Ed Grimley, Pinky and the Brain, Garry Wills, Hercule Poirot, Lawrence Walsh, the Gruber collection at the Lutheran School of Theology and the McCormick Rare Books (now at the Newberry Library), JKM, Regenstein Library.

Well there you have it. Anything you ever wanted to know about Ken Sawyer and a little more. You can find Ken in his office at the McCormick building, surrounded by books (the best way to be!), and readying himself for class. Ken is always happy to speak with students and prospective students. He is very often helping with Inquiry Into Ministry with the Office of Admissions and is a faithful servant to the students and to God!

Meet the Rev. Dr. Robert Cathey! (or Bob as some of us know him)

Greetings McCormick readers. I hope that this finds you all well once again.

Now, as some of you know, we have some well-traveled professors here, and Bob Cathey is one if them. On sabbatical for the school year of 2010-2011, Bob Cathey is spending this precious time in Beirut, Lebanon, teaching and being the studly scholar that he simply is at the Near East School of Theology (NEST). After that he will be travelling to Syria and Jordan before returning home to us here at McCormick.

Now, take it from me folks, this man is a great teacher. I took his T300 (Intro to Theology) course, co-taught with our Dean of Faculty, Dr. Luis Rivera-Rodriguez, and it was great. The discussions that Bob helped to lead in class were always interesting, relevant and important.

Dr. Cathey is ordained through the Presbyterian Church (USA). He joined the faculty of McCormick in 1998 and was named as our Professor of Theology in 2008. He received his BA in Philosophy at Davidson College just outside of Charlotte, NC. (As a fellow Philosophy major myself, I have a special place in my little seminarian heart for Dr. Cathey.) He then received his Masters of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary, followed by his Ph.D. from Duke University. His wife, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Cathey, serves as the pastor of Edgewater Presbyterian Church in Chicago and has been working with McCormick Seminary as a Field Site supervisor for McCormick students during their filed site studies here (we’ll talk more about that later).

Dr. Cathey is also heavily involved in the pursuit of interfaith dialog, working with such groups as the Council for a Parliament of World’s Religions, in which he participated in their gathering this past year in Australia. His current book, God in Postliberal Perspective:Between Realism and Non-Realism, is available on Amazon. Just go ahead and order your copy and stop debating it. You won’t regret it.

Below is a link to Dr. Cathey’s blog which details his work, travels and teachings in Beirut.


(Photo courtesy of McCormick Seminary)

Peace to all you bloggers!

~Shelley D.

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