Meet Jill Colleen Nowlen
Jill Colleen Nowlen
Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Direction
What is your hometown and educational background?
I am from Mayville, Wisconsin. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts in social work in 1984 and from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Master of Arts in social work in 1986. I have been working in the field of mental health as a clinical social worker for the past 30 years. In addition, I am a captain in the Wisconsin National Guard and have served in the reserve component of the Army as a behavioral health officer for the past seven years.
My husband and two adult children are a daily blessing to me, along with our golden doodle puppy, Norton! We enjoy traveling, bicycling, cooking, and being outside gardening, hiking, or snowshoeing, as well as kayaking on the vast system of rivers and whitewater in the state of Wisconsin. I also enjoy photography and will someday return to painting and poetry writing. The small, rural town of Mayville offers an amazing mix of opportunities for outreach, social justice, and fellowship through The United Methodist Church, and I am pleased to call it home for the past three years.
Why did you decide to attend seminary and Garrett- Evangelical in particular?
I choose Garrett Evangelical in response to my pastor, Rev. Ahyun Lee (G-ETS 2015), who received her doctorate here in pastoral counseling. She has been a wonderful example of how to combine the gifts of healing, cross-cultural dialogue, and pastoral counseling within the offices of pastor and deacon within the UMC. I will pursue the office of deacon to combine my experience in serving those who are mentally ill, victims of trauma, elderly, and veterans with the need to address the exclusion of the new generation of “nones” in our society (those who identify with no particular religion but consider themselves “spiritual”). I believe that a ministry set out to create the space needed for dialogue among these cultural distinctions is part of my calling. Garrett-Evangelical, in particular, offers a cross-cultural, Christian teaching community as a place to equip me with the tools necessary to be fruitful in ordained ministry as a deacon in these areas.
What are you enjoying most about your seminary experience so far?
I like how Garrett-Evangelical organizes a student-accessible community of worship with a variety of options for prayer, music, communion, and reflection. The table liturgies, as well as the creative applications for expression and participation as a faith community, are refreshing and a much-needed reminder of what we preach! I also like how each of the professors takes on a pastoral component when interacting with the complexities of student backgrounds, circumstances, and developmental stages in the seminary experience. It is not static, and the professors seem to understand, respect, and provide guidance in that process of learning and growing as faithful leaders in the global Christian community.
How has your faith been strengthened since attending Garrett-Evangelical?
In the aftershock of tackling 17 credits of graduate work, thinking that I was only taking 15, I have come to rely on the grace of God as embodied through the Garrett-Evangelical community and, of course, the support of my family, friends, and church. As a commuter student, it is not always easy to feel a part of the seminary community, but I do feel welcomed, seen, and understood for my unique needs, not only as a commuter but also as an older, second- career student. I am learning how to interact with the wonderfully experienced and passionate students who are younger and/or who are from other cultures from around the world. We come together as people of faith, and we share the struggles of continuous and intense coursework among the demands of everyday life as human beings just trying to survive.
Where do you see Christ leading you after seminary?
I am not completely sure, but I envision serving either in a community of outreach to the marginalized within rural society or specific to a healthcare setting with senior citizens, veterans, or hospice. Mental health has always been my passion and coming to Garrett-Evangelical is an answer to prayer in terms of answering that call in ways that invoke healing at the core of one’s being. So many people are broken by mental illness, the impact of trauma (physical, sexual, and emotional) and the loneliness of this society that it breaks my heart. There has got to be a better way to care for one another, and I hope to find some clues along the path while attending Garrett-Evangelical!