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“I Am NYTS” Student Stories
Our students share stories of their Seminary journey…
Deborah Lindsay, DMin Graduate 2014
Rev. Dr. Deborah Lindsay chose New York Theological Seminary because it was the only seminary in the country offering a specific Doctor of Ministry track and cohort dedicated to multifaith ministry.
In August of 2010, Rev. Lindsay’s sermon about “Islamophobia,” the stereotyping of Muslims and our failure to see them as fellow people of faith, went viral on YouTube and was seen by over a million people around the world. The experience illuminated a call to multifaith ministry and clarified what she wanted to study in a Doctor of Ministry program. Her research led her to NYTS and she exclaims that it was one of the best decisions she ever made. “The diverse academic environment was exhilarating,” she adds, “to study in a cohort with a rabbi and imam deepened the learning and growth, and created what I expect to be lifelong relationships.”
Currently serving as the Minister of Spiritual Care at First Community Church, Columbus, Ohio, in January 2016 Rev. Lindsay will become the Executive Minister. She believes the church is changing in America and the need is “greater than ever for educated clergy to partner with the people of God to do the work of reconciliation and peace-making.”
Noting that Rev. Dr. Wanda Lundy, NYTS Doctor of Ministry Program Director, often spoke about the importance of transformation in the DMin projects, Dr. Lindsay added “Transformation is also what happened to me as an individual, as a leader, as a woman in ministry, and as a human being. I am a more competent and confident leader thanks to my education at NYTS and I am profoundly grateful for my experience.”
Rev. Dr. Lindsay says she would encourage anyone entering a Doctor of Ministry program to consider NYTS. She shares “I was affirmed in my work and at the same time stretched beyond what I thought was possible in my thinking, academic work, and dreaming about what is possible in ministry.”
Jonnel Green, MDiv Graduate 2015
Jonnel Green (MDiv 2015) was the recipient of the Bible Award for Second Testament at the NYTS 2015 Commencement. Using his own life as a testimony, Jonnel inspires others through preaching and his spiritual walk to “Never let the limited language of broken individuals become a blueprint for your possibility.”
Jonnel has been called to be for young people what he so desperately needed as a youth: a mentor, an advocate and a leader who could inspire young people to hope and to dream. A former high school drop-out, this licensed minister has launched a nonprofit organization that partners with the Public School System to undergird young people.
The Executive Director of Young Harlem, Inc., a multi-faceted dropout prevention program that transforms students into scholastic and behavioral achievers, Jonnel is partnering with the New York City Department of Education and the New York Department of Probations to instill hope, confidence and strength in the emerging generation.
Raised in Harlem by his grandparents who brought him up in the church, Jonnel’s life began to spiral out of control as a teen. He not only dropped out of school, but he also began living a lifestyle that did not reflect who Christ called him to be. Jonnel credits God’s love for him as the primary motivation to turn his life around and to help others to turn their lives around. He maintains that young people are not “at-risk”, but rather “at-hope: the point where success is possible.”
Young Harlem, Inc., seeks to organize and motivate youth to pursue a three dimensional life: living the height, the length and the width God designed for them. “It’s important for me to preach and teach that there is Hope and God is in charge of it all,” Jonnel says.
Incorporating what he learned while pursuing the Master in Divinity at NYTS, Jonnel says “transformative ministry is what happened to me and what I aim to bring into the lives of today’s youth.”
Susana Araujo, CP Graduate 2015
My heart is forever thankful to Jesus Christ, to the professors at New York Theological Seminary (NYTS), and especially Dr. Cano, Director of the Certificate Program.
I was a leader serving in Ministry at the Catholic Charismatic Church, when God called me to transition to the Pentecostal Church of God. As I embarked on a deeper level of spiritual formation in the spring of 2008, the Spirit of God led me to the Certificate Program at NYTS. Unfortunately, my seminary educational pursuits temporarily stopped with the sudden death of my mother. I wrestled with my mother’s last few words, “pray, pray always… and finish seminary.” It was the ultimate brokenness. I wept like Jeremiah, suffered like Job, and ran from serving God like Jonah. Like Jacob, I was literally physically limping in the process as I wrestled with the call. Like Jacob, I’ve worked seven hard years balancing employment and unexpected child-care responsibilities to complete the Certificate Program at NYTS.
