Obadiah Ballinger ’08 M.Div.
B.A. Concordia College 2005
Yale Divinity School began shaping my call to ministry long before I arrived at Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. Study of religion at Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) inspired in me passion for social justice and equality. I quickly became active in one movement after another. Shawnthea Monroe, my minister and a YDS alumnus, both encouraged this activism and counseled me to secure it within the Christian tradition. She offered the metaphor of a tree: the reforms I demanded from my left-leading branch of the church should be fed through rigorous studies in the trunk and tradition of the faith. If I overlooked the Christian roots for social justice, I would be out on a limb with no support when times grew tough. With the best traditional training, I could advocate for change in light of the church’s historic gospel profession.
My time at Yale Divinity School opened my eyes to a host of witnesses who understand the faith of Jesus Christ as liberating humankind to freely serve God. Professors Diana Swancutt and John Collins revealed the ethical ramifications of Bible interpretation, while Ron Rittgers described the promise and peril of sixteenth-century reformers. Serene Jones introduced me to John Calvin’s understanding of humility, and Emilie Townes shared centuries of African American religious thought. Creative chapel services connected with the classroom to demonstrate how theologically astute worship opens space for the heart-transforming Spirit. Walking every day through the halls of YDS, I met colleagues who embody Christ-like service in prison visitation, weekly friendship meals, hospital chaplaincy, and painstaking worship planning. Through these experiences and my academic studies at YDS, I claim thousand-year roots in the liberating church of Jesus Christ.
Following graduation and on my way to ordination and pastoral leadership in the United Church of Christ, I have a chance to resume political activism. Love Makes a Family, based in Hartford, CT and led by YDS graduate Anne Stanback, has hired me as a religious organizer. I work with clergy and faith communities to support marriage equality for same-sex couples in Connecticut. My great passion and joy in this effort comes through wrestling with a complex social issue in light of the tradition and commitments of the Christian church. Yale Divinity School has prepared me to speak pastorally and work prophetically, grounded in a tradition that lays a secure foundation for nuanced social engagement. I give thanks and rejoice for such sound preparation.