Rob Fisher, M.Div. 2005
BA Yale University, 1998
My divinity school experience was a little different from the ordinary. I chose to spend a year in New York City, working as a hospital chaplain in Brooklyn on a CPE (clinical pastoral education) residency. As a result, my M. Div. spanned four years, and the social landscape of the country, as well as the Church, changed drastically over that time.
I came to BTFO (Before the Fall Orientation) in August 2001, and only a few weeks later, on a beautiful Tuesday morning in September, the Twin Towers fell. While red states and blue states have grown apart from each other, Christians also have increasingly squared off into progressive and conservative factions. This is especially the case after the ordination of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Anglican bishop. When I left my home of California for seminary, I never expected to graduate into such division.
I chose Yale because I did not want to go to a monochromatic seminary, either denominationally or in any other way. And while Yale is not quite as diverse as it could be, it really did give me the opportunity to engage the challenges of living in a diversity of beliefs and perspectives. It was not as idyllic as it sounds, but as a wise professor once said, if you are feeling uncomfortable you are probably in the midst of a good learning experience.
I certainly found kindred spirits among my classmates, and I found challenges to my convictions as well. (Interesting, I found just as many of each outside of my denomination as within it!) I think that this is part of the Yale Divinity School experience—we face the realty that thoughtful, intelligent and faithful Christians will often arrive at completely different views from our own. Yale gives us an opportunity to learn to dialogue across these differences. That is something we sorely need right now as the dialogue is breaking down both in the Church and in the world.
This summer I will be ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. My wife and I will move to the Pasadena area, in Southern California, and I will become the associate rector at a medium-sized parish that is steadily growing. The parish will double its clergy staff with my arrival. The rector, who has been a mentor to me in my own formation, values engaging political and church issues in meaningful ways while keeping diverse viewpoints at the table. Republicans and Democrats share the pews at this parish, and although not much is said of this fact, the rector happens to be openly gay.
My new boss plans to include me in all parts of church leadership, including its mission work in El Salvador and in Mexico. It is hard to predict exactly what the future holds, but I know that the training that Yale offered me will be put to use. It feels like a critical time in the life of the Church to be stepping out of the classroom and into the parish.