While It took me seven years to complete the Certificate Program, it’s not about starting, but completing God’s purpose in your life. I was in a state of dormancy but, today, I declare that by the grace and mercy of God, I’m still standing. When God calls and has chosen you, He will preserve you in the midst of any storm. Proverbs 3:5 NIV says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your path straight” (NASB). I now plan to pursue the doctorate program at NYTS.
Gary Morello, Current MDiv Student
I was brought to Seminary at the age of 24 and have been under the wing of my pastor for five years. I remember specifically saying with a Bible in my hands held to my chest “God if you help me get through this, I will dedicate the rest of my life to you and serve you in any way I can.”
I remember being in church on a snowy December day in 2012, and I could feel during the sermon my stomach palpating and the presence of God in my life calling me to a greater purpose as it pertains to ministry. By February 2013, I found myself
enrolled in NYTS. The confirmation for this journey was that one of my pastors had a mentor named Jerry, and the first time I walked into NYTS I met with Dr. Jerry Reisig to go over my course schedule. I left NYTS prior to registration with an overwhelming feeling of confirmation and conviction for God’s call in my life.
My message to anyone who is thinking about a theological education is that the growth, maturity, and biblical foundation I have found over the last three years of my studies at NYTS has been fundamentally, unbelievably, fantastic. For my life, for my ministry, for the youth that I teach in church, for my family, for the deep and profound relationship that I have developed with Jesus Christ, I am eternally grateful for my experience here at NYTS.
Gail Davis, DMin Graduate 2015
My experience at NYTS was rewarding, enlightening, and memorable. My mind was exposed to new ways of reading and studying the Bible. The diverse student and teacher population presented new experiences in worship. More importantly, I was transformed because of the pedagogy of theology. I found my voice in black liberation and womanist theology because I was introduced to some of the theologians who laid the groundwork for theological discourse in these areas.
The experience at NYTS has allowed me to impart the knowledge I learned and introduce theological discussions with the congregants at Berean, where I attend church. This past February, I organized black history month at church and invited some of the theologians I met at or through NYTS – James Cone, Obery Hendricks, and Onleilove Alston who discussed the black presence in the Bible and the justice of Jesus.
I understand more the power of theological education and the need to discuss theology more, particularly in the black church. It’s alarming to realize that the word theology still has a negative connotation by laypersons and some clergy. I’m thankful, after completing the DMin, that NYTS is a place that continues to evolve to make theological learning relevant.
Valerie H. Holly, MDiv Graduate 2014
Having obtained an MSW degree in 1986, I had a sense (at least I thought I did!) of the study and work habits necessary to complete the MDiv program. However a lot changed between 1986 and 2011; the biggest change was the technology. I thank God that the NYTS leadership was astute enough to provide computer training and on-going assistance for students like me. The MDiv program required me to become more familiar with the technology- which I was able to do with the help of staff and students.
The MDiv program at NYTS has been one of ongoing enjoyable learning. Since I am in ministry, I had openness and an excitement towards my classes. The professors were sound theologically and experientially. They are not only academics, they are also preachers, chaplains, and most are pastors. Thus, these individuals have an understanding of ministry from the books and from the “front line”; they have been in the trenches; they have put their teachings to the test; they know what it means to work with people from all walks of life. Therefore their life experiences in ministry allowed for invaluable insights in the classroom. I also appreciated the spiritual component of prayer and devotions before each class. These classroom customs spoke to my heart and informed me of the importance that NYTS placed on invoking God’s spiritual principles in the classroom and whenever we were studying.
NYTS has taught me the importance of having a sound theological foundation to the preached word.
Valerie is the 2014 recipient of the President’s Award.
