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Meet an Alum | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Meet an Alum

I did not plan on being a church planter. And, I don’t mean that in a God-was-calling-me-there-but-I-refused-to-listen-to-God’s-voice kind of way. It was literally not even a blip on my radar. So, when the opportunity came up to be a planting pastor with Urban Village Church, an initiative with the UMC, I really had to think on it.

I began talking with Trey Hall and Christian Coon, the lead pastors of UVC about a year ago. At the same time, they were having conversations with Benjamin Reynolds, a PhD student at Chicago Theological Seminary who had pastored a large African American Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs. I was caught by how they really listened, were responsive, and sought to follow the Spirit’s lead in their own discernment about us as their partners in ministry. I realized that, in a risky endeavor like church planting, it was important for me to know I had passionate, dynamic, and intelligent partners who would not only recognize and value the gifts and experiences that I brought to the table, but also take me seriously as a partner. I didn’t plan on church planting, but once I accepted the call, I became excited. It was the best intersection of my gifts and passions: creative communications, graphic design, organization, seeing the gospel change lives, and having fun.

So, why plant churches in time of mainline decline? The simple answer is that there are people who want to engage questions of spirituality and faith, but they are not finding what they need. Rather than paint with a broad brushstroke, I will speak to the particular context where Benjamin and I are doing our work. In my conversations with folks (most, but not all, of whom were young adults) in the Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighborhoods, I have come across 4 types – People who have:

1)  given up trying to find something in the neighborhood and go somewhere else.

2)  given up trying to find a church and don’t go to church.

3)  settled on a place, but aren’t all that satisfied

4)  been burned or rejected by the church at some point.

Many people are looking for a sense of connection and community; where someone notices when they’ve been away or knows to ask about what’s happening in their lives. They are also looking for a place where their questions are not ignored but taken seriously and engaged; where doubt is not equated with unbelief. Additionally, families are looking for a place where their children can be equipped to think about faith and faithful living that is rooted in the gospel with intelligence and meaning. There is also a unique need that UVC on the south side can address: being a faith community that welcomes and affirms people of color (and their families) across the spectrum of sexual orientation. Finally, our vision for Urban Village as a whole (and particularly on the south side) is to be a multi-racial faith community that does not minimize difference but engage it for the sake of being a fuller expression of God’s kindom.

McCormick was important in equipping me with certain tools in this work:

  • Developing a posture of life-long learning
  • Opportunities for engaging in conversations with people who come from a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences
  • A network of creative colleagues who both support and challenge me
  • Knowledge of ministry in an urban context (particularly Chicago)
  • Public speaking and preaching
  • Supportive faculty and staff
  • Tools for shaping creative liturgy and worship

There are other key tools that McCormick did not (and in some cases, could not) equip me with, so I had to learn or obtain elsewhere:

  • Perseverance
  • Humor
  • Graphic design and marketing
  • Organization/Administration
  • External networks and connections
  • Creative ways to do evangelism/outreach
  • The nuts and bolts of church planting
  • The practice of trying to do church differently
  • Community organizing

Being a church planter is hard work! You have to put yourself out there again and again, initiating conversations with people, risking rejection and judgement on a daily basis. But, I do not regret my decision. There is something very powerful and humbling about the work of planting churches. You get a front row seat in bearing witness to the kind of work that God can do through a broken vessel (moi) to help make the neighborhood just a little bit better and the gospel just a little more present in the world.

This is a brief overview of some aspects of my work as a church planter. If you have questions or are interested in church planting and would like to join Benjamin and myself in this work, feel free to contact me at emcginley@mccormick.edu

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

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.

Bob Dylan sang, “He who isn’t busy being born, is busy dying.”   Those words, surely a variation on Ecclesiastes 3, were relevant when he wrote them and they’re even more fitting today.    They’re a call and a challenge to people, churches and yes, to seminaries and theological education.

Being born takes effort and time. Having given birth twice, I know full well that the process isn’t painless or easy. And in most cases, it takes a lot of time.  Do we expect a spiritual birthing process to be any easier?   We are impatient people who prefer instantaneous results for our efforts.   We are also easily discouraged when things don’t go according to plans and our preconceived expectations and wishes.   When something takes too long or, conversely, when something changes too quickly, alarm bells go off in our heads.

McCormick Theological Seminary is in the process of giving birth to something new.  We have a new president, a new sense of energy, and a diverse student body that is excited to be in the midst of a community that challenges them to grow in faith and understanding of what it means to be called to ministry in the 21st century.

The rapid shifts taking place in our churches are calling us to rethink our own place in theological education.  How do we best prepare these emerging leaders, both lay and ordained?   How do we hold the emerging future in a time of chaos, and remind people of their roots even as we open up God’s Word to them in new ways?

