Summer/Fall 2002
Volume 7 Number 1
 

 

 

 

 

 

A Clear Connection  Come To Uganda


by Erika Marksbury

G azing out the window, Jane Ward, a little embarrassed at her own excitement, says, “I look up at the trees when they don’t have their leaves on them, and they remind me of the neuronal network. I still have a weakness for neuroscience, like when the Learning Channel airs specials….”

Not many of her fellow students share this passion, but the brain is full of connections. And connections make Ward, who will be a senior at PTS in the fall, smile.

She was frustrated with the community of Christian students she knew during her undergraduate work at Kenyon College in Ohio (where she originally went to study with an Alzheimer’s researcher, before double majoring in psychology and economics), particularly because connecting with them was a struggle. “They were a very closed community,” she remembers. After she found a way in, through a friend, other people began approaching her with similar frustrations about that community. They, too, wanted to be involved; they, too, felt unwelcome.

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Talking with these people about her faith, which had always been private, surprised and overwhelmed Ward at first: “Suddenly God was calling me to speak. I felt like Jeremiah, when he says, ‘If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I cannot hold it in….’”

She had been meeting with counselors and social workers, asking them for career guidance as her college graduation drew near, but the combination of being vocal about her faith for the first time and desiring that everyone could be included in the Christian community changed her direction. She began, almost literally, chasing down pastors—laughing, she remembers approaching anyone in a clerical collar, be it on the street, in an airport, or around town. In six months, she had elicited the call stories of more than 40 pastors. When her mentor, the pastor of the church she attended while at Kenyon, heard what she’d been up to, he recommended seminary.

The day Ward was supposed to mail her application to PTS, her grandfather died. Ward held the papers in her hand at the funeral home a few days later, half-heartedly waiting for Federal Express to pick them up. She told her father, “I don’t think I should do this. We need to concentrate on what’s happening here.” But despite her doubts, and with her father’s reassurance, she reluctantly sent her application. It arrived in Princeton six days late; she was awarded a fellowship. Her aunt would later tell her that on her grandfather’s deathbed, he (a Catholic!) said, “You make sure Jane becomes that pastor.”

And as through one tragedy Ward was encouraged to come to Princeton, it was through another that her ministry has been tested. Her definition of pastoring, shaped by those who have pastored her, is “helping people connect with God, helping them know the presence of God in their lives.” She was called to practice this recently as she and her field education church mourned the death of their pastor’s wife, who had long fought cancer.

This time of collective sadness allowed Ward to give back some of the generous love the congregation has shown her since her field education placement began last fall. “I know there are some things that I’m not qualified to do yet,” she says, “but this situation gave me the opportunity to be a pastor to the pastor, and to be a presence of love and care for a congregation that was unable to have their pastor with them, for good reason. I told them from the pulpit [the Sunday following the pastor’s wife’s death], ‘I can’t be the official pastor, but I can walk with you in your grief and point you to Christ, in whom there is the hope of the resurrection.’”

Ward wants more preparation before she becomes anyone’s “official” pastor. She may pursue a master’s degree in family therapy or earn her license as a counselor; she hopes gaining those practical skills will better equip her for Christian counseling both inside and outside the church. She says, “I think people forget that God wants to listen to them, because people don’t really take the time to listen to each other, to be an enfleshment of Jesus for one another.” And because people, namely her parents, grandparents, and brother, have been that for her throughout her life, she’d like to be that for others.

Not long after arriving on campus for last summer’s Greek session, Ward met David Carlton, then an M.Div. senior. He first became her tennis doubles partner and later her fiancé. The two are excited about the call to ministry they feel together. “Our discussions are constantly about the church and how we would approach situations there,” says Ward. “It’s the most amazing gift to be able to share God’s call.”

Ward and Carlton share a desire “to be a part of that body of Christ that yearns to serve and love God and neighbor as faithfully as possible.” They eagerly anticipate the day they will together share this call with a church.


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