Meet Marshaé A. Sylvester
Marshaé A. Sylvester
Master of Theological Studies
What is your hometown and educational background?
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in psychology and Spanish from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
How has your time at Garrett-Evangelical shaped your ministry and calling?
I came to Garrett-Evangelical after spending 10 years on a college campus, working for an evangelical para-church organization. I arrived disillusioned and exhausted by its failure to meet the needs of me and my peers amid the Black Lives Matter movement. While at Garrett- Evangelical, I was introduced to womanist theology. This theology was the healing balm I needed, one that spoke to my experiences as a Black woman and framed God in familiar yet revolutionary ways. I found myself pouring over books, making recommendations to friends and family, and steeping in the healing work of these womanist theologians. I also gained the necessary tools to center my story in my academic work. This experience has shaped my calling in the academy. I am challenged to write and push boundaries for those whose stories are similar to my own. To be black, female, and queer and called to ministry is to be perpetually displaced in society and the church. It was through the works of womanist theologians that I found belonging and a sense of home.
What is your most transformative experience at Garrett-Evangelical?
It is genuinely hard to pick just one moment of transformation. My two years at Garrett-Evangelical has been marked by a steady movement toward transformation, freedom, and joy. I came to the seminary purposefully, seeking change and approaching the seminary experience holistically. I wanted freedom and healing for my soul and to be challenged theologically and academically. I, therefore, tried to use every opportunity in class to push my theology further and question places of resistance.
This posture necessarily required adjustment at every juncture. At times, I made significant shifts in my theological understanding and the way I saw the world. Some moments taught me to be present and to turn my attention to my peers and classmates, and other moments, I was challenged to be a better student. However large or small the transformation, at any given point, the result is a tremendous personal and theological growth.
What are your plans or your hopes for your future?
In the immediate future, I will begin work on my Doctor of Philosophy degree in pastoral theology, personality, and culture at Garrett-Evangelical. In the distant future, I plan to write and teach in the academy as well as work with local organizations and non-profits to host retreats for queer-identifying women and women of color who seek to provide spaces of healing and care amid the struggle of everyday existence on the margins.