Prior to attending Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), Sheena Rolle worked throughout Florida as a community organizer, motivated as a person of faith to help others. While she and her fellow organizers fought on a political level for the disenfranchised, Sheena noticed they were not tending to the wellness of the people. She wanted to find a way to balance healing and justice. While she felt a call to ministry, she wasn’t positive that going back to school was the way to achieve this goal.
Then she met a PTS student at a faith and social justice conference who invited her to a L.I.V.E. symposium in February 2015. Based on that L.I.V.E. experience, Sheena knew she wanted to attend PTS.
“I didn’t have a lot of guidance in college on how to be ‘successful,’ but here I was able to form bonds with faculty. I could bounce ideas off of them, get insights and learn what they did in the world outside the classroom and how that could inform what I might be doing.”
“I saw people fully integrating theology with social justice and the practical things the church can do to improve lives, and thought this is something I can do,” she says. “It also helped me see myself as a person of color on campus.”
Once she began seminary at PTS, Sheena found that she was able to apply her community organizing skills to her ministry, from creating a Bible study series on social justice to drawing from her public speaking experience when preaching.
“PTS is a place that welcomes diverse experiences and perspectives,” she says. “While the thing that you’re seeking may not be evident at first, there is space and support here for you to create it if you take the initiative.”
Sheena also credits her relationships with PTS faculty and students in helping her become a better minister, particularly given that she had no previous practical ministry experience.
“I didn’t have a lot of guidance in college on how to be ‘successful,’ but here I was able to form bonds with faculty,” she says. “I could bounce ideas off of them, get insights and learn what they did in the world outside the classroom and how that could inform what I might be doing.”
As for her fellow students, “I feel like the admissions committee did spiritual work” in curating her class, she says. “Having so many active ministers with a breadth of experience and dogged commitment to the work of the church helped me claim my role as minister.”
Sheena’s long-term plan is to build a community healing center in Florida to address family, communal and social justice issues. She’ll be traveling to Ghana after graduation to study a women’s group that she learned about in class called “The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.” The group shares their stories to help each other heal and to identify social issues in the local community. Sheena hopes to gain insights from the group that she can apply here at home.
PTS has prepared her well for her new journey, Sheena says, particularly in terms of compassionate communications. “My time here has helped me improve at communicating clearly in stating my needs and negotiating for others with integrity, caring and good intent.”