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YDS Mom/Daughter Grads Ordained Together

by Frank Brown, Assistant Director, Publications

Kate and Jinny SmanikA year ago, Jinny Smanik and her daughter Kate made YDS history when they graduated together from the M.Div program. Earlier this month (8.20), they capped the accomplishment with a rare double ordination at Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

"For me, it is neat evidence of how God's grace works in the world," said the Reverend Kate Smanik Moyes, describing the series of seeming coincidences that led to mother and daughter entering YDS in different years, graduating at the same time and, finally, each taking part in the other's Aug. 20 ordination, first Jinny as a church elder and then Kate as a freshly ordained minister.

Smanik Moyes, 27, says she initially tried to avoid enrolling at YDS because she sensed that her mother, then a student at Hartford Seminary, might want to transfer to YDS. Smanik Moyes, a recent college graduate, was keen to carve out her own identity. That changed, though, after a year abroad in Belfast and her arrival in New Haven.

"My mom is an incredible sounding board. Being in divinity school was challenging for both of us in different ways. It turned out that I was a good sounding board for her, as well," says Smanik Moyes, the chaplain at Wilson College, a 750-student Presbyterian institution in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, two hours northwest of Washington, DC. "We still call each other two or three times a week to talk about worship services, sermons and lectionaries."

Jinny Smanik, 52, is designated associate pastor at Union Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, New York, outside Albany. Originally from Bristol, Connecticut, the pair's family church was Westminster Presbyterian Church, a congregation that YDS' associate dean of students Dale Peterson, who attended the ordination, describes as "a wonderful, nurturing community."

YDS students, alumni and faculty filled the contemporary worship space that features exposed wooden beams and a centrally placed organ. Dean Harold W. Attridge delivered the New Testament Lesson, John 1:1-18 in Koine Greek. Professor Kristen Leslie gave the 'charge to the newly ordained.'

"There's no better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first ordination of women in the Presbyterian Church than with a mother-daughter ordination," says the Reverend Susan Olson, '93, the YDS Director of Career Counseling who witnessed the ordination and is set to preach at Smanik Moyes' upcoming installation as chaplain at Wilson College.

According to YDS' longtime registrar, Detra MacDougall, the Smaniks were the first mother and daughter to graduate simultaneously from the school. A year later, this past May, a father and son, Will and Karreem Mebane, graduated together.