Debra McLeod Sears ’09 M.Div.
B.A. Baylor University 1982
Oh Come All Ye Faithful!
There are a couple of things you need to know about me in order to understand the lens through which I view my two years at Yale Divinity School. I was a stay-at-home mom living in Houston for 30+ years. The week before my last child started college, I began seminary in Houston and attended three different schools. Frustrated with the lack of community and academic rigor, I transferred to YDS in the fall of 2007 and am graduating this year with a Master of Divinity. I am an evangelical, progressive/liberal Baptist who will return to my home and my husband after graduation. You also need to know that not on one dreary, cold, New England morning when I heard the alarm go off after too short a night’s sleep, did I regret my choice to put my very tired, now 49-year-old body through the intense, amazing, transformative education that I received at YDS. In other words, you are not getting an unbiased opinion.
I had some surprises when I got here. I had no idea how socially and environmentally active the students and faculty are. If you are interested in earth care and inclusiveness for all of God’s children, then you will find a group here that speaks to your soul. My husband and I came here already involved in micro loan work with Opportunity International (opportunity.org) and Kiva (kiva.org), as well as drilling water wells with Living Water (water.cc). There are numerous students here who have done and continue to do NGO and religious work in developing countries, as well as in the U.S. Christianity is alive and flourishing in the lives of many of the students here. Most students seem to be involved in some sort of concrete implementation of the material they are covering in class. There is a downside to YDS. You become so accustomed to continual attempts made to include everyone that you forget that this is not how most religious or non-religious institutions function. After brief vacation breaks, I would return with a sense of satisfaction that I was going home to a comfortable place where they always know your name and they’re always glad you came. If you make an effort to get to know folks here, you will be deeply rewarded both now and in the future.
There is a downside to YDS. You become so accustomed to continual attempts made to include everyone that you forget that this is not how most religious or non-religious institutions function. After brief vacation breaks, I would return with a sense of satisfaction that I was going home to a comfortable place where they always know your name and they’re always glad you came. If you make an effort to get to know folks here, you will be deeply rewarded both now and in the future.
Lest I mislead you, I should say that you will probably work harder here than you have ever worked in any other scholastic program in which you have been involved. Students here get into the top Ph.D. programs and go on to change the world—and by and large they have huge hearts for those who suffer. One of the best scriptural descriptions I have found to describe the experience is:
Irons sharpens iron,
and one person sharpens the wits of another.
Just as water reflects the face,
so one human heart reflects another.
I was sharpened by both the students who sat next to me in class and the professor whose knowledge and love of her particular area spilled into the classroom. Excellence is the goal for both professor and student. There is competition and support. You will stretch and grow as much as you allow yourself to hear and experience that which is foreign to you.
Diversity is the norm and not unusual. I, as a member of the Former Profits (second-career students who are usually over 40 years of age) found myself sitting in classes with students who were in their 20’s and the same age as my children. They became my friends just as students who were in their 60’s were also my friends. This is a safe place for women, all ages, colors, ethnicities and sexual orientations. I would be misleading you if I let you believe that we don’t still deal with those matters, but there is always the expectation that we can do better. Status quo is never the goal.
I am sad to be leaving and excited about how my education will help me and those with whom I come in contact at church and in developing countries. I leave this place feeling joyful and triumphant!