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

Abbey Intensive

December 2nd, 2009 § 0 Comments

The deer are grazing in an open field with fawns comforted in being at their mother’s side. As I arrived at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island for a one-week intensive course, I couldn’t help but marvel at the proximity of natural beauty. The Olympic mountain range descended in tiers over the narrowest part of the Puget Sound. There was a slight breeze floating from the sound through the valley. Neatly aligned at the far end of an open field were the officer’s quarters that would be the week-long home of the Christian Formation in Discipleship intensive course at Camp Casey Conference Center on Whidbey Island. It was a perfect setting. Dean Doug Strong sat on a bench socializing with the students who had arrived early. After introducing myself to Dr. Strong and my fellow students, I placed my possessions upstairs in the room I had been assigned and prepared for an unbelievable week of discipleship, community, and education.

We dove into Wesley’s “means of grace,” practicing prayer, worship, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the reading and hearing of Scripture, fasting, and mutual accountability and support in small groups. A typical day during this week involved awakening for breakfast around 8 a.m., the morning rite around 9, lectures from 9:30 to 11, quiet study time from 11 to 12, lunch from 12-12:30 p.m., another lecture from 1-2:30, free time from 2:30 to 5, spiritual practices from 5-6, dinner from 6-6:30, free time until 8, testimonies from 8-9, and compline from 9 to 9:30 p.m.

In a week’s time, a group of relative strangers became a tight knit community. Tear-jerking testimonies fostered encouraging communal prayer, compline services morphed into extended worship times, and Settlers of Catan became the new favorite board game. Day one communion, touring Fort Casey, and the Wesleyan love feast were the highlights of the intensive.

Looking back, the abbey intensive course at the beautiful Camp Casey intentionally cultivated a tight-knit community. The week-long retreat greatly assisted in the development of relationships that a currently enhancing my educational experience. What an amazing feeling to have this kind of connection with fellow students!

-Donovan Richards

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