Some days the questions are unnerving.   But then I remember that God, who is eternal, strengthens all of us for faithful living in the midst of this birthing process.  God’s word is bringing us to new life and a new day, even though we do not yet know how long it will take or what it will look like.  God’s presence and steadfast love will call us to “keep busy being born.”

Good morning McCormick Community! Well, we’ve introduced you to some great folks in the past, but we want you to meet even more! That’s right. McCormick is made up of so many amazing people, and everyone has a different role. Today I want to introduce you to one of my former classmates and now adjunct professor, Linda Eastwood. Linda has an amazing story and I’ve asked her to share a little about herself today. She plays an important role in our community, and you should know about it!
So, tell us your name, title, and what you do at McCormick?
I’m Linda Eastwood, and my presence at McCormick is somewhat informal, but hopefully beneficial to the seminary community! My main “title” is “Coordinator of the Colombia Accompaniment Program” (more on that later) for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF). McCormick kindly provides me with office space and facilities to do this work. Right now, I’m also adjunct small-group leader for McCormick’s PIF (Pilgrimage in Faithfulness). That’s an experience that I treasure, not least as a way to get to know new members of McCormick’s diverse student body. I particularly love working with our international students, so I joined in with much of our Summer Language Institute this year. (In past years I’ve been paid-student help; this year I helped as informal volunteer.) I’ve also done a little volunteer teaching (in McCormick’s name) at the Reformed University in Barranquilla, Colombia on “Science and Faith”, and right now I’m slated to go back early summer 2012 to teach (at their request) an introductory Old Testament course.

Rev. Linda Eastwood, Ph. D

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What was your last job/career? And how did it all get you to where you are now?
As some of you may have subtly detected from my accent, I’m originally from England. Back in my “former life” I studied physics in England and then medical-physics (Ph.D.) in Scotland, and then worked for 25 year designing medical MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), as scientist and as manager. I’ve lived in the U.S. since 1986 when I was recruited to work in Cleveland, OH. I’m a “polymath”, so a career-change wasn’t a surprise – although seminary was (despite my strong church involvement) emphatically not in my plan. Which is why, of course, I ended up studying for M.Div. at McCormick (2006-2010), and have never looked back. (God has a great sense of humor.) I took advantage of many “cross-cultural” opportunities (J-term in Egypt, courses in the Hispanic Summer Program, semester in Korea, and semester in Colombia.) I assumed that I’d end up as pastor of a cross-cultural church. God’s sense of humor showed up again, and I was called and ordained to my (officially part-time) work with Colombia Accompaniment. So – here I am!
So, tell everyone exactly what it is you do?
In my main official role, I run – on behalf of the PC(U.S.A.) – a now 7-year old program of volunteer accompaniers going to Colombia a month at a time. At the Colombians’ request, they walk in solidarity with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC – Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia). We are a protective and supportive presence in their work of human-rights advocacy and community-rebuilding with some of the more than 5 million Colombians displaced by violence – all in the grab to concentrate ownership of land and resources. I recruit volunteers, run orientation and discernment, and send pairs to Colombia (one of each pair must be Spanish-speaking) to be a ministry of presence under the guidance of our Colombian partners. Accompaniers come back and (we hope and encourage!) tell the story and advocate for improvements in U.S. military, trade and drug policies that so drastically affect Colombian life.
How does all of this fit into the larger community of McCormick?
So what’s all this got to do with McCormick? First, McCormick has a long history of engagement with issues of social justice, and Colombia Accompaniment is one wonderful way to live out this engagement on the international level. Second, McCormick has a partnership with the Reformed University in Barranquilla. (Dean Luis Rivera visited them this last summer to formally inaugurate this already-signed agreement.) A 2008 McCormick J-term travel-seminar in Colombia was a precursor to this partnership. The presence here of Rev. Angélica Múnera Cervera as an MTS student is a piece of our partnership. What’s more, the links between McCormick and the IPC are so strong that our Colombia friends joke about the “McCormick junta!” At the IPC’s Reformed University, the president (Rev. Milciades Pua) and the heads of the school of theology (Rev. Adelaida Jiménez) and of the research department (Rev. Milton Mejia) are all McCormick alumni. The PC(U.S.A.) has two mission co-workers as long-term accompaniers in Colombia: McCormick alumni Revs. Richard Williams and Mamie Broadhurst. Many McCormick students / alums have served as accompaniers, or are preparing to do so. My predecessor running the program, Rev. Sarah Henken, now serving in Bolivia, is another McCormick alumna. And my colleague, Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, the PPF board-member for Colombia Programs, is, of course, yet another McCormick alumna! We have, then, wonderful links on which to build an even stronger partnership between McCormick and the IPC.
What are some of the hopes that you have for your ministry?
My hope is to help the IPC live out their dreams of a just and peaceful society. They see both “Reformed” education for Colombians and also increased awareness of their situation by the outside world as critical pieces of fulfilling that dream. I’d love to see McCormick faculty, students and staff become linked ever more closely to the living out of that dream, and I’d personally love to mix teaching in Colombia with teaching (in whatever form) at McCormick to help us share our stories and learn from each other in our striving to bring the peace and justice of God’s kin-dom. And somewhere in that mix, I’m trying to fit my own study of the crossover between theology/Bible/Christian-ethics and the discipline of Peace Studies. But who knows? Remember, God has a wonderful sense of humor!
Awesome Linda! Thanks again. Check back in for the rest of our adjuncts and what they do. And you can expect a follow up from Linda, we need to know how everything is going!
Until next time my friends. Peace!
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.

