If you thought that Pittsburgh Seminary prepares people for a one-size-fits all kind of ministry, think again. And take a few minutes to read about two of our most recently named Distinguished Alumnae/i who have provided pastoral leadership in widely diverging contexts—one mostly from the pulpit, the other mostly in prison.
PTS Board Member Emeritus the Rev. Dr. William N. Jackson ’61—this year’s Distinguished Alumnus in Pastoral Ministry—served traditionally, in Presbyterian churches in three States over a more than 40-year ministerial career prior to his “retirement” in 2003. But since then he has filled a total of nine interim pastorates, including those in leading churches such as Shadyside and Sewickley PCs in the Pittsburgh area. And his strong support of Christian mission has taken shape in far-reaching ministries involving interracial and interfaith programs, as well as ministries to the homeless and disenfranchised.
As though his dedicated service to and through individual churches weren’t enough, however, Bill has also served in other ministerial roles as dean of chapel at Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pa.) and as director of the Chautauqua Institution’s department of religion in New York—not to mention his leadership on the board of the Institution’s Presbyterian House, his sharing of his musical gifts as a member of Chautauqua’s two choirs and in composing children’s anthems and songs, and his authorship of two church-related books. And did we mention that he’s been a frequently speaker at colleges, youth conferences, and retreats? No wonder Westminster and Houghton colleges have recognized Bill with honorary doctorates.
The pastoral path of the Rev. Tami Hooker ’02—Distinguished Alumna in Specialized Ministry—has taken a non-traditional form, however. Tami directs the Chaplaincy Program at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, where she serves as pastor to incarcerated men. And like Bill Jackson, she also provides leadership outside her primary call—as (past) president of the Pennsylvania Prison Chaplains Association and, since early 2016, as part-time pastor at the city’s Presbyterian Church of Mt. Washington.
Tami prepared for her non-traditional call through PTS’s dual-degree M.Div./M.S.W. program with the University of Pittsburgh. Outside the seminary classroom she prepared through internships for Prison Fellowship Ministries, The Program for Female Offenders, and Sexual Assault Services. She served as a theological delegate to the 2000 PC (U.S.A.) General Assembly and on a task force that wrote the denomination’s position on private prisons. She helped develop and implement a pre-release program called HOPE, still in operation at the Allegheny County Jail. And she served on the Strategic Aftercare Committee for Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Then, soon after graduation, Tami became Protestant chaplain at SCI-Pittsburgh. Her ministry there was so valued that, when the facility closed temporarily, she was promoted and transferred to SCI-Greene in Waynesburg, Pa. Upon SCI-Pittsburgh’s reopening two years later, Tami was invited to return, and in that same year she received The Pennsylvania Department Of Corrections Outstanding Performance Award.
Two representative PTS alums—outstanding? Distinguished? Absolutely. But both Bill and Tami give all the credit for their ministerial “success” to God’s work in and through them as they continue to respond gratefully to the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And lots of thanks to PTS for preparing them well.