Snapshots of Student Life

Being Called

Small Image Ellen Williams

For three years after college, I worked in campus ministry at my alma mater. In the middle of my third year, I realized that I was miserable. I was lonely; I felt underprepared for the work; I was being squeezed into theological boxes I didn’t fit in; I had no future in the organization. I started to wonder if I had somehow misinterpreted the call to ministry I felt in college—and that my faith community had encouraged me to pursue. Or maybe God had called me to vocational ministry for a season, to show me that it wasn’t the way for my life? I struggled with all kinds of doubt.

I started looking into getting a full time job at the library where I worked part time. My boss said he’d love to hire me on, but that I shouldn’t count on him being able to come up with the money to make me full time. Meanwhile, one of my fellow campus ministers, a recent PTS alum, started bugging me to go to seminary. There’s so much to learn. There’s a wide theological world out there. Somewhere that feels more like home. I started cobbling together an application to PTS, mostly as a backup plan.

I yearned for a supportive learning community. Maybe God was still calling me to ministry.

But the more time I spent on my application, the more excited I became at the prospect of getting a theological education. I had so many questions I wanted to explore! I’d always wanted to be able to read the Bible in its original languages. I yearned for a supportive learning community. Maybe God was still calling me to ministry.

I finally finished my application, the day before the final deadline to apply for an MDiv (please don’t do this). Just a week later, I learned that I’d been accepted. I was at work at the library when I got that fateful email. I couldn’t wait to tell my boss. I couldn’t wait to tell my pastor. I couldn’t wait to tell my MOM! I was surprised by my own elation. I wondered what God was telling me, what my heart was telling my brain.

A couple weeks later, I came to PTS for a visit. It was a Thursday. Thursdays used to be choir days in chapel. For the anthem on that Thursday, the choir sang the most beautiful version of the hymn “Come, Labor On” that I have ever heard. This hymn has a special place in my heart—I’ve sung it every summer for years on my church’s annual service trip. “Come, labor on,” goes the second verse, “away with gloomy doubt and faithless fear; no arm so weak but may do service here. And to each servant does the master say: go work today!” I broke down in tears. It seemed as though God was speaking directly to me. Put aside your doubts and fears and come see what work I have for you in these fields.

So I came to Princeton. I came not exactly sure what I was being called to, just that I was being called. Many of us at Princeton have similar stories—wanting to jump into seminary education, but not sure to what end. But we come trusting that as God has been faithful, God will be faithful. As one of my classmates put it: while we may not be able to see the whole path ahead, we trust God to lead us to the next light switch. Wherever you are on your journey, may God illumine your way.

—Ellen Williams, MDiv ’17

Want to talk with a current student to learn more about their experience at Princeton Seminary? Schedule a conversation online, attend an upcoming admissions event, or email us at admissions@ptsem.edu! We look forward to hearing from you!

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Kathleen M. O’Connor, Class of 1984

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