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Newly minted graduates write about YDS, post-graduation plans

A dozen members of the Class of 2006 took some time during their busy last month in school to reflect on life at YDS and write about their plans for the future. One will do improvisational comedy in Chicago; two are enrolled in Ph.D. programs; one will be an intern at the Lutheran Office for World Community at the U.N.; another will be pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in southwestern Virginia.  Following are their stories.

JC Aevaliotis, M.A.R.
B.A. Emory University

JC AevaliotisA week after graduation, I'll take my M.A.R. in religion and literature to Chicago, where I will pursue opportunities in sketch and improvisational comedy. I will also seek to further my passion for community arts and arts education.

YDS has provided me an invaluable opportunity to blend two seemingly divergent interests, in religion and in theatre, into one (hopefully) unified pursuit. The Div School has furthered these two interests in a few different ways. Most simply, YDS has simply put me in the way of opportunities in the arts. Classes at YDS and in the Drama School and English Department have proved exceedingly valuable. Additionally, during my two years in New Haven, I worked at a non-profit arts organization and taught at a magnet school for the arts.

On a deeper level, YDS has enriched my convictions that the arts are an irreplaceable part of any community's life, and that the arts can teach us something about social justice. I have relished my exposure to theological and religious language about ethics and justice, and I have tried to put these in dialogue with my work in performance and study in the theatre.

Perhaps most importantly, all my work at YDS has been in the context of a questioning and engaged community. I have been profoundly fortunate to find a group of friends that support and challenge me. Ultimately, YDS has given me a rich set of questions and convictions about art and community and a phenomenal group of relationships in which to explore them.

Brian Bellamy, S.T.M.
B.A. Morehouse College M.Div. Yale University

Brian BellamyI am a native New Havener. When I left New Haven to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia after spending the first eighteen years of my life in New Haven, I had no clue that I would return four short years later to pursue theological education. At that time, however, I had not yet discerned a call to the ministry.

The ethos at YDS has been perfect for my goal of being a "preacher/scholar" in that the school is liberal enough for me to explore new ideas, yet its commitment to produce ministers for Christian service is secure enough for me to maintain my roots in Jesus Christ. After spending four years at Yale Divinity School, earning the Master of Divinity, as well as the Master of Sacred Theology, I can truly say that my intellect and prowess for ministry have grown tremendously.





Alexandria Frisch, M.A.R.
B.A. College of William and Mary

Alexandria FrischAre two years over already? Have I really taken 16 classes? My time at Yale Divinity School might seem like a blur, but the knowledge I have gained is crystal clear.

I think that I am a testament to the fact that YDS serves the needs of a variety of people, even ones whose needs are not similar to that of the majority of students. Coming from a career in Jewish Communal work and having earned a Masters in Jewish Education, a predominantly Christian divinity school might seem an odd fit. I did not decide to come here for religious reasons, but for academic ones. I chose to attend YDS in preparation for applying to Ph.D. programs. I wanted to make sure that academia was where I wanted to be and, if so, to gain a better academic foundation before making a commitment to years of scholarship.

The M.A.R. with a concentration in the Second Temple/Early Rabbinic periods had the flexibility for me to take advantage of all that the Div school and the rest of Yale had to offer. I had the humbling experience of struggling through intensive beginning Attic Greek in the Classics department. I tackled rabbinic texts in their original language for the first time in the Religious Studies Department. And I did something that I'm sure very few people do at YDS, I actually read all of the Gospels for the first time in New Testament Interpretation.

I was fortunate to have an advisor, Professor John J. Collins, who provided excellent guidance both within the three courses I took with him and throughout the entire Ph.D. application process. I also have gained a lot from other students whether they are fellow Divinity School students or Ph.D. students. Being in an environment where people freely exchange ideas, offer help, and are genuinely interested in what you are working on has played an instrumental role in my education at Yale.

This upcoming fall I will start a doctoral program in Jewish Studies at New York University. I am feeling a mix of emotion—relief for having gotten into the program that I wanted, a little trepidation at starting at a new school, but most of all eagerness to continue my academic career in an area of scholarship that excites me.

And I have Yale Divinity School to thank for that.

Ken Hughes, M.Div.
B.A. State University of New York, Buffalo

Ken HughesMy future plans revolve around parish ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I have received a provisional call to serve as pastor of a PCUSA church in southwestern Virginia. The call is "provisional" pending approval of the regional presbytery and an affirmative vote of the congregation. Those steps will take place in early summer 2006.

