Meet Erin Murchison
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Home church: First United Methodist Church of Austin
Degree program: Master of Theological Studies, History of Christianity concentration
Other Degrees: B.A. in Religious Studies from Hendrix College
Tell us a little about yourself and your research interests:
I grew up as an active United Methodist and was always interested in matters of faith, history, and culture. In college I took a course in American religious history and found my real passion. My research interests center around how the events, people, and practices of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries impact our religious and cultural life today. I am particularly drawn to the Christian communities of the 19th and 20th centuries that existed on the fringes and the ways in which they interacted with the larger American culture and Christian Church.
How did you come to choose Garrett-Evangelical?
I visited Garrett-Evangelical at the insistence of a college mentor; I was not looking at graduate schools at the time and went on a tour, just for fun. I ended up loving the community at Garrett-Evangelical and was impressed with all the staff and faculty I met. When I looked deeper into the MTS program, I was drawn to the freedom to really individualize the degree and dive deep into my research area. It also helped that Chicago is a great place to live and study!
What has surprised you about yourself and/or about theological education since you started at Garrett-Evangelical?
I have been surprised by the interdisciplinary nature of theological education, particularly here at Garrett-Evangelical. Each class presents themes and ideas that can be applied to other classes and activities. My courses in biblical studies have informed my work in Christian education, which has informed my study of religious history. It has been a pleasant surprise to see the ways in which each class, even those outside my concentration, has contributed to my theological education.
What class and/or professor has made the biggest impact on you (so far)? Why?
One of my first classes at Garrett-Evangelical was Introduction to Old Testament with Dr. Cheryl Anderson, and it stands out as one of the most important classes I’ve taken at Garrett-Evangelical. I was challenged in both content and expectation, and our study of Scripture always included studying context. It was my experience as a historian in this biblical studies class that has helped me claim and proclaim the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary study in order to engage critically and fully with issues of faith.
How do you hope to use your academic study and research in the future?
I am looking toward continued academic study and I hope to begin work on a PhD in American Religious History in Fall 2017. My time at Garrett-Evangelical has been part of my larger call to teach religious studies in higher education, and I hope to use the work I’ve done here as the foundation for future study, research, and teaching about faith, church, and culture.
What advice would you give someone who is considering pursuing theological education?
Be proactive about talking with faculty, both during the admissions process and once you begin your theological education. There are some fantastic opportunities to learn about and work with professors, but you have to seek them out! Also, find and make time for things that aren’t school-related; you will need a way to de-stress and take a break!