Following the Call
For most students, seminary is a season of discernment—and the year(s) leading up to seminary, even more so. Students at Princeton Theological Seminary come here on many different paths—seeking ordination, a PhD, or a nonprofit career; straight out of college, or second or third career; backgrounds in theology, business, social work, music, and more. If you feel confident that you belong in seminary, that’s great —and we hope you’ll come and visit! If you feel led to seminary but you aren’t sure why, or you’re afraid that you’ll have to bring a dictionary to your first theology class, you’re not alone. My tradition doesn’t require ordination, so I came to PTS simply because I wanted to go deeper in my theological education; I had no particular focus or goals. Halfway through, however, it occurred to me that I knew exactly what I wanted to study, and that a PhD would be the next step for me. Other students have similar stories of their career goals being sharpened, redefined, or upended entirely. So I’ve compiled a few other students’ call stories as a way to encourage you to continue following the call, even when you’re not yet sure where it leads. Welcome to the journey!
—Lauren Calvin Cooke, MDiv ’17
Seminary was never on my list of things I wanted to do...
Seminary was never on my list of things I wanted to do but I had an academic mentor who really challenged me and encouraged me. He was able to introduce and present new views in a non-threatening way. I saw this as a need in Christian higher education, especially amongst my peers, and with the encouragement of my mentor I decided to pursue an MDiv.
—Alyssa McKnight, MDiv ’17
Prior to seminary, I spent over 30 years in academic veterinary medicine.
Prior to seminary, I spent over 30 years in academic veterinary medicine. I taught pharmacology and anesthesiology and did research in molecular neuroscience. I became interested in the dialogue between science and religion, and felt called to train for a ministry that helps break down the barriers between science and faith.
—Bill Horne, MDiv ’18
My intention and desire has always been to combine business field proficiencies with the faith sector...
My intention and desire has always been to combine business field proficiencies with the faith sector in order to create healthy environments for thriving congregations. Upon completing my MBA, I was employed as a marketing manager in a corporate setting, while serving as a youth pastor of a local church. Now, my aspiration is to further my theological education and training, allowing me to gain the necessary qualifications that would further me towards my aforementioned objective.
—Sunil Persad, MDiv ’19
As I went into my junior year of undergrad, I started seriously thinking about what path to pursue after graduation...
As I went into my junior year of undergrad, I started seriously thinking about what path to pursue after graduation whether to go into full-time ministry with international university students or whether to pursue an academic teaching route. After lots of prayer, conversations with professors and ministry mentors, and exploring organizations, I decided to apply to graduate school and see what happened. God had been closing different ministry doors, and God seemed to be opening doors for further study, so although I wasn’t yet completely sure if God had academia in my future, I wanted to pursue it as long as the doors kept opening.
—Emily Chesley, MDiv ’17
From a young age, I felt called to pastoral ministry in the church.
From a young age, I felt called to pastoral ministry in the church. I planned to get a bachelor’s degree in Bible and then begin serving as a full-time pastor. After I finished my undergraduate degree, many of my professors encouraged me to pursue further theological education and training. At first I thought that seminary would be too expensive, but PTS’s generous financial aid has allowed me to continue my education with minimal loan debt.
—John Paul Cooke, MDiv ’17
What led me to seminary was my passion for theology and the study of the Bible
What led me to seminary was my passion for theology and the study of the Bible. Before seminary I was studying Theology as my undergraduate program, and wanted to learn more. Being raised locally as a Presbyterian, I saw PTS as the best option denominationally, but also academically, as it has made a name for itself concerning academic rigor.
—Taylor Mills, MDiv ’17
I came to seminary after a number of years working in business...
I came to seminary after a number of years working in business most recently in London, where I specialized in the management of significant infrastructure / transportation projects. While I enjoyed what I was doing, I had a sense that God was calling me towards the ministry. In an effort to “test” this sense of call I began to do some work as a hospital chaplain and with a ministry that served the urban homeless. While the work was physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging, I also knew that it was exactly where I was supposed to be. With this deeper sense of understanding how God was working in my life, I decided to pursue a formal seminary education, and I am very happy that I did!
—Ian Clark, MDiv ’18
Four years ago I was a personal trainer for a Harvard researcher when she received a cancer diagnosis
Four years ago I was a personal trainer for a Harvard researcher when she received a cancer diagnosis. We spent the next 8 months in life-transforming conversation. After officiating her funeral, I knew it was time to rack up the dumbbells and bring out my Bible for a season of deeper reflection. After 25 years in the health and fitness industry my heart was craving to focus on faith and its impact on wellness.
—Cindy Wilcox, MDiv ’18
I knew I could couple my interest in Psychology and counseling in a pastoral role
My enthusiasm for serving on my undergraduate institution's student congregation council is what led me to pursue my affinity for ministry in seminary. I also knew I could couple my interest in Psychology, which I majored in, and counseling in a pastoral role. As such, I am doing an MDiv immediately after graduating from St. Olaf College with hopes of becoming a Lutheran pastor.
—Henry Burt, MDiv ’19