The Quest to See How God Sees: AAEC Service Award Recipient Rev. Sabrina Slater - Princeton Theological Seminary

As the sole pastor of Christ the King Fellowship, a PC(USA) congregation in the small community of Spencer, New York, Rev. Sabrina Slater (M.Div. ’15) says her focus is on “loving God and people well and discerning how God invites us to support our community.”

Her understanding of the church is very ecumenical, she says, and her role is not confined to the local church. Case in point, she recently officiated a memorial service for one of her congregants – the last living person from a group of believers across different churches in the Spencer-Van Etten region that, over 40 years ago, created a food cupboard for those in need.

“I invited people to consider what is the bigger miracle: Jesus feeding over 5,000, or folks with faith seeing a need for food and having that continue for 42 years?” she says. Her small congregation of just over 30 people has also raised more than $10,000 for the citizens of Ukraine by putting collection jars in the community.

“It’s a great honor to serve a church that is perhaps small but also has a very big, very giving heart.”

Prior to her current role, Rev. Slater worked in higher education. Though she was surprised when she received the call to ministry, no one she told seemed taken aback. “I was the last to get the memo, but when I began “ministry”, I realized I’d been living this call all my life – I just didn’t have access to the language of it.”

Rev. Slater desires to love well and prays to have eyes that see how God sees, ears that hear what God hears, and a heart that breaks where God’s heart breaks. This deep prayer, she says, “serves us well when we see people and the world the way God does.” While we tend to see each other as we see icebergs – just the tip – God sees us in fullness, she explains. “I want to see more holistically and deeply the ways people are beautiful and how they may be struggling. I want to be where God’s heart desires healing.”

Throughout 2020, Rev. Slater was present for people who were struggling in a variety of ways, from racial injustice to lack of access to church service and losing loved ones to COVID. “I got to be a pastor in a moment in time, holding space for others while simultaneously navigating my own personhood,” she says. “There is a deep invitation in those spaces.”

After receiving the Parish Pulpit Fellowship from Princeton Seminary in 2015, Rev. Slater experienced three pilgrimages – a 30-day Ignatian silent retreat, the 500-mile walk of Saint James (Camino de Santiago) in Spain, and a foot washing in Fiji – all in the same year. “I wanted to have what I call a ‘Mary year’, sitting at the feet of Christ in a global context.”

The retreat was grounding and formative, she says, as “that space of silence allowed scripture to come alive in new and different ways,” while the Camino de Santiago showed her what is possible when people from all walks of life come together to help one another achieve a challenging goal.

Rev. Slater is taking sabbatical this year: “I’m feeling that the invitation from God is listening and delighting, for me and the church I serve,” she says. “I’m curious about how God is inviting me and the church to show up.”

She will be honored at Princeton Seminary’s Reunion 2023 as this year’s AAEC Service Award recipient.