Garrett-Evangelical News

Meet Brian Smith

Brian Smith Dec. 2014Name: Brian E. Smith, Sr.

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois (Englewood Community)

Degree Program: Master of Divinity

Why did you choose Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary?
I chose Garrett-Evangelical because my congregation has a longstanding history with the institution and I was familiar with its practices and culture. I have a pastor’s heart and I appreciated Garrett-Evangelical’s emphasis upon practical ministry. Garrett-Evangelical trains students to become preachers, teachers and leaders in the church.

What are you planning on doing after you graduate from Garrett-Evangelical?
I am planning to serve as a pastor or assistant pastoral leader in the Baptist Church. I intend to pursue post-graduate education opportunities and I would like to serve with organizations that focus upon international ecumenical relations or economic development.

I have always had a keen interest in building cross-cultural and religious partnerships on an international level. I also come from an entrepreneurial family, which has sparked my interest in assisting with the development of both labor and business, especially in underserved communities. Garrett-Evangelical confirmed my passion and calling to tend to the full flourishing of communities both in terms of their spiritual well being and their socio-economic advancement.

Which of the three chapel services is your favorite and why?
I am perhaps biased towards the Wednesday evening Gospel service in terms of my favorite worship experience simply because it is one I am most familiar with. I love soulful music and worship. However, I also enjoy the Tuesday Word and Table service because Holy Communion is offered at every gathering. In my own Baptist tradition, communion is served only once on the first Sunday of each month.

What has been the most influential worship service you have attended Garrett-Evangelical and why?
I have attended numerous worship services but the most impactful service that I can recall is the Word and Table service in which Dr. Stephen Ray preached from the Exodus passage describing the moment when Pharaoh’s army was drowned in the Red Sea. This service was held in the context of the killing of Mike Brown. Dr. Ray’s message was profound and clear: Don’t take on the ways of your oppressor. Given the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the killers of unarmed black men, it is imperative for Christians to actively respond to evil without hatred in our hearts. This is not an easy task but Dr. Ray reminded us that we must always strive to reach our higher calling; to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

In what ways have you assisted in either the planning or taking part in the chapel services?
I have preached at a number of services and I have ministered through singing in chapel. Every experience is unique and informative, particularly in the traditional formats that are outside of my own worship style. I have learned to appreciate the variety of expressions and even incorporate some of those elements into my own worship practices. I am comfortable in a variety of settings and it brings me joy to know that I have an extended family in the body of Christ.

Do you have any advice for students who are currently applying to seminaries and going through the discernment process to find out which seminary is right for them?
I advise prospective seminarians to pay close attention to their passionate responses in life. Pay attention to the things that make you excited. Even your negative emotions provide clues in terms of your calling. Don’t underestimate your abilities or God’s ability to work through you. If you are an older established professional seeking a change in your career, recognize that God can and will use everything that you have experienced for God’s glory. Be patient with yourself and remember that God is never in a hurry. Remember that God is always present but quite often we are the ones who are absent from God.

Student Stories: A Cross-Cultural Field Education Experience

Kyle ReynoldsField education is a key component of the Master of Divinity curriculum at Garrett-Evangelical. It gives students the opportunity to discern, test, and refine their call as they apply their seminary education in real life ministry settings. While many of our students serve in traditional parish settings throughout the Chicagoland area, third year M.Div. student, Kyle Reynolds of Olathe, Kansas, decided to venture a little farther away from Chicago for his field education placement. This past summer, Kyle served at Wesley Methodist Church in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He also participated in classes at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where students from all over South Africa attend to become full-time ministers in the Methodist Church of South Africa. We recently sat down with Kyle to talk to him about his field education experience.

How did you decide to go to South Africa for your field education?

I was looking for something non-traditional to do as a field placement, and I knew I needed to do something over the summer. Garrett-Evangelical already had connections there, and I knew it was an opportunity like no other. The people at Seth Mokitimi were extremely welcoming and very eager to have me.

What was your involvement with Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary?

