You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last,
so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name - John 15: 16
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Last May, the Candidacy Committee approved my entrance to seminary, and from that point my life changed forever. I had been hearing God’s call for a long time, and now this call was actually being affirmed. Much had to be done in order to prepare for seminary. There were applications to fill out, essays to write, not to mention the introductory visit/to the seminary. It was during the seminary visit that I was told that I was accepted as a seminarian at LTSP. I truly felt affirmed that God has chosen me.
Speaking of preparations, I worked hard to pay off bills so that I could enter seminary with no debt. Let’s face it, at 57 years old, it didn’t make sense to go to seminary part-time with online/distance learning. It would just take much too long. So I decided that I would resign my job in Syracuse NY and go to seminary full-time. I thank God for the foresight to pay down debt prior to seminary.
So, as I reflect on this past year, I realize how much God has blessed me. I am receiving an education that is world-class, at a beautiful seminary with professors that are personable and who truly care about each student. The lectures and classes are engaging and relevant to practical ministry. I’ve met colleagues with whom I will continue contact well beyond seminary. I am serving on the Education Committee for the seminary, as well as serving as an auditor for the Student Body books. One of the gifts God has blessed me with is the gift of music, so I enjoy singing with the Chapel Choir. The first year field education rotation to 10 different churches over the year has been eye opening and so valuable to my seminary education. This coming summer, I will be doing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at St. Luke’s in Bethlehem, PA. There’s never a dull moment!
However, there is one thing that makes me pause, and that is the staggering cost. Tuition, books, living expenses, car and health insurance are just a few things that tend to distract me from the main goal. Even after a scholarship from the seminary, I am facing debt building up over the next four years that will be around $20,000 for each year at the seminary. Unfortunately, my home congregation has not been able to subsidize a portion of the load, and the synod provided only a very modest scholarship which incidentally will almost pay the tuition for this summer’s CPE program.
I am so grateful for the help I have received. I am also humbled that Bishop Marie, the Candidacy Committee and the entire Synod staff hold each of the Upstate NY seminarians in prayer. This inspires and energizes me on so many levels. I am thankful to those who support the “Feed the Roots of Leadership” appeal by contributing to the capital appeal of the Upstate NY Synod. Supporting this program is so vital for the raising up of new leaders for the church by helping them to discern God’s will and to learn and grow. For those of you who are on the proverbial fence trying to decide whether or not to share your gifts, I hope that this testimony will demonstrate how much your contribution will impact a seminarian’s education.
This year has changed me. As I read chapter 15 of John, I am reminded that God is preparing me to bear fruit. This is a time of growing and cultivation as I gain a deeper understanding of the Good News of Jesus Christ. God is so extravagant with love, and wants us to share that love with one another. When the Rev. Mary Lee Johnson visited the seminary just before Thanksgiving, I told her that the seminary experience has made me come alive. God has indeed chosen me to learn, grow and share the Word that I might bear fruit, fruit that will last. I pray that you too will be moved to share the gifts with which you have been blessed.
Go in peace, share the good news!
LTSP Seminarian, Class of 2015