Rakesh Peter Dass ’08 M.Div.
BCOM Nagpur University 1999
MAOTH Nagpur University 2001
“We do not have much experience about the profession you are choosing, but we trust your judgment and support you.” My parents—both medical professionals—had no advice about management studies. I had decided to enhance peoples’ quality of life by managing businesses and creating economic opportunities. I completed an MBA and graduate studies in international management, after completing Bachelor and Master of Commerce programs. While studying, I worked in my local church and volunteered with the Indian ecumenical movement. Ever since I served as a teaching assistant in high school, I wanted to be a scholar and teacher. Explaining and implementing ideas animated me. My work – leadership development and resource management for churches – allowed me to combine my passions: Christian ministry and management scholarship.
Experience in using management ideas for church growth later funded my work at the Christian Conference of Asia (www.cca.org.hk) as a department head responsible for youth empowerment and ecumenical formation among member churches and national councils of churches in 20 Asian nations. I networked globally, organized international programs, assisted local congregation development, served as a consultant, and trained trainers. CCA allowed me to work across religious, cultural, national, and social contexts. However, I lacked a granular understanding of the shape of Asian church theologies and practices—especially their sources and histories of development. As a friend, mentor, and senior Asian ecumenical leader put it, “If you want to serve the church in Asia, theological education is important.” Having experienced the wisdom of this advice, I decided to apply to theological schools in 2004. Yale Divinity School’s community, church-focus, large research university setting, and financial aid set it apart from the different admission offers I had by early 2005.
YDS was the right learning community for me. I was unsure, however, about many things—getting ordained, fields of religious study, belonging in the M.Div. or M.A.R., program, and my comfort with theology. Then in my first year, I took Joe R. Jones’s yearlong course in (Western) “systematic theology.” The excitement and passion Christian theology generated in its (at times deceptive) complexity and (contextual) relevance left me desiring for more and took me on a three-year exploration of Asian and Western theologies. By supporting the integration of my interests and reading lists with their course materials, YDS faculty members further provided the creative space to engage Asian theologies, Christianities, biblical studies, ethics, politics, and economics within the context of Asian churches. Serene Jones’s academic advice, mentoring, and modeling of a Christian theologian and leader were invaluable at YDS. Joe and Serene Jones remain blessings in my life.
At YDS, I gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of Christian faith as a life of commitment to God and God’s creation within particular communities of faith. I plan to build on this foundation by exploring the shape of Christian faith, statements, and practices in religiously plural contexts within a graduate study program. This will prepare me to teach in universities and seminaries. To this end, I will matriculate this year as a doctoral student in theology at Harvard.
Many things have happened during my time at YDS. Most importantly, Sharon and I got married. Last month Sharon graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in New York City. We look forward to Sharon’s next job and our move to Massachusetts. I am deeply thankful to YDS faculty, staff, and students for their friendship, guidance, support, and teaching. I look forward to strengthening the relationships we have developed at YDS.
(June 6, 2008)