Vocational discernment doesn’t end when you graduate from seminary. The Office of Vocational Networking is here to support you in your continued discernment and offers programs to help you think creatively and prayerfully about your calling.
Through this program, all incoming Garrett students have the opportunity to be paired with an alum who has shared vocational interests and gifts. You will be the student’s partner in vocational discernment and development throughout their degree program at Garrett-Evangelical, engaging together in personal reflection, vocational planning, and mutual support and encouragement.
Explore the sliders below to read about some of our mentoring pairs!
J.R. Green & Dr. Sunny Lopez
J.R. Green, master of pastoral care and counseling student
Dr. Sunny Lopez, president of Bethany Methodist Communities in Chicago
When J.R. Green saw the email describing Garrett-Evangelical’s new vocational networking program, he knew it was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss. Green, who had gone to Wheaton College for his undergraduate degree and North Park University for a master of divinity, said that he hadn’t been able to talk with people in his field while at college or seminary.
“I realized that this was a way to connect with someone and have a conversation about my career and how things were going, so I applied,” he said. “I knew from my previous experiences that this was a great opportunity.”
Since then, he and his mentor, Dr. Sunny Lopez, (G-ETS 1987) president of Bethany Methodist Communities in Chicago, have met several times for coffee and lunch. Green said he uses these meetings to talk about what is going on in his life and how his seminary program is progressing. “It’s great to talk with someone who listens and who knows what it is like to be in seminary,” said Green, who plans to be a licensed therapist after graduation. Green said he especially appreciates his mentor’s encouragement and perspective. “It’s been good to confirm the direction I’m going,” he said.
Lopez said that what she likes best about the program is being able to hear and affirm her mentee’s story and journey of faith. “At the beginning, I wanted to hear his story – how he got to Garrett-Evangelical and what was his call,” she said. “Then, we started talking about his curriculum and his classes and how that was impacting his thinking and theological views and sense of call.” While at Garrett-Evangelical, Lopez found that her call was to pastor and counsel the elderly, and that is what she has been doing for the last 30 years, first with the United Methodist Homes and Services and then later with the Bethany Methodist Communities.
Before she became a mentor in this program, she was an advisor and adjunct faculty member in GarrettEvangelical’s Vocational Formation and Church Leadership Program. Just as she was ending that affiliation, she received the email from Rev. Katye Chambers, introducing the new mentoring program at Garrett-Evangelical.
“I have always enjoyed working with the students, and I thought this would be a way to continue that work,” she said.
So far, Lopez considers the mentee/mentor relationship a mutually rewarding experience, and she recommends it to other alums. “In addition to helping students with their calling, the alums will continue to learn more about their own call and their own journey,” she said.
Innis Miller & Dr. Andy Brubacher Kaethler
Innis Miller, master of arts in spiritual formation and direction student
Dr. Andy Brubacher Kaethler, associate professor of Christian formation and culture, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Rev. Dr. Andy Brubacher Kaethler (G-ETS 2013) knows from his teaching and from personal experience how important having a mentor can be for young adults.
“My own call to ministry as a young adult and beyond has been significantly shaped by the mentors that I have had in my own life and continue to have,” said Brubacher Kaethler, associate professor of Christian formation and culture at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. “Even though I am 50 now, I still have mentors, and they are really important to me.”
When Brubacher Kaethler heard about the vocational networking program, he thought it would be a good way to return the favor.
He was matched with Innis Miller, an international student from Liberia in the master of arts and spiritual formation and direction program. Brubacher Kaethler said he was thrilled to find out Miller was from Liberia because as a child, he lived overseas for many years with his parents who did missions and development work.
“To be paired with someone from West Africa was a bonus for me because it gives me a chance to reconnect with a part of my past,” said Brubacher Kaethler, who also lived in West Africa.
The two connect every month by telephone, Skype, or Google Meetups. In addition to getting to know each other and talking about family, Miller and Brubacher Kaethler have talked about their different theological perspectives and how the seminary experience in the United States and Liberia differ. Brubacher Kaethler is Mennonite and went to a Mennonite high school and Canadian Mennonite University, where he received a degree in theology. He also has a bachelor of arts in religious studies and peace conflict studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and a master of theology from the Toronto School of Theology, also in Canada. Miller is a United Methodist with a undergraduate degree in theology from Liberia United Methodist University.
Lately, the two have started to talk more about their vocational calling, training, and preparation and theological issues as well.
Miller said what he likes best about the relationship is a chance to hear another person’s perspective. He said he signed up for the program because he was struggling with some cross-cultural issues and thought a mentor would help him better understand how seminary works in the United States.
“The program has given me an additional voice to the voices that I hear through the course of the semester,” Miller said. “It also gives me another audience to share my views.” The relationship between Miller and Brubacher Kaethler has helped him settle in, added Miller, who hopes to work in the United States before he returns to Liberia.
Brubacher Kaethler said that being a part of Garrett-Evangelical’s vocational networking program has helped him personally and professionally. “It’s been rewarding talking to someone from West Africa,” he said. “I’m also a better advisor to my students. This experience has given me a little more permission to be bolder, asking questions about students’ faith and vocational calling.”