I spent two weeks with the students in what is called “vocational intensive.” Students basically learn all the things you need to learn for ministry that you don’t learn in a normal classroom setting. The entire student body learns together, and the focus of this specific session was missions. We learned what the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) was doing on the larger structural level, what missions look like for the local congregation, and what missions look like for the seminary. I spent a few weeks attending classes like a normal student, which gave me a feel for what seminary students in South Africa were learning and a glimpse of what theological education looks like through a South African perspective.

Where did you do your practical ministry experience, and what were your roles?

I spent two weeks working in Wesley Methodist Church, which is a middle-class white congregation there in Pietermaritzburg. I preached, I attended and lead Bible studies, and I was a liturgist on Sunday mornings. In one week we were in five different schools, leading devotionals for staff, praying for students and leading devotionals for them too. The congregation was very proactive about being involved in the community, and that is something that really stuck with me.

If pastors in the U.S. would commit to taking on one public role (visiting prisoners, visiting firefighters, visiting teachers before classes start, going into a business area and leading a devotional over lunch), we would see a lot of change in our communities and in our churches. Pastors in South Africa were ministering wherever they could, wherever doors were open. Every time they walked through one of those doors, it seemed like two more opened.

What is something from your experience that you have found has really affected your classes here at Garrett-Evangelical?

My cultural awareness has grown significantly since I’ve been at Garrett-Evangelical. Becoming immersed in another culture and hearing critical opinions about the United States, even if most of them were true, were challenging and powerful experiences.  They gave me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the world through someone else’s lens, which has made me much more sensitive to culture and context in any conversation we have in seminary. It has also shown me the importance of being careful about making absolute statements about one’s understanding of God. I have learned to take a step back and reflect and realize the smallness of my context.

Has this affected your calling in ministry or your goals in ministry?

It allowed me to broaden my understanding of what the title of pastor entails. I don’t know that the people I met were doing anything totally different from what some are doing in the U.S., but I had never seen it before. All of the practical ministry experiences I had there broadened my scope of what ministry can include. It also built connections that I believe will last a really long time.

What is the best advice you can give to people who are currently looking at potential seminaries?

Learn everything you can about a school’s field education program. How flexible are they? What does a normal field placement look like? What are the requirements? What structure is in place? Are there churches and agencies they have long-standing relationships with? Are there new sites being added regularly? Can you go to a context that is not your own? That’s why I wanted to go to South Africa. I wanted to experience something completely different than what I have grown up in or what I may or may not be doing for the rest of my life. That’s also why I chose Garrett-Evangelical for my theological education. None of this would have been possible without the Seminary’s remarkable field education department and resources and for that I remain grateful.

Aware Magazine | 2013-2014 Annual Report

The 2013-2014 Annual Report chronicles our progress and new initiatives during the past year, and gives you an opportunity to hear directly from each member of the Leadership Team. We pray that you will enjoy reading about the ministry of our seminary and we encourage you to get involved, pray for our students and faculty, and support our mission to prepare bold, articulate spiritual leaders for the world.

To view Aware Magazine as an online publication with the best reading experience, including fullscreen and zoom capabilities, click on cover below. If you would prefer to view Aware as a PDF click here.


Distinguished Alums 2014

RitaLester2 copy copyRita Lester

Rita Lester pursued the study of religion and religions as exemplary of the liberal arts, including methods and data from humanities and social sciences.  She holds two degrees from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a master of theological studies conferred in 1991 and a doctor of philosophy conferred (jointly with Northwestern University) in 1997. 

Lester has taught at Nebraska Wesleyan University (NWU) in Lincoln, Nebraska since 1998.  She currently serves as professor of religion and is also the faculty president, a member of the board of governors, and was chair of the philosophy and religion department (2006-2012). In addition to undergraduate courses, Lester has taught religious diversity in NWU’s master of arts in historical studies program.  Lester is a strong advocate for a comparative approach to religious study.  Lester teaches courses such as World Religions, Understanding Religion: Christians and Muslims, Women and Religion, and Contemporary Religious Studies.