I came to Yale Divinity School following a 25-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency. Despite my constant exposure at the CIA to what might be called the underside of world events, my faith in Jesus Christ and in the potential of nations and societies did not falter. Instead, the experience reinforced my own sense of dependence on God for my personal salvation and on the need for the grace and presence of the Holy Spirit in world affairs.

So, while the CIA taught me much about the world as it is, YDS opened up entirely new vistas. There isn't enough space in this brief article to do justice to how YDS formed and developed me spiritually and academically for what lies ahead. But I would point to a few things that stand out—significantly, the discipline of learning to think and write from a theological and biblical perspective. There was no single part of the curriculum that honed that skill and disposition; rather, it was a cumulative effect of broad systematic theology and biblical survey courses as well as highly focused study of selected biblical texts and theologians. In addition, I would single out the preaching workshops as crucial to my ability to give public voice to what I encountered in the sacred texts and traditions of our faith.

I suspect my most lasting impression of the last three years, though, will be the faces of friends I count among the students, faculty, and staff of YDS. Never did I feel the connectional and community nature of the Christian faith more than I did in the YDS chapel. There, I think, one is exposed to the best of what it means to be Christian—still not perfect, but deeply yearning to respond to the will and voice of God. Most chapel services ended as friends embraced each other with the passing of the peace, which echoes even now as I bring this brief reflection to a close: May the peace of Christ be with you.

Jimin Lee, S.T.M.
L.L.B. Yonsei University
M.Div. Berea University

Jimin LeeAs I look back at my time at YDS, I remember one day two years ago when I stood in the Quad by myself. It was right after I said goodbye to my husband at Bradley International Airport and then walked to YDS from downtown New Haven. I felt scared and lonely. Looking at the red bricks surrounding me, I asked myself, "Can I even finish my degree here? Can I manage to live here by myself?" I could not answer "yes" to those questions with confidence. I felt anxious and lonely because I had never lived by myself apart from my family nor studied in a foreign county.

After two years at YDS, I am leaving YDS finding myself more confident. I truly believe that I could have not lived and studied in New Haven without the help from professors and friends at YDS. If I wrote down thanks notes for everybody at YDS from whom I got help, I could not finish it in a day. Especially, I would like to thank you for Carolyn Sharp, my adviser, who always encouraged me whenever I faced personal and academic hardships. Also, I would like to express gratitude to my friends, Juok, Jiyong, Chulhem, Kyungjin, Chansok, Heewoo, and Paul for their support.

After graduation, I will study at Union Theological Seminary in New York to pursue my PH. D in Old Testament. I would like to share the love and support that I received from God and YDS people by teaching and preaching Gospel especially for the people in need in East Asian countries.

Elizabeth Lerohl, M.Div.
B.A. Concordia College

Elizabeth LerohlI grew up in rural Alexandria, MN, not so far from Lake Woebegone in Minnesota 's lake country. Like the characters in Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion," most of my neighbors and friends were Lutherans like me. For my undergraduate education, I went further north to a small Lutheran liberal arts school, Concordia College, in Moorhead, MN. At Concordia, my religion and classical studies majors brought ancient worlds and contemporary practices to life. My academic pursuits were strengthened in study abroad experiences in India and Greece. These semesters and Concordia's campus ministry programs ignited my passion for social justice on local and global levels. In Concordia's choirs I found that singing is praying twice. It was at Concordia that I discerned a call to ordained ministry.

Through Concordia's campus pastor Gretchen Person, a YDS/ISM alumna, I learned about and came to Yale Divinity School. It was a great choice. Academic rigorousness combined perfectly with supervised ministries in preparing me for parish ministry. Extra-curricular activities developed other parts of me for a life of service. The Lutheran studies program offered denominational training in an ecumenical context. Reading Karl Barth in systematic theology invigorated my teaching adult education classes at nearby Bethesda Lutheran Church and helped me see the world through a theological lens. Carolyn Sharp, John Collins, and Julie Faith Parker taught me to love and preach on the Old Testament. Classes I taught at my church after participating in the Israel-Palestine travel seminar helped my church community rekindle its sister-parish relationship with the Lutheran church in Old Jerusalem. Singing with the Sacramental Winers gave me the confidence both to sing the Lutheran liturgy and to serenade patients with other chaplains while completing Clinical Pastoral Education. My work as a chapel minister in Marquand Chapel has led me to see the importance ecumenism and working for the unity of the body of Christ at a local level.