Kelsey Burns & Rev. Fernando Siaba
Kelsey Burns, master of divinity student
Rev. Fernando Siaba, retired United Methodist pastor
Rev. Fernando Siaba (G-ETS 1976) knew immediately he wanted to volunteer when he heard about Garrett-Evangelical’s new vocational networking program. After all, he said, a couple of his mentors ended up changing his life significantly.
Drafted into the army in 1970, Siaba was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas. Until that point, Siaba had had no faith or church experience at all. That changed when he offered to sing in the Protestant chapel services. As time went on, he also began listening to the sermons and getting to know other Christians. One of those Christians was a United Methodist army chaplain, who later became a mentor and eventually urged Siaba to consider seminary. After he was released from the Army, he found another mentor in his pastor at a United Methodist church in upstate New York, where he attended services.
“I thought it was an appropriate thing for me to do, helping a seminarian, because of how I was helped early in my Christian life,” said Siaba, who recently retired from The United Methodist Church after pastoring for 41 years in Northern Illinois. “I was greatly influenced by my mentors and wanted to give back.”
Siaba is mentoring Kelsey Burns, a second-year master of divinity student, who grew up in Michigan in The United Methodist Church. She said she heard her call at camp and listened to her call at Albion College in Michigan. Burns said she chose to attend GarrettEvangelical because “Garrett-Evangelical is a place that makes good pastors.” The evidence, she said, are the many pastors she knew who graduated from the seminary.
Burns said she signed up for the mentoring program because she had already benefited from having mentors in high school and college. Although she continued to keep in touch with her past mentors, she wanted someone who lived closer to her now. “It’s good to get another perspective,” she said. “You can’t have too many mentors.”
The pair has met in person about five times so far and have talked about their lives, their calls, what Burns is learning in her seminary classes, and potential career opportunities, among other topics. The best part of the program, according to Burns, is having the support of someone who has gone to seminary and has been a pastor. “It’s great to have an outside observer to bounce things off of,” she said. “Plus,” she said, “the time commitment is perfect for a busy seminarian.”
Siaba said participating in the program made him hopeful for the future. “I find it reassuring to know that God continues to call and lift up persons to continue in ordained ministry in our denomination,” he said.
Denise Ann Belista & Brittany Sky
Denise Ann Belista, master of divinity student
Brittany Sky, senior editor for children’s resources at The United Methodist Publishing House
Denise Ann Belista, a second-year master of divinity student, said the conversations she has had with her mentor, Brittany Sky (G-ETS 2016), have affirmed her call to serve as a hospital chaplain, helping children and their parents.
Belista, who grew up in Seattle, Washington, completed her bachelor’s degree in early childhood and family studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. While in Seattle, she worked as a nursing assistant in pediatrics, where she heard her call to go to seminary and become a chaplain.
She signed up for Garrett-Evangelical’s vocational networking program because she wanted to meet GarrettEvangelical graduates and hear about their stories.
“I was interested in finding out what my mentor did right after graduation, what her call was, and what steps she took to get where she is,” said Belista. “I also wanted to talk to someone who understands where I am in seminary and the challenges I’m facing.”
So far, Belista and Sky have emailed back and forth and video chatted. The conversations about her call, her seminary experience, Sky’s vocational journey, and their shared interest in children and child advocacy have been meaningful. So meaningful, in fact, Belista said she is convinced that she is heading in the right direction career wise.
Sky, senior editor for children’s resources at The United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee, earned her master of arts in Christian education at Garrett-Evangelical. She said she volunteered for the program because she loved her time at the seminary and wanted to give back to the school.
A lifelong United Methodist, Sky grew up in Oklahoma and received her bachelor’s degree in religious education at Oklahoma City University. While in college, she created an internet network of children’s ministers (both paid and volunteer) called “I heart children.” After graduation, she worked as the director of children’s ministry at two congregations in Oklahoma before she became an editor at The United Methodist Publishing House. A year into her work, she realized she needed a master’s degree. Since she needed to continue to work full time, GarrettEvangelical helped her sign up for some online courses and take several intensive courses on campus.
“It was a crazy time, that’s for sure,” Sky said, reflecting on those two years. She was also promoted to senior editor during her second year at seminary.
Sky said yes to the invitation to join the vocational networking program because along the way, people have said yes to helping her. “Having a network of people – or even one person – who will listen to your story, encourage you, and make suggestions and connections is very important,” she said.
Like many of the other mentors, Sky said she feels the program is mutually beneficial. “I offer insight that someone still new in her ministry and calling doesn’t have,” Sky said. “But she has the energy and hope and passion that I could easily forget I also have if I weren’t being inspired by her. It’s a give and take.”
Ordination Support Group
This group is open to alums and students at any point in the ordination process in The United Methodist Church as a way to support, resource, and encourage one another. During the fall semester, the group meets every other week, working through the Doctrinal Examination Questions in the Book of Discipline together. In the spring semester the group meets monthly, engaging in group activities centered on the ordination vows of Word, Service, Sacrament, Order, Compassion, and Justice. We also offer mock interview sessions each spring for those preparing for DCom or BOM interviews.
One-on-one support is also available for individuals in any denomination or tradition, including reading paperwork and helping understand next steps in the ordination process.