New students, fresh perspectives
Our students are aware of the challenges facing the church, but they’re inspired rather than discouraged by the prospect of taking them on. Here are the stories of six students who began their studies at MTSO in the fall of 2014.
Helping others answer their own questions
Growing up in Evangelical churches, Staten was taught that the Bible “can answer all of your questions. There are no contradictions that can’t be explained.” Then, six years ago, she moved to Columbus and joined the staff of Continuum Church, which “is made up largely of people who are rethinking the teachings from backgrounds similar to mine.”
Now, having earned a Methesco Scholarship, she is taking a new step as an M.Div. student.
“I believe graduate level education is essential for pastors,” she said. “It is essential for me because I want to avoid inflicting the harm that has been done to individuals and societies by bad doctrine. As a pastor, I hope to be able to lead people through a process of answering their own questions, instead of simply giving them answers.”
“My study of religion must be pursued in the real world. It must take into account technological advances and scientific discoveries. It must also acknowledge the potential for global cooperation and communication. I believe that the human capacity for understanding what we mean when we say ‘God’ is changing.”
Pursuing ministry with patience, understanding and java
As a student at Bluffton University, Wildermuth discovered a love of theology. “Thinking and talking about God in ways that deconstructed the image of God I had learned all through childhood was refreshing and intriguing,” he said. “I loved encountering new perspectives of old topics and traditions.”
An M.Div. student with a Harding Scholarship, Wildermuth said his decision to pursue pastoral ministry “is a culmination of a variety of life experiences and many hours of thought, prayer and meditation.”
“My wife, Anna, and I have had discussions about this next step in our lives, and we both agree it will be challenging. But we are also confident in the relationship that we have and in our commitment to one another’s hopes and dreams in life. We view this next step as necessary and right, and will pursue it with patience, understanding, probably many cups of coffee, and, as most things in life, one step at a time.”
Luigi Perez Perez
Narrowing the gap between the secular world and the church
Throughout Perez’s youth in Cuba, his family told him he was destined for ministry – predictions he didn’t take seriously until he was an adult. Having earned a Methesco Scholarship, he now hopes to pursue his M.Div. and ordination as a United Methodist elder at MTSO, to which he was referred by alumnus Jerry Krueger.
“I relate to the Methodist belief system and its teaching that holiness is not reduced to a self-righteous code of morality with only personal implications,” Perez said. “Holiness also has social repercussions. This means that Christians are called to be part of the movement that is eradicating the gap that exists between the secular world and the church.”
“Seminary will provide me with tools to put into practice this concept in relevant ways. It’s one of the essential components for effectiveness in ministry, and it will be key in my formation as a spiritual mentor as well as a community leader.”
Opening doors for the disenfranchised
“In 2010, I was promoted to full professor at Ashland University, so in the view of the academy, I had arrived,” she said.
“Yet I felt as if I was missing something. Friends and family have always acknowledged that there was an obvious call on my life, but I just wasn’t ready to seriously walk in it.”
Alston is seeking a Master of Divinity degree with help from an MTSO Recognition Award. She’s likely to use it in a variety of ministries. She is a worship and praise leader, leads an online Facebook ministry and has taught a weekly Bible study in a retirement community.
“Looking ahead, I would also like to start a non-profit ministry for LGBT youth and seniors,” she said. “As an out black lesbian, I have something unique to offer in the ministry that God is forming in me. The notion of representing and opening the doors for the disenfranchised and misaligned is a priority for me.”
An evolving focus
When he was awarded his Master of Divinity diploma in 2012, Peterson said he had a hunch that “my journey was probably not finished at MTSO.” Now he returns to seek a Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries, aided by an MTSO Scholarship.
“I have been working with youth at a Christian teen center,” he said. “The youth that I work with come from various backgrounds, and many of them are facing difficulties in their lives that I could not even imagine before I started with this ministry.”
“I know that in the capacity that I have worked with youth, it is not my responsibility to address all their issues, but it would be nice to help or at least be able to better understand them. I believe by having the education that I will receive by obtaining a MACM, I will be able to serve others better in my community.”
“When I was younger, I was interested in jobs that I could make good money,” Peterson said. “My focus now is on serving others, and I believe becoming a professional counselor will give me that opportunity.”
A passion for helping young adults serve God
As she pursued her undergraduate degree, though, she felt the tug of ministry: “While I realized I wanted to teach students and be in relationship with them, this calling is much more purposeful to me when paired with leading them toward the source of love, peace and joy: Jesus Christ.”
Alexander has worked extensively with the Mission Intern Program of the Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church, most recently as director.
“The interns provide programming for children and families living in poverty,” she said. “I had the honor of supervising 27 college-aged missionaries. This work has revealed in me a passion for connecting young adults to opportunities to serve God and to use their gifts to share God’s love.”
“A theological foundation will supply me with the tools needed to go wherever God is calling me,” said Alexander, who has been awarded a Zook Scholarship. “After receiving formal education, I plan to continue work in a local church setting with youth programs and young people.”