All of my learning in the classroom, the church sanctuary, and hospital room during the last three years was framed within the context of daily worship at Marquand Chapel. With every "Alleluia" sung, every loaf of bread broken, and every sermon passionately preached, my faith was strengthened, stretched, and challenged. Daily worship sustained me and endowed me with a deep sense of gratefulness for the grace and love of God.

I am very thankful for all of the blessings of my YDS education. I completed my M.Div. and also received the Diploma in Lutheran studies. I will take my books, learning, and the support of colleagues as I move to Iowa to begin parish ministry. For the next two years I will be a Lilly Foundation pastoral resident at St. Paul Lutheran Church, in Davenport, IA, under the direction of YDS alumnus Peter Marty '85 M.Div. In the pastoral residency program, while working in various areas like the confirmation ministry, worship planning, and stewardship, I will seek to foster healthy habits in my first-call—in diligent work, study, disciplined spirituality, and self-care.

Karreem A. Mebane, M.A.R.
B.A. Albertus Magnus College

Karreem A. MebaneFor the past 25 years, Connecticut has been my home. It has been a distinct honor to spend the last two years as a student here at Yale Divinity School. My transition to the school seemed natural, because many of the priests from my church home were trained at YDS. My religious upbringing has been within the Episcopal Church and has been strengthened due to my being able to attend this university alongside my father, who worked toward and successfully achieved his M.Div.

Prior to my becoming a full-time YDS student, I worked for eight years in the field of professional athletics as a professional baseball umpire. Before enrolling at YDS, I attended Albertus Magnus College, where I earned an Associate of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science. My reasons for attending YDS were simple: First, the faculty gives each student the opportunity to pursue various theological perspectives, and courses of study, at a very high level. Second, the reputation, integrity, and overall atmosphere of YDS draws many diverse individuals to this institution.

Because of the differences in my cultural upbringing, I came to YDS with life experiences that were unlike most of my fellow colleagues. One of the most important fundamental elements concerning my growth here at YDS has been the opportunity to successfully apply theoretical ideas to "real life" situations. I intend to use my M.A.R., with a concentration in ethics, to help improve upon some of the social situations that we are faced with every day. My present career goal is to work alongside the Commissioner for Major League Baseball so that I may help revitalize the ethics of the game and the players and improve the overall culture of the profession.

Ned Mulligan, M.Div.
B.A. Amherst College
J.D. St. Louis University

Ned MulliganI came to YDS after 24 years as a civil trial lawyer in New Hampshire. I felt called to pursue ordination in the Episcopal Church after a number of years of involvement in all areas of lay ministry in my home parish. For the first year and a half of my full-time studies, I continued to practice law full time and commuted to New Haven on Monday mornings, returning home on Thursday afternoons. I clearly would not recommend that anyone attempt to work full time and attend Yale full time, but my personal circumstances required that I do so until after first semester second year.

Although I went to church as a child and attended mandatory chapel for four years in prep school, I was not particularly drawn to or interested in the church as an adolescent or young adult. My mother's grandfather was an Episcopal priest for 40 years in the same parish and her great uncle was the Bishop of Utah. No one between them and me has pursued ordination in the church.

I chose YDS for a number of reasons. I was required by the Bishop of New Hampshire to attend an Episcopal seminary, and Yale offered me the opportunity to satisfy my Anglican requirements while attending school in an ecumenical environment at a school well-known for its academic rigor. I also had numerous relatives on both sides of the family come to Yale as undergraduates, and I viewed coming to Yale as an opportunity to continue that tradition.

My primary interest at YDS has been theology and preaching because of the quality of teaching in those areas. I feel that the substantial knowledge I have acquired will be invaluable to me in the future.

My intention after graduation was originally to become a parish priest. I began interviewing for positions in October when I learned that the Salisbury School was searching for a chaplain. Salisbury, located in Northwestern Connecticut, is an Episcopal boys prep school with 280 students. I applied for the position and accepted an offer from the school before Christmas. I will be running the chapel, teaching philosophy and religion, and coaching three sports. We are moving to the campus in August and will live in housing provided by the school.

My wife and I feel that this is the perfect "call" for us as a couple, and there is little doubt in our minds that we were offered the job, in part, because I would be receiving a diploma from Yale.

I am leaving Yale with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what Yale has done for me personally, academically and professionally. The combination of training in a rigorously academic ecumenical environment while being trained in the Episcopal tradition at Berkeley is unique in the church and a blessing to those of us fortunate enough to have been there as students.