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.

An Interview with MTS Alum, Rev. Laura Cheifetz, Class of 2005

This week, we’ve interviewed the Rev. Laura Cheifetz. Rev. Cheifetz works as the Director of the Leading Generations Initiative at the Fund for Theological Education, which is located at Emory in Atlanta, GA. Previously, Laura was the Director for the Common Ground Project here at McCormick. That’s where I first met Laura when I was a first-year student. She hired me on as one of her student-assistants; one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever gotten. She has a contagious laugh and always has fun music playing in her office. She also gives pretty good advice. Enjoy!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Rev. Laura Mariko Cheifetz and I was born in San Francisco, CA, from Poulsbo, WA. I was a Sociology major (and department student of the year, cum laude, with Honors) at Western Washington University. I graduated from McCormick with an M.Div in 2005 and I lived in the 1400 building while I was there.

What was something you were looking for when considering seminaries?

A couple of things. I looked at the financial package, diversity, urban, a place that would train me for ministry, and mostly… the right community vibe.

What was it that led you to McCormick?

Well, Harvard didn’t give me a great financial package. That helped narrow the field a bit. The other two full rides offers were at seminaries that didn’t give off the right vibe for me. I was led to McCormick based on the awesome vibe from the other students and prospective students. Also, Theresa Cho, on a student panel, said something about Asian American feminist theology and I was sold. I did think that remaining on the West and East coasts was a cop-out and I needed to know what it was like to live in a fly-over part of the country. I also knew that my brain was in fine shape, and so was my ego. I was a little worried that if I went to one of those big-name seminaries at that time I would become even more arrogant. Given my sometimes painful self-awareness, I knew what I really needed more than anything was for my heart to be shaped into the heart of a pastor. McCormick appeared to be the place for that.

Can you tell us a little about your time at McCormick as a student?

I was at McCormick with some really amazing classmates. I will always be grateful for them and for the great faculty I learned from, such as Homer Ashby, Hearn Chun, David Daniels, Joanne Lindstrom, Lib Caldwell, etc.

What was your field site experience like?

I did field studies at Interfaith Council for the Homeless, with the Rev. John Hobbs. He was a really great supervisor, and the social workers there taught me a lot. I think John taught me the most about how to be a really great pastor with parishioners while also being myself. I then did a full-time seven-month internship at a bilingual church in San Francisco. It was a really good growing experience. I was in some really difficult real-life situations in regards to immigration, community and staff relations, etc. I also found that preaching in my second language could be really hit and miss, and preparation was really important.

Well, what are you doing now?

I am working at The Fund for Theological Education as Director of the Leading Generations Initiative. I do alumni relations, development, and work with the Lilly Endowment on the Transition into Ministry project. I get to work with the coolest people in these programs. I feel so fortunate to have great colleagues. I learn something new about leadership every day, and we have a blast together. And, I’m graduating from North Park University in May of 2011 with an MBA!

How did McCormick equip you for ministry?

I could have learned how to be a Presbyterian minister anywhere, but McCormick has made me into myself as a minister! I learned how to listen to others and work together with people very different from myself. I also learned to drive my own learning process. When I needed to get more perspectives, I audited extra courses at McCormick or other seminaries. I learned how to be wrong, because every day I found something to be wrong about. I also learned how to stand my ground when it really mattered. I learned how to analyze and navigate complicated political situations.

I found a really solid and supportive community that has continued to be sustaining as we have all been out working in the world. What has been most helpful was developing my own voice as a person of color in a bipolar racial framework. Now that I live and work in Atlanta, being able to navigate a black-white framework in a much more complicated and diverse world is invaluable.

What would you love to go back and do again?

I would not go back. I went when I went and it was sufficient.

Any parting words of wisdom?

Not all these words are my words: Life is awesome and ministry is a gift. Don’t force it and don’t waste it. Know thyself. As someone who works with people, never underestimate the power of projection. Learn from other people’s mistakes and your own. And hey, God loves you! Try and live that out by being kind (but never a doormat) and making sure everyone gets something to eat.


Awesome! Thanks Laura. For more information on the work that Rev. Cheifetz does, check out the link above for the FUND. There are some great opportunities there!

Until next time!

Peace ~ Shelley D.

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