Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meet Ashish Singh

Tell us about yourself.

I currently live in Arlington Heights, IL, and I am a first year Master of Divinity student. I was born in St. Louis but moved to Chicago at the age of 5. I graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2000 and a Master of Information Systems Management in 2002. Before becoming a student at Garrett-Evangelical, I worked for ten years at the Walgreen’s corporate office in a variety of positions focused on marketing and merchandising analytics.

What caused you to become a seminary student and change your career path? 

I grew up hearing stories about my grandparents who had converted to Christianity in India, even though they knew it would lead to persecution. My father also told me about his journey to become a pastor. Through these stories, as well as my own experiences, I realized the transformative power of the Gospel, and I was baffled by the idea that this life-changing message could mean nothing to so many in our society today. I felt God calling me to spend my life sharing the message of transformation and liberation that is made known in and through Christ.

What has been the most challenging transition from your career to being a student, and how have you dealt with that?

I can safely say that I didn’t read this much before coming to seminary!  In my career, many days I would be able to come home and turn my brain off from whatever projects I had going on in order to focus on things at home. Now I am being challenged at school with so many new ideas that I have not encountered before, so it is hard to stop thinking about school. I’ve learned that at some point you just have to force yourself to take a break from schoolwork and tend to the other needs around you and within you.

What do you plan to do after seminary and has it changed since you began seminary? If so, why?

I am currently in the candidacy process working towards ordination as an elder in The United Methodist Church and feel that I am being called to pastoral ministry. Although as I talk to other students and see how many different and unique ways there are to serve, I can’t help but keep an open mind. Over a year ago I would have laughed at the idea of being in seminary, so anything is possible!

Why did you choose Garrett-Evangelical as your seminary?

Being a United Methodist who lives in the area, I knew that I had to at least check out Garrett-Evangelical when looking at seminary options. I came here for an open house with my wife, and as we walked around campus and met other faculty and students we both felt that it was the right choice.

How has Garrett-Evangelical fulfilled or surpassed your expectations as your seminary?

The level of academic quality and personal care shown by the faculty has really surpassed my expectations. Faculty members want to make sure students finish the required coursework, and that what we learn helps to shape our future ministry in a significant way. The passion they have for training future leaders is very evident because that is what they are called to do and not just what they are paid to do.   

What has been your favorite class/biggest revelation during class and why?

Honestly I am not sure if I can narrow it down to just one class. After finishing my first semester, I am realizing that Christ is so many things to so many people. Reading a variety of authors and listening to lectures from different professors, it is amazing to see how different people from different walks of life have interpreted Scripture and tradition by viewing it from the lens of their own unique experience. Every time I think I completely understand something, someone introduces a new interpretation that challenges me. 

What do you do to find Sabbath during the hectic school year and managing family life?

Our VFCL class challenged us to create a Rule of Life to help us try to structure our lives so that we remember to take time for ourselves and with God. Adhering to some of the rules I created is helping me to keep from losing myself in the hustle of everyday life. When life gets really busy, I have learned how to find Sabbath within the activities I am already doing. That way, time I spend with my family also becomes a time of rejuvenation and a communal time with God. 

Do you have any advice for potential students who are considering Garrett-Evangelical for their theological education?

There are a lot of great options out there, but I can say that my experience here at Garrett-Evangelical has truly been an incredibly fruitful one. I would definitely advise visiting Garrett-Evangelical’s campus and speaking with some students and faculty. I have found the mission statement on the Seminary’s website to be very accurate in portraying the character of the school. I feel that when my time here is done, and by the grace of God, I will be a more effective witness wherever I end up. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Faculty Books Released in the Summer of 2014

We, here at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, have an incredible faculty of devoted scholars whose research and writing shape theological conversation. We are proud to announce the publication of the following faculty work: 

Mark Teasdale, E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor of Evangelism and director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, published Methodist Evangelism, American Salvation: The Home Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1860-1920 (Pickwick Publications, 2014). Teasdale explores how the Methodist Episcopal Church combined evangelism with the “American gospel,” which he defines as “the good news of how others could experience the best quality of life possible, premised on the values and patterns of life held by white, middle class, native born Americans.” The book traces the movement through the American South, West, the cities, and through the First World War. Teasdale hopes the study will help The United Methodist Church to understand its present identity in light of its history. He writes, “The historical account in this offers students the best and worst of how a denomination defines itself and engages in mission.” 

Osvaldo Vena, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, published Jesus, Disciple of the Kingdom: Mark’s Christology for a Community in Crisis (Pickwick Publications, 2014). Vena studies the Gospel of Mark in an attempt to recover the pre-Christian and pre-canonical concept of Jesus’ identity and mission, which he posits is that of disciple of the kingdom of God more so than teacher or Messiah. The study was prompted by Vena’s own struggle to answer Jesus’ question in Mark, “Who do you say that I am?” Through careful study of the Gospel of Mark’s Christology, Vena intends to demonstrate that all Christologies “are born not in busy minds detached from the real problems of the world, but in busy hands engaged in a praxis that tries to change the world.” 

Jack L. Seymour, Professor of Religious Education, recently published Teaching the Way of Jesus: Educating Christians for Faithful Living (Abingdon Press, 2014). Seymour looks at the state of Christian religious education in light of historical scholarship and theological reflection on what it means to follow Jesus. Divided into three major sections, Seymour grounds the book in practical theology. Section one, “Christian Faith in Public,” explores the purpose and practice of Christian education in community. Section two, “Christian Learning Approaches,” explores the strengths and weaknesses of three different types of scholarship: community of faith, instruction, and mission. The third and final section, “Into the Future: Teaching the Way of Jesus,” engages the missional and formative aspects of pedagogical approaches in community.

Diane Capitani, Affiliate Professor and Director of the Writing Center, co-authored and published Research and Writing in the Seminary: Practical Strategies and Tools with Garrett-Evangelical alum and current doctoral student, Melanie Baffes (2007 and 2010) (McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014). Intended as a practical handbook, Capitani and Baffes draw on their own experience as students and as editors to explain the basic types of assignments in seminary (one per chapter including: book reviews, exegetical papers, essays, reflections, research papers, sermons, and journal articles). Each chapter contains examples from Garrett-Evangelical students and alumni.

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.