Students and colleagues of Lester say she is known for her rigorous courses. In the same breath, they are quick to point out that her courses are so intriguing and engaging that students want to come back for more. “It is one thing to teach information, but it is really something else to inspire,” wrote one of Lester’s NWU students.  She is celebrated by her colleagues for her ability to stretch students’ minds, stay current on best teaching methods, her countless hours spent helping students with their prestigious scholarship applications, and work with students outside of the classroom.

It is because this continued dedication that Lester has earned recognition and unique career opportunities.  She spent 2007 on sabbatical in Toronto where she studied and conducted research at the Encounter World Religions Centre. She served as a Fulbright Program adviser during the 2009-2010 academic year and continues to contribute to prestigious scholarship programs such as Fulbright, Boren and Critical Languages.   In 2010, she was one of 12 professors in the nation selected to attend the “Teaching About Islam and Middle Eastern Culture” seminar in Jordan.  That same year she won NWU’s 2010-2011 Margaret J. Prouty Faculty Teaching Award.  In 2012, Lester was named the Nebraska Professor of the Year and was honored on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. She was selected from nearly 300 top professors in the country.

Lester was one of the 150 authors who contributed to the Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America (Indiana University Press, 2006), which was edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Reuther, both former faculty of Garrett-Evangelical. Lester's most recent publication is a chapter on tradition in Voices of Feminist Liberation (Equinox Press), which was published in the fall of 2012.

While her academic department is small, many agree that her reach is wide. “I went to school back when one could get a degree in religion, but really only study one religion, or even just a part of one religion,” said Lester. “The study of religion is more like the study of languages these days; people should know more than one. And knowing other ones may even help you to better know your own and yourself.”


 

M. Franklin DotsM. Franklin Dotts

After teaching high school English in Pittsburgh for six years, M. Franklin Dotts received a call from God to move from public education to Christian education. He pursued this call by attending Garrett Biblical Institute and received a master of divinity (M.Div.) degree with a specialty in Christian education in 1961. In this same year, he was certified in Christian education and ordained an elder in the Nebraska Annual Conference of The Methodist Church. In 1969, he received a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree in religious education with a specialty in curriculum planning from Teachers College, Columbia University, through its joint program with Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

While pursuing his doctoral degree, Dotts began his long tenure at the United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) and the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) of The United Methodist Church.  He started there as an editor of church school curriculum resources for young children and early elementary children in the Department of Children’s Publications. After six years, he became the Director of Curriculum Planning, which meant working with the entire editorial staff in long-range planning of curriculum resources for all ages.  From 1986 until his retirement in 1990, Dotts served as Executive Editor of Children’s Publications, with responsibility for all church school resources for children from birth through Grade 6.  Throughout his time as editor on the national staff, Dotts was widely known for his encouragement and leadership. He served as a professional and personal mentor, setting an example for countless colleagues through whom his work continues today.

Dotts retired as an elder in the Nebraska Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1991 but continued to share his editing gifts in free-lance work with both The United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. He also served the church through consulting and leadership training in local church, district, and annual conference Christian education.

For the past 28 years, Dotts has also served as a children’s consultant in the Committee on the Uniform Series of the National Council of Churches, which produces the International Lesson Series curriculum outlines for numerous denominations and publishers.  His work there exhibits Dott’s deep commitment to ecumenical Christianity as he has brought his wisdom and wealth of theological and biblical expertise to such a diverse ecumenical setting.

Dotts currently serves on the Board of Directors of Sacred Traditions and Rituals (STAR.), an inclusive worshipping community at Central United Methodist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In recalling Dotts’ impact on STAR, The Rev. Susan E. Perrin writes, “In ordinary things done, one can experience extraordinariness. That is what Franklin has done, does, and will continue to offer his family, friends, community, church, STAR, and his alma mater… That is why the Rev. Dr. M. Franklin Dotts is worthy of this recognition from his beloved institution.”

