If you've been following along my seminary journey, you know this is a BIG month for me. Today is my last day of Homiletics (the art of preaching) class and will graduate with my Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Winebrenner Theological Seminary on July 30! Emails are flowing right now about graduation details AND fall registration details. That's because I received my official admission letter to the Doctor of Ministry program at Winebrenner this morning!
I actually finished my Master's level courses in the fall but because I have a MA and not an MDiv, I needed two more classes to qualify for admission into the program and I have been praying about the next steps. God's direction has become clear this year as leaders at Winebrenner allowed me to take a Doctoral level class in January, and I have entered the Discernment process with the Episcopal Church.
Through it all, I received many confirmations that I am on the right path. I know there is something new happening in this next season, though I don't yet know what that will look like. I am taking one step at a time as God makes it clear.
After years of writing publically and being afraid to call myself a real writer because it's not my full-time job, I have been able to claim the title of writer because I believe it is a gift God has given me that I am using for God's glory. I am learning to accept my own unique voice in the world.
After years of studying religion and theology but not having the credentials behind my name or feeling equipped to claim it, I am claiming the title of Theologian. I know God has gifted me with this desire to always learn and dive deeper into the study of God. I know God has equipped me with the longing and ability to help others learn to listen to God, learn from others, and lead lives that love.
So, here I am. Theologian. Writer. Discerner. And in the fall, Doctoral student!
Winebrenner is a wonderful school where I've found my place! It is a small Evangelical school. But wait, I am Episcopalean. Yes, but I've attended many churches throughout my life and travels, with my main home being the Evangelical church for most of my life. Take any time to poke around my writings and you will see my passion for Ecumenism and the Global Church. I believe the diversity of the church is part of the strength of the church, not a weakness.
No, division and in-fighting is not a strength. But diversity is about so much more than that. Each denomination and cultural expression of the Christian tradition has a piece of the puzzle and has strengths that reflect the complex and mysterious nature of God. I believe we can and should learn from each other. We can be stronger together. We can have a whole picture, instead of just one piece of the puzzle, if we will look to others' strengths to cover our weaknesses. None of us has it all right, and we can find value in each other.
That's why I love Winrebrenner—because they value diversity and welcome those of us from other traditions to come to learn alongside them. I believe whatever my future in the church may be, it will not be solely in the Episcopal church, but in writing, speaking, or learning from and teaching the breadth of the Body of Christ. And so, I want to keep learning in a diverse community. Not to mention, I love the faculty and staff who have encouraged me and helped me grow more in the last year and a half than ever before. Winebrenner has been a place I have flourished and drawn close to God. I can't wait to continue to do so over the next few years.
My family’s support carries me through the long days of work and the nights of class and writing. When I get that old familiar mom guilt that says I should not be investing in school when I have a teen who will be entering college in a few years (shh, I am in denial that she is old enough for that, anyway), I talk to my daughter about class. Her eyes light up as she says, “Mom, you’re going to be a Doctor? Did you ever believe you would do this?” She says she sees how happy I am in the Episcopal church, how at home I look in the pulpit. These are the moments I cling to in times of doubt.
It is a sacrifice of time and money for our family as we are still rebuilding our life in the U.S. after moving home from Bangladesh three years ago. God has provided at every turn with government grants during COVID that allowed for affordable monthly tuition rates. I was able to finish my entire Master’s program remotely. A few unexpected scholarships cushioned the cost. As I begin my Doctoral program, I will need to travel only twice to take classes in the low-residency program. I will take classes and research for two years and finish my Dissertation in the third year.
This part is exceedingly hard for me - the finances. God has shown me over and over that I'm in exactly the right place. Last year I received a scholarship that covered half my tuition. I didn't know how we would afford it going back up to full price this year when we had to buy a house last fall. But, I just got the news that my scholarship has been renewed for this year!! I expect I need around $2500 to cover this year’s tuition, books, and in-person class this summer. If anyone feels compelled to give toward these expenses, I can provide Venmo, Paypal, or Zelle account information (just shoot me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org). I’ve spent my life amazed at the generosity of those who believed in our family’s calling and partnered with us to make our support-based service in non-profits overseas possible. It never gets easier to ask for partners to come alongside our ministry. It also never gets less amazing when God provides in surprising ways, so please reach out if you feel led. I am so excited for this journey and to see where God takes us together!
Listening with you,