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Mary Farag '09 M.A.R.
B.A. Harvard College

As my brother and my eighth grade English teacher can vouch all too well, I began reading Tolkien while a student at Hackensack Middle School (Hackensack, New Jersey). I was drawn to Tolkien's love of language, and though I did not grow up near coal trucks with Welsh writing or spend my young years inventing languages, I always had my own form of multiple language immersion through the worship services of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Singing in Coptic, Greek, Arabic, and English on a regular basis, it is difficult not to be captivated by language. At least, this I how I like to justify the undergraduate years I spent at Harvard concentrating in linguistics.

But it wasn't only language that fascinated me. There was also a grander mythology that the languages expressed. At YDS, I hope to explore the liturgical services that Coptic, Greek, and Arabic express. The sense of community, opportunities for worship as a community, the early Christian scholars, and the liturgics scholars I believe will provide the perfect atmosphere for such an exploration, and with the eagerness of Merry and Pippin, I look forward to it!

Ryan FleenorRyan Fleenor '10 M.Div.
B.A. University of Virginia

Originally from Durham, NC, I am a 2006 graduate of the University of Virginia,
where I majored in history.  I've always been fascinated by American history,
and at UVA I spent most of my coursework exploring the intersection of religion
and politics in American life.  My thesis, Reconstructing Theology: Religion
and Politics in Post-Emancipation Richmond
, was a microhistory of
African-American preachers who attempted to mobilize their congregations for
political action during the postwar Constitutional Conventions in Richmond
between 1865 and 1870.

After graduation, I spent the past year teaching English at the all-male, predominately African –American, inner city Catholic St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. Now, I plan to prepare myself for ministry in both the classroom and church. As a Marquand Scholar at YDS, I will pursue the Master of Divinity degree, hoping eventually to serve as a parish priest in the Episcopal Church. I also plan to complete a Ph.D. in American religious history, with an eye toward future teaching. YDS seems like the perfect fit for me because it offers the intentional formation of an Episcopal seminary alongside the intellectual rigor of a non-denominational divinity school that is closely associated with the larger university community.

 

Mike StevensMike Stevens '10 M.Div.
B.A. Williams College
M.B.A. Stanford University
M.P.A. Harvard University

My journey to Yale Divinity School has come relatively late in life. For the past 33 years, I have been an entrepreneur. As fulfilling as this work was, something was pulling me deeper. The image in my mind was like a scratch at the window drawing my attention to look over “this way.” In retrospect, it was a longing for God.

The catalyst that began to give me more clarity was a series of experiences, and losses of loved ones, all over a relatively short period of time. I experienced what Miroslav Volf so eloquently states in his book, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, “Christ stands before the closed door of a grace-resistant heart and knocks gently with a nail-pierced hand.” That knock became more pronounced and, with the aid of the brothers at an Episcopal monastery, The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, I began to open the door and respond to the invitation. My prayer life deepened, and I began to become involved in the public sphere. Using my expertise and experience, I helped various non-profit organizations and social justice groups to further advance their respective missions. I also began to become involved with young people, helping them develop their character and navigate the sometimes rocky shoals of late adolescence. And, finally, I began involving myself with the poor, which has recently led me to spend time working, living and worshipping with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity Sisters in Washington, D.C.

It eventually became clear that divinity school was a place where God was pulling me. I am hoping to pursue a lay ministry within the church that will include both teaching and involving young people in the work of non-profit organizations, social justice groups, and NGOs as these organizations seek to alleviate poverty and bring about more equality and justice in the world.

I decided to attend Yale Divinity School because it is unique in emphasizing creative ministries in the public sphere, as exemplified by the faculty, the mission of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and the Public Leadership supervised ministries. It is also important to me to be engaged in a community where I can be more fully formed through the interrelationship of worship, prayer, and rigorous academic training. In short, I want to be in a place that will scratch both my head and my heart. And, finally, it is appealing to me that the Yale community has a healthy mix of younger and older students and is ecumenical—yet is a place where I can live, pray and learn my Episcopal and Anglican faith tradition.

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