Meet Michael Weaver

michael weaverHometown:
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio; Currently living and working in Middlebury, Indiana

Home church:
I was born and raised in The United Methodist Church and am currently serving as director of youth ministries and worship leader at the United Methodist Church in MIddlebury.

Degree program: 
Master of Divinity

Other degrees:
Bachelor of arts in church music and minor in theatre/drama, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Mount Vernon, Ohio

Formative experiences:
Being raised in the church was an important formative experience in my life. I also was blessed with two different summer church internships while I was an undergraduate. They allowed me to see what really goes on "behind-the-scenes" of experiences at Garrett-Evangelical. Since I am still working, the distance was important, and it was also important that the seminary was sensitive to the challenges of commuting students with respect to scheduling and programs. I was very impressed when I visited and with the contact I had with the school after my visit. They really listened to what I had to say and were able to help me stay connected with the seminary and to people I met there.

Plans for the future:
I am still in the process of discernment, but right now I feel that I am being called into youth/young adult and creative arts ministries. I want to continue to help youth and young adults come to know Jesus, but I also want to continue to use my musical and theatrical abilities.

Meet Cora Glass

Cora GlassHometown: Pontiac, MI

Home church: First United Methodist Church, Birmingham, Michigan

Degree program: Master of Divinity

Other degrees: Bachelor of arts in nonprofit leadership and management

Formative experiences:
In seventh grade, my church held a contest to see which youth could raise the most money for the CROP walk, a charity walk for hunger and poverty relief. The prize for the contest was a chance to see The Sound of Music on stage at the FOX Theater in Detroit. I loved The Sound of Music, so I decided to send letters to all my friends and family asking for donations. Along the way, I learned more about the impact I was making for hungry and impoverished people around the world. This became the catalyst for my involvement in missions. This love for the church's work in our world is my motivation toward pursuing ordained ministry.

Experiences at Garrett-Evangelical: Over the years, I have been mentored by many Garrett-Evangelical graduates. Many of these pastors have a passion for missions and community. When I began looking for a seminary to attend, I knew Garrett-Evangelical would be a place that would nurture my call. The seminary's location also provides great opportunities to work in the city and suburbs of Chicago.

Plans for the future:
I feel called to become an ordained elder. This will allow me to help inspire congregations towards deeper relationships with God and community. I desire to help churches reach out and provide for the spiritual, emotional, and material needs of their community.

Aware Magazine | July 2014

Congratulations to the class of 2014! This year 85 students received degrees from Garrett-Evangelical, and we commend them on their fine work and their future ministries. In this issue of Aware Magazine you'll meet eight of our graduates who are going forth to live out God’s call to serve the church, academy, and world. 

Aware is published quarterly by the Development Office for alums and friends of Garrett-Evangelical, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church with an ecumenical outreach. To view Aware as an online publication with the best reading experience, including fullscreen and zoom capabilities, click on cover below.

If you would prefer to view Aware as a PDF click here.


 

Meet Octavius Wilson

 MG 0032 copy copyHometown: Chicago, Illinois

Home church: Carter Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Chicago

Degree program: Master of divinity

Other degrees: Bachelor of arts in business administration

Formative experiences: Truthfully, I have had many experiences that can be attributed to accepting Christ in my life and my call to service. The one that really stands out to me was an experience in 2007 when I lost one of my closest friends to gun violence. Growing up on the south side of Chicago was filled with challenges. Young people are faced with the temptations of drugs, gangs, and dropping out of school. Even my friends and I made some bad decisions and ended up affiliated with the gangs in the neighborhood. Because of this decision from our childhood, one of my friends ended up losing his life. Unfortunately, I was there to watch him breathe his last breath.

This incident changed my life. It made me appreciate life more than I ever had in the past. The experience also gave me a passion for people who are influenced and affected by gangs. This tragedy eventually led me to God, and now I am serving at a church in the inner city as the youth pastor. The challenges I have had in my life make me want to help those faced with the similar challenges make the right decisions in their lives. It is my goal to see our youth survive, and ministry is the avenue in which this will happen. It is my hope that the seminary will refine my gifts so that I can be even more effective in saving lives.

