Not everyone comes to seminary straight out of college. Many students feel a call to ministry after years working in other careers. Callie Crowder, MDiv/MACEF ’19, reflects on her experience answering a call to ministry in the midst of her third career.
Everybody thought I was crazy but as crazy as it was, I really knew I was following God and this was something that was bigger than me.
I had actually received a call to ministry several years before I answered it. I was one of those people they say run from the call. So when I decided to come to this area, I came for my mother. My mother is aging and there’s no one except me, her only child, and while she was in reasonable health I felt very compelled to move, so I sold my house and got out of a lease I had just signed for office space and did all this stuff. Everybody thought I was crazy but as crazy as it was, I really knew I was following God and this was something that was bigger than me. I eventually attended one of the L.I.V.E. symposiums in March of 2015, and by then we had like a week to turn the application around, but after attending the symposium, I knew these were my people. The L.I.V.E. Symposium really opened up my world and my ideas and it was an encouragement to me. It changed the misconceptions that I had about seminary, though I was still very challenged at the thought of it because I had an accounting practice and two teenage sons. I’ll never forget Victor Aloyo said to me, “You know, you will be surprised at the grace that will come your way in this program. Just move forward and allow God to move.” And I am paraphrasing, but I was encouraged by that. I am in this full-time program and I was able to keep my practice going and it is truly miraculous. It is a testament to God’s grace and while certainly I have worked hard to keep up and keep pace, I have exceeded my expectations and I feel that God’s grace exceeded my expectations, and I’m still here!
I come from a bottom line industry where I was practicing, solving problems and keeping things under wraps and to myself, and then I came to this world of expression, so I had to grow in that. I’m an outgoing person, I love people, and I love to interact, but this was a whole new language and new world that I was opened up to—this world of seminary and theology. So I talked to my preceptors, my teaching assistants. I think I had a lot of support, and a lot of people who made me feel that I had a voice, and even when I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute.
Accounting is black and white, you know the theory is there, and there isn’t a lot of gray. Even coming here, I didn’t see my faith and theology as gray at all, but when you are in a place where you are exposed to other people's theologies, and their beliefs are very different from yours, the gray is there—and you appreciate the gray because you see that there is value and you learn to appreciate everybody. So I really do feel blessed to be here.
How can I take what we’re learning here and apply it to make a difference in the world?
At my age and in my third career, I felt it was strange to be in this position, having spent so much of my life developing an expertise to then come somewhere else and kind of be useless. But there is a huge part that isn’t useless and never was: my faith and my journey, and that’s what I share. I always want to take us out of the books and into the world, so that’s something else that I bring to this space and into my classrooms. I ask myself, “How can I take what we’re learning here and apply it to make a difference in the world?”
Although I’m in my third year, I’ve signed up for the dual program with the Mission and Evangelism track. I do feel shaped for being outside the church because of my ability to connect with people and my strong desire to do so. I think that’s something God has given me. I think we need to be outside the church and find ways of reaching people and helping them. I just want to help be a part of drawing people to Christ and Christianity and salvation. I feel like I’m on this journey, and while it’s a bit radical, certainly at my age to be a mother with a son in college and one in high school, for me to say I don't know what I’m going to be doing when I leave here, it’s radical. But I’m fine with it. It makes other people nervous, but I’m not so nervous because I have every confidence in the process. I trust the process that I’m in with God and I know God to be faithful, so I’m rather expectant, but I just don’t know what to expect.
When I arrived at Princeton Theological Seminary, I think I was surprised at the viewpoints. I think I had a very narrow view before coming to seminary, and then I was met with information I never had access to. I began asking questions I had never asked before. So when I came to seminary I was met with a deconstruction almost. I think that’s what my first year was about, just sifting through things, my thoughts and beliefs about God, and my faith, and just revisiting my past—a lot of purposeful reflection in the midst of academic rigor. Because of that deconstruction, it has cemented my relationship with God, not that I thought it was ever in a fragile state or at risk, but it’s given me even more voice and framework and understanding for that relationship. This experience has made me a better minister, because I think that now I know that these perspectives are out there if I encounter them. I may not have the answer, but I have my answer. I can share more of myself and I feel comfortable speaking to a host of things as it pertains to my relationship with God. I know God to be more faithful than ever. I think this place has shown me to expect challenges along the way, but also to recognize that God is going to be with me throughout all of the challenges that lie ahead.
Seminary has equipped me. The challenge in ministry will be to effectively utilize the equipping I’ve received. I think I’ve been poured into by some of the best thinkers and teachers and challenged by these people to do something with it. The Lord brought me here for a reason. So I think it’s a “yet to be seen” how I’ll utilize what I’ve gotten here, but I think it’s an equipping and I think that it helps to make us relevant.
One thing that I really enjoy about Seminary is our instruction in context and understanding context, and that’s important for ministry. I think that I’m being trained to examine a context and then almost go in and scope a situation or scenario and decide how will I tackle it. I think that it’s grown me in so many ways, and it’s shaped me to think about how best to serve. Don’t think that you know how to do it. We probably need to pull something else out; the old is likely not going to work. There is great foundation, but I think it's shaped me to be a better responder to the world.
—Callie Crowder, MDiv/MACEF ’19
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