Reflections from Seminary Students

Mentor Meetings

April 20th, 2010 § 1 Comment

An interesting aspect of the SOT graduate program is its mentor programs. Students are split into groups of two and assigned to a mentor who meets with them once a month during the school year. My particular mentor is Mike Neelley who works in pastoral support and discipleship at Tierra Nueva in the Skagit Valley. Labeled ‘The People’s Seminary’, Tierra Nueva shares the liberating news of Jesus Christ with farmworkers and immigrants in the Skagit Valley.

As my mentor, Mike tells me experiences that he has had in ministry; we carry a dialogue concerning the complex theological issues presented in class with the hope of finding their practical applications in ministry. In addition, my fellow student (who also share the same mentor) and I have the opportunity to experience Mike’s ministry first-hand. I have been particularly moved by our times of prayer as we seek God and hope to find direction as we all continue down our paths of ministry.

It has also been a blessing to meet some of Mike’s friends at Tierra Nueva. The last time we visited, we met a young man who has struggled with drug use throughout his life. While in prison, he met Jesus and has been forever changed by the encounter. Even though trials and temptations litter this man’s path, his deep and abiding love for Jesus Christ is something that I wish to someday have. I considered it an honor to share the room and worship with him. From soaking prayer at New Earth Refuge – the faculty retreat facility – to participating in worship with Tierra Nueva, I am able to understand how theology is applied within a particular context.

-Donovan Richards

The mentor with which I was connected through the graduate program was Reverend James Kearny who is the lead pastor at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church. I, honestly, was skeptical that I would be able to connect with an “assigned” mentor, being that the meeting was more required than organic. But, the truth is, that James is exactly who I have needed to help me contextualize my education in light of the church, as well as drawing out the particular spiritual gifts that the Spirit is exemplifying through me. It has been such a gift to meet with James once a month, be able to voice theological and spiritual struggles that I am having, have him convey wisdom and even some of his own hardships of his own for my and Josh’s (another student who James mentors) benefit. It has truly been a blessing to me to have a mentor assigned to me based on my desire to pursue pastoral ministry after SPU; the program really did intentionally strive to make this partnership what it has now become: a benefit and a blessing to both mentor and mentee.

– Raoul Perez

Friendship and Theology

April 5th, 2010 § 0 Comments

My name is Raoul Perez and I am an MDiv student in the SPU graduate theological program as well as the program coordinator. As I participate in the program from behind-the-scenes as well as inside the classroom, I am in a unique position to see the real advantages of this program in the lives of students. As a coordinator, I am able to see the rigor that goes into the creation of curricula by the professors and, as a student, be truly challenged in the classroom. As a coordinator, I see the intentionality that Dean Strong puts into coordinating small groups and Dr. Keuss puts into pairing students with mentors and, as a student, I reap the benefits of this deep spiritual formation. Also, as the coordinator, I get to be in on the plans that are being made to provide rich contextual education experiences both in the inner-city of Seattle as well as overseas to Egypt, Russia, and beyond; and, as a student, I get to participate in the immersion trips! I can say with confidence, that from the inside-out, this truly is a wonderfully relevant program designed to shape students into the next theological leaders of the church as well as provide interdisciplinary education in business, psychology, and marriage and family therapy.

As the coordinator, it may be obvious that I would observe all these things about the program, but as a student, I have to say, that there was one thing in-particular I did not anticipate. Coming into the program, I was simply thinking about how long it was going to take me to complete my degree and what the degree would do for me on the ground. I was not giving much thought to how interactions with the other incoming students may shape my experience in the program. Yet, by the end of the second week intensive, I had become more than just acquaintances with many of the students; I felt like we were truly friends. This has been confirmed further by persistent after-class gatherings to sing our hearts out at karaoke as well as gatherings at Christmas break and spring break to celebrate the completion of another quarter together. The kinds of friendships that are being fostered through this program I did not anticipate as a student, but this program is showing me that community and friendship is foundational to becoming a good theologian.

– Raoul Perez

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