Jennie Ott, M.Div.
B.A. College of William and Mary

Jennie OttI came to YDS as a transfer student from Fuller Theological Seminary, where I had been attending part time while I worked as a fundraiser and high school teacher. I decided to return to seminary full time after I felt a call to hospital chaplaincy. I chose Yale because of its broad theological perspectives and sense of community.

While I had been raised in the Episcopal Church, I spent most of my college years and mid-twenties roaming about nondenominational, evangelical churches. By the time I got to Yale I was searching for a mainline home again, and I found one in the United Church of Christ. Being a part of Spring Glen Church in Hamden, CT has been one of the best parts of my time at YDS, and I officially entered the ordination process in the UCC two weeks before my graduation from Yale.

It is hard to sum up all the ways that YDS has shaped me over the past three years. In my classes, I have discovered a deep love for ethics and theology. Through chapel services, I have encountered creative, meaningful, and surprising ways to worship God. Through the YDS community, I have found lifelong friendships and engaged in life-changing conversations with professors, staff, and peers. Most of all, I think Yale has provided me with the space to be who I am and to try out all kinds of ministry.

As for the future, I will spend the summer in Israel on an archaeological dig along the Sea of Galilee. Then I return to New Haven to complete a nine-month Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where I hope to continue my discernment into ministry. Finally, I will continue to be involved at Spring Glen Church, and I hope to be ordained in the UCC in the coming years.

Katya Ouchakof, M.Div.
B.A. Luther College

Katya OuchakofI came to YDS from England, by way of Luther College, having begun the journey in Madison, WI. After all the classes, papers and exams of the past six semesters, graduation is at last in sight. I know what I will be doing for the next three months (coordinating a wilderness camping program in northern Minnesota), for the 11 months following that (serving a church and long-term-care facility as an intern in Oregon), and for the nine months following that (completing my ordination requirements at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary).

Anything beyond these two years still exists only in the mind of God and not in my own role as protagonist (or sometimes antagonist) in my life story. While waiting for the things to come, I will indulge a time of reflecting on my experience at Yale Divinity School before moving on to the next chapters of my life.

Over the past three years, I have been challenged in faith, in the classroom, in social settings, in worship, in working environments, and in friendships. I have learned about anger and forgiveness. I have learned that maintaining faith takes work, and can be easy to leave by the wayside. I hope that I have picked up my faith from the wayside and will leave here with it as a driving force continuing to push me along. When faith is in place, the other difficulties are easier to either endure or forgive—or both.

While at YDS, I have encountered some people and situations that make me question friendships, vocational callings, and God's grace in relation to the world. These situations, however, have been by far the minority. I have more frequently seen people help each others' growth during their time here—in their worldview, faith, friendships, and personal goals. Some of this individual growth has meant development of important new relationships or growing pains for important relationships, and I have learned much about the ways in which our interactions with each other change over time.

I have been blessed these past years to meet a few people who seem to know me at least as well as I know myself. I am grateful for their friendship, and for the ways in which we are able to help each other grow. These people have helped me see what true friendship can be, and I am encouraged by their care for me and for others. I am encouraged that such people are seeking leadership in their communities of faith, whether in lay or ordained capacity.

Overall, the community at YDS has been formational for me at this phase in my life. I can't believe that three years have passed so quickly and that the time is nigh for me to leave. At the same time, I can't imagine staying. This is not a community that invites students to stay and get comfortable, but a community that invites people in for challenge and growth, with the intention always that they will return to other communities and put their newfound knowledge and passions to use.

I look forward to applying my knowledge and passions to situations outside of YDS. I also look forward to visits back to campus. Students will come and go, faculty and staff with retire or move on, but I have confidence that the YDS community will continue its good work in the lives of those who move through it. I have been given the gift of membership in this community for a time, and I am grateful.

Elizabeth Roebke, M.Div.
B.A. Boston College

Elizabeth Roebke"My Christian friends in bonds of love, whose hearts in sweetest union join, your friendship's like a drawing band, yet we must take the parting hand... " I couldn't possibly reflect on my three years here at YDS without including the words from the hymn "Parting Hand."

