Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meet Brian E. Smith Sr.

Chicago, Illinois (Englewood Community)
Grinnell College; Grinnell, Iowa 1994
Master of Divinity Student

Why did you choose Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary?

I chose Garrett-Evangelical because my congregation has a longstanding history with the institution and I was familiar with its practices and culture. I have a pastor’s heart and I appreciated Garrett-Evangelical’s emphasis upon practical ministry. Garrett-Evangelical trains students to become preachers, teachers and leaders in the church.

What are you planning on doing after you graduate from Garrett-Evangelical? Is this what you have always planned on doing? If not, how has your call developed while you have been in seminary?

I am planning to serve as a pastor or assistant pastoral leader in the Baptist Church. I intend to pursue post-graduate education opportunities and I would like to serve with organizations that focus upon international ecumenical relations or economic development.

I have always had a keen interest in building cross-cultural and religious partnerships on an international level. I also come from an entrepreneurial family, which has sparked my interest in assisting with the development of both labor and business, especially in underserved communities. Garrett-Evangelical confirmed my passion and calling to tend to the full flourishing of communities both in terms of their spiritual well being and their socio-economic advancement.


Which of the three chapel services is your favorite and why?

I am perhaps biased towards the Wednesday evening Gospel service in terms of my favorite worship experience simply because it is one I am most familiar with. I love soulful music and worship. However, I also enjoy the Tuesday Word and Table service because Holy Communion is offered at every gathering. In my own Baptist tradition, communion is served only once on the first Sunday of each month.

What has been the most influential worship service you have attended Garrett-Evangelical and why?

I have attended numerous worship services but the most impactful service that I can recall is the Word and Table service in which Dr. Stephen Ray preached from the Exodus passage describing the moment when Pharaoh’s army was drowned in the Red Sea. This service was held in the context of the killing of Mike Brown. Dr. Ray’s message was profound and clear: Don’t take on the ways of your oppressor. Given the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the killers of unarmed black men, it is imperative for Christians to actively respond to evil without hatred in our hearts. This is not an easy task but Dr. Ray reminded us that we must always strive to reach our higher calling; to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.


In what ways have you assisted in either the planning or taking part in the chapel services? 

I have preached at a number of services and I have ministered through singing in chapel. Every experience is unique and informative, particularly in the traditional formats that are outside of my own worship style. I have learned to appreciate the variety of expressions and even incorporate some of those elements into my own worship practices. I am comfortable in a variety of settings and it brings me joy to know that I have an extended family in the body of Christ.


Do you have any advice for students who are currently applying to seminaries and going through the discernment process to find out which seminary is right for them?

I advise prospective seminarians to pay close attention to their passionate responses in life. Pay attention to the things that make you excited. Even your negative emotions provide clues in terms of your calling. Don’t underestimate your abilities or God’s ability to work through you. If you are an older established professional seeking a change in your career, recognize that God can and will use everything that you have experienced for God’s glory. Be patient with yourself and remember that God is never in a hurry. Remember that God is always present but quite often we are the ones who are absent from God.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Confessions of a First Year MDiv Student

With the holiday season upon us, the Fall semester will be coming to an end in mere weeks. It seems like orientation was just yesterday. However, our newest students have survived their first Old Testament exam; can now define words like pneumatology; and fully understand how to switch from the Purple to the Red line at Howard. The first semester of seminary comes with a lot of transition so we caught up with Jenn Meadows, first-year M.Div. student, and asked her to share some reflections . . . or in Jenn's case, confessions.

I started my theological studies at Garrett-Evangelical this fall. I’m from the great state of Indiana (GO HOOSIERS!) and I’ve started the candidacy process to become an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church. Before coming to seminary, I spent my undergrad years at the University of Indianapolis studying public relations and communication. I had never studied theology before so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But after two Old Testament Exams, a paper about the Trinity, and a few mishaps on the ‘EL’, I’m still enjoying my time at Garrett-Evangelical.

Growing up in rural Indiana, there was a little bit of adjustment to Evanston and Chicago. I’m in love with cities, but my city of Indy doesn’t have a rail system like Chicago. When I first got to Evanston, people kept telling me about the Purple Line and the Red Line. I knew they were part of the rail system, but I did not have the slightest clue about how to use it. After a few mishaps of getting off at the wrong stop, I also learned you don’t make eye contact with strangers on the ‘EL’. That was difficult for this girl that was taught that Hoosier Hospitality. 

After a few weeks of Googling what ecclesiology, pneumatology, and Christology were, I started to get a grasp on the seminary lingo. Coming from my background in public relations, a lot of my work was less than 140 characters. I fell into a whole new world at seminary, but the professors were understanding and helped me figure out the waters of seminary. I’m also incredibly blessed to live among a community that is supportive and helps lift one another up during these difficult times. I’ll admit there were those moments where I found myself questioning why I though seminary was a good idea in the first place, but the transition flowed smoothly and I couldn’t be happier at Garrett-Evangelical!


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Class of 2014: Uziel Hernandez Martinez and Heather Dorr

As we prepare to welcome our incoming class in a few weeks, we wanted to spend some time with our newest alums - the Class of 2014 - and their reflections on their time at Garrett-Evangelical.

Uziel Hernandez Martinez
Master of Divinity

My time at Garrett-Evangelical has shaped my ministry and calling in many different ways. First, Garrett-Evangelical gave me tools to think, analyze, and do critical theological reflection in ministry and academic settings. Second, Garrett-Evangelical placed me in ministry situations which helped me see, understand, and better use strengths and weaknesses in my ministerial and academic abilities. Third, Garrett-Evangelical helped me grow into a better person socially, academically, and spiritually by participating in the student life of the seminary.

Finally, Garrett-Evangelical helped me creatively discern my calling to ministry. As part of this discernment, I am especially thankful for the experience at Garrett-Evangelical of preaching at a student-led chapel service during Hispanic/Latino(a) Latin American Week in the fall of 2013. My hopes for the future are to work in full-time ministry, gain experience as a minister in the church, and pursue ordination as an elder in The United Methodist Church within the Northern Illinois Conference.

Heather Dorr
Master of Divinity

My experiences at Garrett-Evangelical have made me into a theologian. Before coming here, I would not have given myself such a title, but I now understand that everyone thinks theologically and is a theologian. Through all of my classes, I learned vocabulary that helped me to speak about when and how I see God at work in the world, and I have learned the importance of being able to express my theological views.

My own theological viewpoint is quite relational. Our relationship to God, God’s relationship to us, and our relationships to one another are all connected. This has clarified my calling on how to be in healthy, loving relationship with God and with others. My time at Garrett-Evangelical has given me tools for how to cultivate this work within a ministry context with both practical and liturgical leadership.

I was just commissioned by the Iowa Annual Conference and have been appointed to serve as pastor at Eagle Grove United Methodist Church. I hope to bring creative ways to express faith and new ways to see God, and I am looking forward to all that I have to learn in this new context.