Meet Amber Naylor
Amber Naylor is a first year seminarian in the Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work dual degree program in which Garrett-Evangelical partners with Loyola University of Chicago. She hails from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating with a BFA in Theatre Design & Technology and a BA in Theatre Directing & Management. After her undergraduate career, she served as a Water & Sanitation Specialist in the Peace Corps in Panama which inspired the founding of non-profit organization Acting Out Awareness (AOA). AOA is an organization which “gives marginalized and vulnerable populations the agency and skills necessary to tell their story, confront their challenges, and create their future.” See ActingOutAwareness.org for more information.
How has your experience in theater shaped your vocation?
I fell in love with theater in high school for its ability to transcend culture and share stories so much so that I started a non-profit organization which equips people in various cultures to share their stories and enact community change through theater. I am learning here at Garrett-Evangelical that this sort of storytelling is prophetic; speaking to power. Acting Out Awareness is essentially equipping people to be prophetic within their own communities and to be prophetic together.
What did you learn while serving in Panama as a Peace Corps volunteer?
Serving in Panama, I learned first-hand that most people don’t need money or things, and everyone has a capacity to learn. What people need is an opportunity to share their stories, values, and desires. Embracing that opportunity is what establishes lasting change in a community. I also learned, to my surprise, that you can’t do community change without talking about religion. Religion is so engrained in the culture, especially in Central America, that you need to have the skills to bring that part of life into the conversation.
On a personal level, I was essentially an immigrant. I arrived in Panama with a backpack and didn’t know how to live there. I didn’t know how to cook or bathe, and the community surrounded me and helped me. Then I came home and heard the governor saying that we wouldn’t be allowing refugees into our state, putting my personal and social experience in conflict with each other. While readjustment is difficult in itself, I discovered my particular vocation continues to be among immigrants and people of other cultures.
What has surprised you about theological education at Garrett-Evangelical?
Before coming to Garrett-Evangelical, most of my experience with religion was negative, which means I am now rediscovering the positive side of religion. In the meantime, I am reconciling that both of those experiences are real and true. I arrived having already deconstructed my theology in its entirety, so now there is a reconstruction happening that I didn’t know was possible. We aren’t ignoring the difficult pieces of the Bible and our faith, but instead we’re confronting those things head on. There is a need for redefinition within the church, and that’s exactly what Garrett-Evangelical is equipping leaders to do.