It is a tearjerker—when we sang it last year at commencement, when I watched friends depart for the next stage of their lives, or during sung morning prayer on Wednesdays in Marquand, or when my friends sang it for patients during their summer CPE unit, or now as I anticipate singing it the morning of my graduation from this place. "Parting Hand" is special because it captures just how important my YDS community was to me. We shared the highs and lows of divinity school life together—learning, worshiping, stressing, and laughing. Whether in the refectory with Sandy and Julia, making noise on the Quad, "studying" in the Super Secret Study Room, giggling in chapel, or hanging out in the Common Room, my community is what has taught me great lessons of faith, academics, and relationships.

Our faculty and administration model the value of these relationships. People like Dale Peterson, Patrick Evans, Maryetta Anschutz, Jeremy Hultin, and Siobhan Garrigan have been great examples of the importance of both serious study and serious commitment to our community. As my classmates and I discover our pastoral identity or our academic authority, these people serve as good examples of both positive leadership and good fun.

When I finally have to take the parting hand from YDS, I will be moving to Kenner, LA for a summer of working with Lutheran Disaster Response. My cross-country trek will continue when I pull up to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA for my required year in residency at a Lutheran seminary. I chose PLTS because of its membership in the Graduate Theological Union—home to a number of denominational seminaries.

The GTU is the best way I could think of to continue the amazing ecumenical experience of YDS. As an ELCA candidate for ordination, ecumenical relationships are of great importance and, honestly, great fun. Learning the quirks and the gifts of Episcopalians, Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, and everyone else has been a challenge and a hoot. Something I value enough to continue to seek out throughout my ministry.

When all my school and internships are over, I look forward to being a parish pastor, possibly in a small town setting where I can be involved in the community and work with my partners in ministry to continue to live out the values I have learned at YDS and from my Christian friends in bonds of love...

Nell Shanahan, M.A.R.
AB Dartmouth College

Nell ShanahanIn her book entitled Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott describes her coming to faith not as a leap but as a "series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another." She writes, "Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear."

When I first read Lamott in college, I remember feeling so struck by her words, and this imagery, because it reminded me so much of my own coming to faith. It did not start with a leap but, rather, in the pew of a different church each Sunday, depending upon the week. My father is Catholic and my mother is Congregational, so I was raised with both religions— discovering, practicing, and living both traditions.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I think this "bi-focal" experience deepened my understanding and appreciation of religion and faith at a very early age, and awakened in me a profound interest in developing a belief structure of my own that felt clear and true, if a little shaky and uncertain, at times, as well. This awakening continued on through my early school years and matured into my choice of a major (religion) as an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College, as well as my choice of religion (Unitarian Universalism) soon after graduating.

Today, I am still moving across my own swamp of doubt and fear almost daily, but Yale Divinity School has been, by far, the best leaf on which I have landed thus far in my journey. I only hope to continue feeling as "summoned and held" after leaving YDS, and specifically, at Yeshiva University, where I will begin working towards my master's degree in social work this fall. Although I will miss the YDS community and curriculum a great deal, I know this wonderful place has prepared me well for my next journey, and for the journey that will be my life.

Kaji Spellman, M.Div.
B.A. University of Pennsylvania

Kaji SpellmanI am no longer a student. I am no longer a student. I repeated this terrifying sentence in my post-graduation haze. So much defined by my academic interests for the past three years, I wondered what on earth would define me now. No longer a student, I wondered how I would introduce myself? An ex-student? A recent grad? With prospects on the horizon but with no real, defined path, this was overwhelming. So little made sense as I waded through the mess of identity development.

I went to bed just after my release from Yale's Commencement extravaganza caught in this hazy muck, early in the afternoon. I awakened, and the path was there. I perceived a call.

The last time I perceived a call was when I decided to come to Yale Divinity School to prepare myself to be a minister. I came to Yale in something of a whirlwind—I, somewhat inconveniently, had received my call to ministry three days before YDS' s application deadline. At the time, I was working for nonprofits after having spent my early 20's on Wall Street. My work had no direct connection to ministry. I had no idea how I would submit a complete application in such a short period of time, but, by the grace of God and through the help of my amazing minister, the Rev. Lillian Daniel '93 M.Div. I did. Yale opened its doors to me, I became a student, and it all curiously made sense.

My time at YDS was like a walk through the enchanted forest. At every corner, there was something new, something amazing to discover as I learned to look at the world through the eyes of a theologian. Nothing was as I expected, and nothing stayed the same. In this enchanted forest, learning was dynamic, challenging, soul-shaking, and blessed.

As an Institute of Sacred Music student in liturgy, I learned to give feet to my academic interests in worship. As a Chapel Minister at Marquand Chapel, all of the academic disciplines I studied came together as my colleagues and I worked to shape the worship community at YDS in a faithful and vibrant way.

