Stephanie McDyre Johnson ’10 M.Div.
B.A. Fordham University 1988
In reflecting on the Genesis story of Abram and Sarai, who were called by God into a new life, I wondered if the new Abraham and Sarah took their past with them into their new land. When I first arrived at YDS, I had determined that God had called me to be someone totally new; an Episcopal priest. My life as an environmental planner, I believed, was my past.
My husband, two children and I moved from New York State to New Haven for me to begin the M. Div program. Our children became regulars at the “Div School” making their way to Dale’s candy basket, attending social events, and participating in worship. My husband could be regularly seen in the Refectory with new friends. The Quad became a haven for the four of us.
After nearly 17 years away from a classroom, the early months in school were hard. But, soon enough, I learned to be a student again. In study groups, my cultural and denominational leanings were challenged as I experienced theology, history and the Bible through the eyes of a diverse student body. Through papers and exams, I was pushed to explain ideas that only months earlier were obscure concepts to me.
As both a Berkeley Divinity School (BDS) and YDS student, I participated in a range of daily worship. The familiar Episcopal Daily Office and Eucharist nourished my soul. Marquand Chapel taught me to celebrate the diverse ways of worshipping God. My appreciation of the varied ways to worship God was deepened further when I went to St. Nicholas Anglican Seminary as part of an exchange between BDS and the Ghanaian Seminary. Our family was blessed with a semester at Westcott House in Cambridge, England where I worshipped daily with fellow Anglican seminarians.
On the Quad, I initially shied away from the YDS engagement on ecology and faith. Eventually I found myself drawn in, becoming involved in the Yale Earth Cares Committee, the YDS-wide sustainability audit and the BDS project to reduce waste at the Berkeley Center. At the same time I was being formed into something new at YDS, my past experiences were being transformed into something for the future.
I’m staying on at YDS to complete an S.T.M. on the intersection of faith and ecology. God-willing, I will be ordained an Episcopal priest this year. While my name has stayed the same unlike Abraham and Sarah, (though I am now the Reverend Deacon), I’ve recognized that our past always comes to bear on our future. When God sends us “to a new land” (Genesis 12:1-3) all of our being is called into that new transformation.