(pictured left to right) Friends Jill Aylard Young ’08, Anna Whitehead Kent ’08, Molly Collins Phelps ’07, Helen Harrison Coker ’06, Jana Reister ’06, Emily Krause Corzine ’08, and Christi Owen Brown ’08 pictured in the Women in Ministry room during their recent “reunion” on campus (not pictured: Penny Parsons Hogan ’10, Sabrina Vasta, and Inger Parker ’07)
“The call was always there for me—it just took a while for me to embrace it,” said Aylard Young, Protestant campus minister at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.
Krause Corzine, who is associate minister at the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, agreed, “I always felt like there was something else for me, but I didn’t know what that was until I attended seminary.”
One by one, each of these women left their jobs and made their way to Princeton Seminary, where they met and soon became close friends. As neighbors in the Witherspoon Apartments they formed a close bond and became a source of support for each other, which helped to ease the transition from a career to seminary.
Reflecting on her decision, Collins Phelps, who is active in children’s ministry at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, said it was a life-changing decision. “I met lifelong friends, expanded my intellectual and spiritual depth, and gained a deeper understanding of the grace and mystery of Christ’s presence.”
Although these alumnae initially struggled to embrace the path to seminary, they agree that they are now doing exactly what they are called to do. At Princeton Seminary they were equipped to think theologically, pushed to discover their passions, and encouraged to grow in a diverse community.
“I came to seminary not sure what I should be doing or even sure that women should be ordained,” said Coker, associate pastor, Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church, Lexington, South Carolina. “It was very transformational for me to attend Princeton Seminary, accept my gifts, and have them confirmed. I realized that ministry is for me.”
Reister, associate pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, added, “During my first few years as a pastor, I realized I was finally doing what I was called to do.”
Owen Brown, pastoral associate at the First Presbyterian Church Spartanburg, South Carolina, said, “Every day in large and small ways I have the privilege to go deeper with my parishioners and help them embrace Christ’s love and call in their own lives.”
Now scattered across the country—from Pennsylvania to Alabama—these alumnae still make it a point to meet every other year.
“These friendships remind me of the broad spectrum of ministry and how God has uniquely called each one of us to serve. The friends I made in seminary continue to ground me and support me in the various challenges of life and ministry,” said Krause Corzine. “Seminary was the continual journey of self-awareness and discovering the ways God moves in the world.”
“We’ve shared pieces of our lives together and that history and those experiences help ensure that I stay healthy as a pastor and church leader,” said Whitehead Kent, who serves as the director of mission affinity groups for A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
“These women are my sacred soul sisters with whom I can lean on, celebrate with, and journey alongside as we seek to follow Jesus and serve him and his church.”
Since their time at seminary, these alumnae have experienced major life changes—marriages, illnesses, deaths, the births of their children, and moves across the country, but their friendships and Princeton Seminary bond remains strong.
“In the face of doubt and fear that arises from time to time, my seminary experience continues to encourage me and reminds me that God is faithful,” said Reister.