Experiences at Garrett-Evangelical: What attracted me to Garrett-Evangelical was my first cousin, Rev. Dr. George Wilson. He is an alumnus of this school and spoke with such high regard of the faculty and the program at this seminary. Since I have been here, everything he said has been true. I am extremely glad to be matriculating at Garrett-Evangelical.

Plans for the future: It is my dream to one day be the CEO of a community center that provides a space for spiritual, mental, and physical health development for children, youth, and adults. It is my hope that there will be more than one facility and that each will be placed in a community that is in need of change, socially and economically. It is my vision that these facilities will be a form of the church that is less traditional, but just as effective in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ by being the light in the midst of darkness.

Aware Magazine | May 2014

From Chicago to Seoul and across the world, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is committed to a cross-cultural education for our students. You can read all about it in our latest magazine issue. Aware is published quarterly by the Development Office for alums and friends of Garrett-Evangelical, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church with an ecumenical outreach.

To view Aware as an online publication with the best reading experience, including fullscreen and zoom capabilities, click on cover below. If you would prefer to view Aware as a PDF click here.


 

Meet Paul Ortiz

Ortiz PaulHome state: California

Home church: Urban Village Church, Chicago, Illinois

Degree program: Master of Divinity

Formative experiences: My earliest memories of church life are in little storefront buildings located in the California barrios where I grew up. Growing up in the Hispanic/Latino(a) Pentecostal tradition, the songs we sang and the sermons I heard were mostly in Spanish, and as a result the theology was often in Spanish, too. By this I mean that I was presented with a God that was involved with the struggles of the poor Hispanic families of my childhood congregations. My journey since has taken me to non-denominationalchurches and recently to The United Methodist Church.
 
Experiences at Garrett-Evangelical: I have found Garrett-Evangelical to be theologically progressive and evangelical at the same time. This combination is important to me. I believe that the future of the church is a blend of the passionate spirit of the Evangelical Church along with the bigger theological outlook that often categorizes mainline Protestantism.

Plans for the future: I have been part of Urban Village Church since 2010 and was a church planting intern for over a year. I have recently transitioned to student pastor at a bilingual United Methodist Church, El Redentor Del Calvario/Redeemer of Calvary. I dream about church planting in Hispanic/Latino(a) neighborhoods and experimenting with new ways of doing church. Many Hispanic/Latino(a) people from my generation identify as religious “nones.” I desire to minister to those whom have been disillusioned or even hurt by the church.

 

A Letter from Jeremy Westrick

Jeremy Westrick    

May 21, 2014

Greetings:

I am honored to be a scholarship recipient at Garrett-Evangelical. Because of the generous support I receive, I have been able to answer God’s call to prepare for a life of ministry. I would not be able to pursue the wonderful opportunity of theological education at Garrett-Evangelical without it.

I am completing my second year of seminary, seeking to graduate with a master of divinity degree in May of 2015. Throughout my time here at Garrett-Evangelical, I have been challenged and stretched far more than I anticipated when I started. The faculty is both positive and affirming, yet they also seek to challenge and encourage students to think critically about their beliefs and practices. Truly they are deeply invested in helping to shape faithful and well-prepared stewards for ministry. The academic rigor and high expectations they set for our work are only tempered by their grace and fervent desire for each student’s success in ministry. The learning environment at Garrett-Evangelical is unlike any I have experienced before.

Further, the master of divinity program at Garrett-Evangelical has provided me the opportunity to actually serve and practice ministry in the real world. I am currently serving 15 hours per week, as part of my required field education, at Grace United Methodist Church of Logan Square here in Chicago. This experience has been fantastic as it allows me to take what I am learning in the classroom and apply it in a real life ministry situation. I have been able to preach, provide pastoral care, teach Sunday School, and partner with community action organizations in the neighborhood. Through this placement, I have a much better idea what my first appointment will involve, and I am far more prepared than I would be had my education been confined to just the classroom.

