Five years ago, if you had asked Lois Snavely what ministry looks like in a work place setting, she would have said being able to pray at work or talk about Jesus. “Those are good things,” said Snavely who will earn her MDiv degree this May, “but my definition of what ministry can be has expanded. I now want to bring liberative ideas of equality into spaces that historically have not been that way. I want to hold social justice conversations and talk about moral injury in the work place and discuss what it would look like to be a corporate chaplain. McCormick offered me a safe space to think about the theory and practice of that kind of ministry.”
While Snavely has already put some of her ideas into action with her employer, Upwork is awaiting her graduation so she can bring all that she’s learned to the company. A project manager for the company, Snavely oversees creative projects, and volunteered to implement the company’s allyship program to Black employees and is an ally for its LGBTQ+ program. Snavely has led professional and personal development workshops, incorporating tools such as the Enneagram, a personality model, to help employees gain greater self-awareness.
“For me, ministry in the market place doesn’t have to have a narrow focus,” said Snavely. “It’s not trying to get people back to church. It’s more about how faith can allow us to be in the same space at the same time in ways that are helpful to us all.”
Snavely’s circuitous journey to McCormick started when she moved from Ohio to join a dance company after graduating from Bowling Green State University. A part-time job, she supplemented her income with jobs at several companies, and found herself enjoying the management opportunities she was receiving at a clothing retailer.“ I was getting opportunities to use leadership skills on a regional basis; I was providing training and development to employees at several locations and planning new store openings,” said Snavely.
As she was reassessing having a career in dance performance, Snavely was also taking inventory of her faith. She had formed a gathering of other young people from her denomination in her north side Chicago apartment but clashed with denominational leadership when a gay man started coming to the group. “I was hiding and hoping that leadership would let us do our own thing, but that felt like a very small existence,” said Snavely. “I stepped down from leading the small group and found myself at Urban Village Church. The young man who wasn’t supposed to be in our group had invited me.”
Snavely started finding herself at Urban Village Church on most Sunday mornings and got baptized there. Soon after, she spoke with the church’s discipleship director about attending seminary and because they had previously had conversations about Snavely’s passions around gender, sexuality and racial equity issues, the director suggested a couple of seminaries, including McCormick.
“What stood out for me when I’d visit McCormick was that it has diverse diversity–age, gender, social backgrounds, race, ethnicity, nationality,” said Snavely. “It also was affirming of all that I was bringing to McCormick. I enjoy dance performance and was able to offer that during worship services and in my classes. No one was pushing me in a certain direction but always opening up options and opportunities and things to consider. I still remember a professor saying to us during my first year that McCormick is not trying to get us to think in a particular way or be in a certain denomination or agree with any specific belief system. The point is for us to go and serve in ways that show care, consent and discernment. We are not to add more harm to the religious world nor the world in general.”
Such a charge continues to guide Snavely’s view of ministry. “I see ministry as trying new ways to bring the ideals of faith and the demands of work together,” she said. “If nothing else happens, I want to be able to give people a safe space to sort through some of the questions of life…like what McCormick gave me.”