Then, I graduated from the enchanted forest of YDS. I was no longer a student. Or was I? Had I not learned to regard the world through the eyes of a theologian? Would I not continue to study, to read, to write, to think? I thought these things after my post-Commencement nap, and the haze faded. I was ready to accept my new call, yes, to be Associate Minister for the First Congregational Church of Darien, UCC on an interim basis, but also to continue to search, to continue to ask questions, to continue to think. Sure, there is still haze, but the searchlight of my faith and my assurance of call lead on. I am still a student. And I always will be.

Jared R. Stahler, M.Div.
B.M. Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Jared R. StahlerNot too long ago I happened upon my application essay to the Divinity School. The timing was serendipitously perfect. I had just submitted my very last paper as a YDS student. It was fitting to reread what an earlier self had written and to reflect on the formative privilege that has been mine at Yale.

The essay took up my long-standing commitment to ecumenism, more specifically visible unity among the churches. I argued that true ecumenism in the second millennium of the Christian tradition requires Christ to be at the center of dialogue, and that this center is recognized and realized most clearly in radical common service to the poor and the oppressed. Unity in structure and order, Baptism and Eucharist, or life and death ultimately has no real value apart from this mission, the central mission of Christ.

Three years after having written that essay, my conviction is even more certain. Our common life as a Divinity School community is daily witness to that. At our best we have sought to reach beyond the walls of YDS. By the grace of God we have sought to join together a diverse student body with often-divergent viewpoints in the common bond of service to the world. Together we have walked to stave off hunger and its causes, aided some in Africa plagued by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, war and human genocide, and taken on the cause of just peace in the Middle East. We have given attention to the complex state of affairs in Asia, advocated for the health of the planet, and insisted that none of God's children be deprived of the fullness that is the love of God in Christ.

Next week I begin a year as vicar at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan and intern at the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations. I will daily serve a community of Christians seeking to shape life in the city, and work as an advocate for people across the globe. I am exceedingly glad that though many of my colleagues and friends will be miles away, their compassionate, Christ-centered hearts will continue the common service we undertook together at YDS. Here I cannot help but think of Christ's early followers. Though they may have liked to stay closeted away in a shut up room, the work of the Holy Spirit required otherwise. It demands the same of us. We cannot stay within these beautiful brick walls. We scatter. We go forth for the healing of the world and the healing of Christ's church.

Andrew Thompson, M.A.R.
B.M. Duquesne University

Andrew ThompsonI'm originally from West Virginia (though I came to Yale via Pittsburgh, Maryland, and DC). I grew up going to an Episcopal church camp in West Virginia (Peterkin). It was the main spiritual influence on my life, as well as where I met my wife, Leigh (another great spiritual influence). I worked there as a counselor for several years, which was what convinced me that a life devoted to the church, or more specifically, to faith, would be most fulfilling to me.

I was halfway through as an undergrad at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh at the time, studying music performance, on baritone saxophone, and essentially expecting to be a professional baritone saxophone player (not exactly a high demand field, I suppose). With guidance from a great friend, the chaplain of Duquesne, I changed course somewhat, and decided to focus my life on my faith (though I finished my music major).

I graduated from Duquesne and went on to be a youth director at a large Episcopal church in Maryland. It was a very fulfilling experience, and I learned a great deal about myself and my relationship to God. I also got a dog. I left Ellicott City after a year, and moved to DC to be with Leigh, who was in the discernment process in the Episcopal Church and was moving up from Atlanta. I worked as a waiter and as a Barista at Starbucks.

Meanwhile, apparently thinking that the natural follow-up to a B.A. in baritone saxophone would be an M.A.R. in religious ethics, I began considering further education. Leigh and I decided on Yale because it was clearly the best place to approach our different emphases, mine on academics and hers on ministry. We were married in July and moved to New Haven following our honeymoon.

We agree that we made the right decision. We feel quite at home in the YDS community, which has become like family. At the same time, the academic opportunities and challenges and the formation we find in the spiritual life at YDS remind us of how much there is to take advantage of here, and help us to know that we are getting the best preparation available for the future.

After graduation, Leigh and I will be spending several weeks in El Salvador working with the Episcopal Church there. In the fall, I will begin the Ph.D. program at Yale. I intend to focus on social ethics, with a particular interest in poverty and economic ethics. I am very much looking forward to continuing my study with the faculty here.


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