MDiv candidate Peter Manning’s journey to seminary is an interesting one.
Prior to attending Princeton Theological Seminary, Manning had a few show-stopping careers. First, he worked at not-for-profit theaters in New York City producing plays. Eventually, he had the opportunity to run his own theater, New York Stage and Film, where he selected plays and coordinated productions featuring large casts and crews. One of his productions, a play called Side Man, won a Tony Award.
Manning decided to leave the theater after he and his husband adopted their daughter at birth. He describes raising and caring for her as his primary, most important work of the past 22 years. While she was still young, Manning enrolled at Columbia University and earned a degree in architecture. Then, while managing full-time parenthood and working in real estate development, Manning had a bright idea for a new business. Witnessing a need, he started a clothing company for short men out of his house. After years of growth, he stepped aside from the brand that bears his name to explore a call to ministry.
“The call to ministry had been nipping at my heels for a long time,” says Manning. He grew up with an abundant faith life, and became a Presbyterian as an adult to give his daughter the same opportunity. He quickly became involved in the church community at The Brick Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, where he helped start a youth ministry. It was this work, he says, that made him realize God was calling him to do something more. Princeton Seminary was the only seminary he considered — all the pastors he worked with at his church are alumni.
Now in his second year, Manning recounts unexpected, life-changing encounters at seminary. “My experience at Princeton Seminary has been beyond my wildest expectations. What I have learned and who I have come to know has changed the course of my life.” He feels blessed to learn from amazing scholars who challenge him and says that his time here “has been for me like drinking from a theological fire hose!” Prior to attending Princeton Seminary, Manning had little experience doing theology and biblical studies. He credits extraordinary professors like Elsie McKee, Dennis Olson, Paul Rorem, Dirk Smit, Eric Barreto, Heath Carter, and Hanna Reichel for helping him “get up to speed” on theological matters.
Manning expresses a feeling of belonging here at Princeton Seminary while in the process of discernment. “I feel very much that I am where I am supposed to be and my time here is for me to discover where God is calling me.” He believes that part of discerning this call occurs among fellow students, in class and in everyday life, and with faculty and staff. Manning acknowledges that he doesn’t know fully what is next, but he is freed by the notion that God knows. Faithfully, he says, “I am not nervous at all about that uncertainty. Whatever it is, I trust I will be ready.”