And finally, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Palestine as part of my cross-cultural education through Garrett-Evangelical. I spent 12 days in Israel and Palestine on a trip led by Dr. Barry Bryant, one of my favorite professors here. The name of the trip is Outrageous Hope: A Peace and Justice Immersion in Israel/Palestine. I not only visited all of the holy sites in Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, but also met with many Israeli and Palestinian families and peace groups during our time there. All of this, combined with sharing the experience with the close friends that I have made in my time here, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I cannot thank you enough for your generous and faithful support. To freely give of your resources in support of someone else’s call is truly selfless and open-hearted, and you have both my gratitude and greatest respect for your gift. Please continue supporting Garrett-Evangelical.

With greatest thanks,

Westrick Signature

Jeremy Westrick 

Meet Whanhee Oh

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.13.50 PMHometown: Incheon, South Korea

Home church: Dongsoo Methodist Church, South Korea

Program: Master of Theological Studies

Other degrees: Bachelor’s degree in theology from Methodist Theological University, Seoul, South Korea

Formative experiences
Just before completing my undergraduate studies, I took time off because I was desperate to find my dream. During the break, I tried everything that I had always dreamt of, including working at a clothing store, learning how to dance and swim, and getting different certification licenses. Then, I packed my bag and went backpacking for the first time by myself to Europe. It was the most terrific experience and helped me find my interests and passion. After traveling, I became more independent. I realized that I need to study more. I was determined to study abroad and followed what my mind said. I am thankful to be part of the Garrett-Evangelical family.

Experiences at Garrett-Evangelical
Every week, I have experienced surprising grace and comfort from worship services at the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful. Especially when I attend the Holy Communion, I feel true communal relationships with Christ and with the community. Not only at the chapel, but also in the classroom, I am learning how to make worship a lifestyle with great friends at the seminary. I was surprised at the strong sense of community and fellowship at Garrett-Evangelical. Many people are dedicated to building a good community for the world.

Plans for the future
I think God calls me to bring my friends to church and to worship God together. One day, I hope all my friends, their family members and children, and I will gather as a worshiping community and share our faith journeys in Christ. In order to make it possible, art is a very important means and resource in my liturgical studies and calling.

Meet Katye Dunn


Dunn websiteHometown: Little Rock, Arkansas

Home church: Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, Little Rock

Degree program
: Master of divinity

Other degrees:
Bachelor of fine arts in dance performance and bachelor of arts in religious studies from Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas

Formative experiences: I am a born and bred Southern girl who loves dance, sports, and a good cup of coffee. My family and my friends are the most important things in the world to me, and it has been a good day if I have laughed out loud and given at least one person a hug. During my college years, focused on a career in concert dance and musical theatre, I started volunteering with the youth ministry at my home church during holiday and summer breaks. I found so much peace and joy and discovered that God could use me (little old ME) as I went on mission trips with youth in parts of rural Arkansas, led bible study at Starbucks with a group of middle school girls, and built one-on-one relationships with the students, getting to know their hearts and stories – walking with them on the journey of faith. By the time I graduated from SMU, I had gone from not seeing myself doing anything other than performing on stage to not seeing myself doing anything other than youth ministry.

Experiences at Garrett-Evangelical: All of the puzzle pieces came together here at Garrett-Evangelical. Living in the South my whole life, I wanted to experience a different part of the country, and I wanted to be close to Chicago’s vibrant music, dance, and theater scene. Pursuing ordination as a deacon in the The United Methodist Church, it was important to me that Garrett-Evangelical is a place that is open and welcoming to students discerning that call. If all of that wasn’t enough, doing my campus visit and meeting the amazing students and administration was all the confirmation I needed that I would fit right in here.

Plans for the future: As long as God will let me, I plan to serve as an ordained youth minister in the local church.

Aware Magazine: February 2014

Aware is published quarterly by the Development Office for alums and friends of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church. To view Aware as an online publication with the best reading experience, including fullscreen and zoom capabilities, click on cover below. If you would prefer to view Aware as a PDF click here.