Seminary-bound students get support at Hendrix

Karyn Kuan was considering two colleges—and two different career paths— as high school graduation approached.

Either she’d enter a pre-med program at the University of Washington, or she’d explore the possibility of going into the ministry at United Methodist-related Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.

Ms. Kuan, 21, a lifelong member of First UMC in Seattle, opted for Hendrix—in part because of the ways the school supports students who are “seminary bound.”

“I was really impressed by all the programming they have for students who are interested in ministry,” she said. “It played a huge part in my decision to come here.”

Karyn Kuan, a Hendrix College senior, participated in a mission trip to South Africa. Mission trips are one of many ways that Hendrix supports and encourages students who are considering seminary. PHOTO COURTESY OF HENDRIX COLLEGE

Ms. Kuan took advantage of much of that programming; now she’s a senior at Hendrix. After taking next year as a “gap” year for reflection and study, she plans to attend seminary and enter the candidacy process to become a United Methodist elder. Boston University’s School of Theology is at the top of her list.

Exploring the call

Hendrix encourages students who are called to the ministry in a number of ways, including providing travel funds that help pay for trips to visit seminaries. Six to 10 Hendrix students take advantage of these grants each year. Ms. Kuan visited Boston University and Garrett-Evangelical while at Hendrix.

Hendrix also supports and encourages a group of 10 to 15 students who meet each week to discern their call to the ministry. Dubbed “EMT” (Exploring Ministry Together), the Hendrix-sponsored gatherings give students a glimpse of life in ministry and a way to grow spiritually.

“Sometimes we talk theology, and sometimes we might lead them through an aspect of the nuts and bolts of ministry, like preparing a sermon or making a hospital visit,” said the Rev. J.J. Whitney, associate chaplain at Hendrix and a 1996 graduate. “Being in a group of peers who are asking the same questions can be encouraging as these students consider ministry as their life’s work.”

Ms. Whitney adds that Hendrix faculty also serve as “candidacy mentors,” helping guide students who want to begin the path to ordination.

Although Ms. Kuan wasn’t able to swing it, Hendrix also offers “seminary semester” for students who want to enroll in a semester of seminary, and the courses will count toward the Hendrix degree. The College has a cooperative agreement with Duke Divinity School, Perkins School of Theology and Boston University.

Ms. Kuan says that in addition to the targeted programs, the “general atmosphere” at Hendrix helped along in her preparation for seminary. She had the opportunity to help plan worship services, as Hendrix’s chapel coordinator, and joined a Hendrix-sponsored mission trip last summer to South Africa.

Steady increase

Not surprisingly, Hendrix has seen a steady increase in the number of graduates enrolling in seminary over the past decade.

Thirty-two Hendrix graduates have enrolled in seminary since 2002 and half of those are attending United Methodist seminaries. Twelve are currently in seminary and 20 more are expected to enroll in the next four years, including seven who received their degrees in May 2012.

Seven members of the Class of 2012 are attending seminary, including three United Methodists: Colin Bagby, an English major from Russellville, Ark., now at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University; Paul Richards, a religion major from Houston, Texas, who’s at Duke Divinity; and Allison Sauls, an interdisciplinary studies major from Shreveport, La., who also is attending Candler.

“I am not aware of another United Methodist college with a larger number of its graduates working toward divinity degrees,” said the Rev. J. Wayne Clark, Hendrix’s chaplain and a 1984 graduate. “I am grateful that we are able to help bring so many talented young people into God’s service.”

Mary Jacobs

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