Educated for a life of faith

The 13 United Methodist seminaries together graduate about 330 UM ordination candidates a year, as well as other graduates who plan a career in religious work. Here are capsule stories of a handful of spring 2012 graduates:

Adam Love

For the last three years, Adam Love has preached at small UM churches in Chuckey and Limestone, Tenn., on weekends, and spent Monday through Thursday at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. He put 57,000 miles on his Honda Civic, making the 600-mile round trip each week. In Atlanta, he stayed in a rented room. Meanwhile, his wife, Bobbi, held the fort and served as family breadwinner back in Tennessee.

Oh, and they had a daughter, Madeleine, in the midst of all this.

Mr. Love graduated May 14 with a master of divinity degree, earning Candler’s Hoyt Hickman Award for the senior who contributed most to the school’s worship life through liturgical leadership and pastoral care. He’ll continue in the Holston Conference, serving the same two churches, and one more down the road.

“I’ll have a three-point charge,” he said.

Mr. Love felt the call to ministry in high school, but was burned out after serving as a part-time pastor through his years at Tennessee Wesleyan College. He spent seven years working with mentally retarded adults. When he felt the tug toward ministry again, his wife, a fellow social worker, agreed he should go to Candler.

“There were times when it was overwhelming and I wanted to stop, but we made a covenant that we were going to do this, and we both kept up our end,” he said. 

Sarah Howell

Sarah Howell liked being a preacher’s kid, and soon she’ll be a preacher herself. Ms. Howell, 25 and the daughter of the Rev. James Howell—pastor of Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, N.C.—recently graduated from Duke Divinity with an M.Div.

She’s anticipating an appointment to a church in the Western North Carolina Conference.

“I know what I’m getting into,” said Ms. Howell, a co-winner, with Stephanie Sarah Gehring, of the Seminarian Award of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. “I feel like that’s an advantage.”

Ms. Howell is both an avid student of the Old Testament and a popular blogger. One post of hers that ran as a column in the Reporter, titled “We need call to holiness more than Call to Action,” received more than 600 Facebook shares.

Says her father: “Her theological maturity and depth are light years beyond where I was exiting seminary.”

Meredith McDougle

Meredith McDougle has already been working with 15 West Ohio Conference congregations on immigration issues, and she’ll keep doing so as a new master of divinity graduate of Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

“I’ll be working with [West Ohio] Conference staff, to coordinate the Immigrant Welcoming Congregations effort,” she said.

Ms. McDougle, 29, recently won MTSO’s C. Everett and Mary Milburn Tilson Social Justice Grant, given to a senior with a demonstrated commitment to social justice. The grant will support her work with churches and immigration issues.

Ms. McDougle credits study trips to Ecuador, South Africa and Namibia with helping steer her to seminary and social justice work.

“I’ve always been someone who wanted to live out my faith in my daily life,” she said.

Roberta Sonsaray White

It took eight years, but Roberta Sonsaray White is now the proud recipient of an M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

For five years, Ms. White worked full time as a schoolteacher while attending classes at night. When her car “konked out,” Ms. White had to rely on public transportation. That meant getting home at midnight and rising again at 5:30 the next morning for work.

At times, she heard herself praying, “Lord, I don’t know if I can do this.” But encouragement from mentors kept her motivated, and a scholarship allowed her to attend full time for the last three years.

Overcoming obstacles is nothing new for Ms. White—her parents both died of cancer when she was young, and while attending seminary, her brother and her nephew were both shot and gravely injured in separate incidents.

Faith kept her going. “I really had to go before God naked and unashamed with questions, tears, fears, yet trust,” she said. She’ll be serving as a chaplain at Georgetown University Hospital and will pursue ordination.

Ruth Marston, 26, is a newly-minted M.Div. graduate from Claremont School of Theology, and will soon be commissioned as a provisional elder in the UMC. She’s to work on a church start for young people in the Pacific Northwest Conference’s Tacoma District. (Details have yet to be announced.)

Ms. Marston first felt a call to ministry at age 13, but fought it off until she arrived at the University of Puget Sound. Her pastor knew the chaplain, and the chaplain took her under his wing. Soon she was involved in a Bible study, in attending and eventually helping to run a weekly chapel service, and in serving as a Christian representative to the campus’s gay-straight alliance.

“The more time I gave, the more passionate and committed I became,” she said.

Ms. Marston chose Claremont because of its emphasis on doing Christian ministry in a religiously pluralistic society. In her final year, she helped run a fair trade coffee house, a “hang out place for young adults.”

“We’d end up talking about Jesus a lot in public, which isn’t done that much on the West Coast,” she said.

Cecelia and Stephen Granadosin

Prayer led Cecelia and Stephen Granadosin to Garrett-Evangelical Theological School in Evanston, Ill., and prayer helped them thrive as midlife students.

The couple had been active in Beacon United Methodist Church in Seattle, but years of prayerful discernment eventually convinced Stephen, 50, and then Cecelia, 48, to answer the call to ordained ministry.

“For a full year, I was in deep conversation with God—mostly arguments,” said Ms. Granadosin. They chose Garrett, the school where Stephen’s father, the late Bishop Paul Locke Granadosin, graduated in 1968. (He served as a bishop in the Philippines for 27 years.)

At Garrett, the couple started “Let Us Pray,” a prayer covenant group which continues to grow; the group helped organize an interfaith prayer rally that included Muslim students from Northwestern University. The Granadosins also collected thousands of used textbooks from fellow students to send to theology schools in the Philippines.

Honored with the 2012 Edsel Ammons Award for Leadership in Racial Justice and Understanding, the couple graduated on May 12 with M.Div. degrees. Having completed part-time assignments at nearby churches while in seminary, the Granadosins are now considering options for serving local churches in Illinois.


—Compiled by Sam Hodges, Mary Jacobs

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