Steven V. Jones, MDiv Graduate 2014
I never saw myself as a preacher. I did not think that God would use me in that capacity. I saw myself as a teacher of Sunday school or a leader of ministries in the church; but, never as a proclaimer of the Gospel. I however, was extremely interested in learning more about the Bible. I knew in my heart there was more to learn; I just had to be directed to the right place. As such, I listened to my wife and friend and took one class over the summer and I was sucked in. I could not play around the periphery; NYTS had drawn me into its womb for a 4 year gestation period. And, in the NYTS womb I received theological nutrients that brought sustenance for life and growth.
I began to grow by attending the classes that pushed me beyond anything I could have imagined. I began to not only be challenged intellectually; but, also challenged spiritually. Was the faith I was holding on to so hard really what I needed to hold onto? Was there a faith that God had specifically for me? In the classes I began to experience unexpected growth in the friendships with my peers and my professors. I actually grew in feeling more confident to express my understanding of God’s revelation. This growth occurred inside and outside of the classroom.
What will I do with this growth? I am simply to honor God, my family and NYTS in my future endeavors. First, I will honestly and earnestly approach ministry with a thought of the other. I will serve the people because the “People’s needs are Holy.” I will seek ways to give back and not just financially to NYTS. I will walk in the assurance that I am NYTS.
Steven is the 2014 recipient of the Keith A. Russell Preaching Award.
Eun Joo Park, Current MDiv Student
As a woman in my country, I planned to study theology but I could not really decide or commit to it. For a long time I engaged in Christian Education studies at a theological seminary and even worked at several institutions of education and churches. When I came to New York, suddenly God led and changed my way. In this new land I felt like I could access the kind of study that I only imagined. I thank God that I am studying in the Master of Divinity program at NYTS. Among many reasons, here I have grasped a theology which relates to global cultures and the human condition. I think this theology demonstrates how God loves the world and his people.
I often wondered why God led to me this new land, but I realize that the theological education I am receiving here is preparing me for the important tasks as I pursue a ministry that is concerned and cares for the oppressed.
Kweku Sam Kwofie, Current MDiv Student
New York Theological Seminary is a blessing from God. I was afforded the opportunity to participate in the Seminary’s work-study program alongside my academic endeavors. I received this as a privilege and it allowed me to create more intimate relationships with students and faculty members. Being in close proximity to brilliant minds and being surrounded by dynamic ministers in Christ, created an atmosphere of challenge and provided the necessary depth required for God’s personal calling on my life to be supported and strengthened. NYTS is a good fit for the spirited academic. The five boroughs of New York truly become one’s campus.
Theo Harris, MPS Graduate 2008
There is no monetary value I can place on my New York Theological Seminary education. My Masters of Professional Studies degree was earned under the most difficult conditions imaginable – behind the maximum security walls of Sing-Sing Correctional Facility. Yet, I would not trade that experience for anything in the world, because it has given me insight into not only myself, and my beliefs, but also an insight into and a profound respect for the beliefs of others. This insight serves me well in my current position as Reentry Outreach Coordinator for The Interfaith Center of New York. Yes, I am truly honored to say that I am a graduate of New York Theological Seminary’s “North”
NYTS is celebrating over 30 years of the MPS program at Sing Sing.
Marilyn Ava Jolley, MDiv Graduate 2011
To Dr. Dale Irvin: Thank you and the entire New York Theological Team for your kindness, love and encouragement while I was at New York Theological Seminary. This institution has given me the tools I need to do ministry effectively. You helped me to see the direction God was leading me. You encouraged me to drum for Justice, Jesus, and Peace. I am now an ordained Minister of First Baptist Church Of Crown Heights. God has blessed me with a ministry. This ministry is the Djembe Drum Ministry, which comprises of close to fifty children, drumming for Justice, Jesus and Peace. This ministry has played for many organizations. This year we played for the Supreme Court in Brooklyn, New York. We are drumming in nursing homes, parks, and in the Crown Heights community. For the year 2015 we hope to take our message to the schools in New York: “Take up the drums not the Gun.” This ministry is growing. I thank God for leading me to this wonderful institution, New York Theological Seminary… a place where I learned the true meaning of ministry.
Rev. Jolley was ordained on November 2, 2014.