Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

2/2 2012

“Who is on your Balcony?” Reflections from a D.Min. student


In a recent sermon, the Rev. Dr. J. Thomas Kort of Charlotte, NC, challenged me with Carlyle Marney’s famous homiletical inquiry: “Who is on your Balcony?” The folks in the balcony of our lives are the people who have mentored us, encouraged us, and whose faithful witness of a life lived in Jesus Christ have inspired us to this day. The author of the book of Hebrews calls it the “great cloud of witnesses.” Perhaps your church celebrates these men and women of faith on All Saints Day.

As a student in the Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry degree program, I have discovered that my personal balcony is quickly expanding. Along with the names of family, friends and pastoral mentors seated there, I now have the privilege of adding the names and faces of the members of my D.Min. co-hort group. A group of wise men and women in their own right, their commitment to a life lived in Christ inspires me as we ask questions, learn and laugh together. Along with this group of saints I must also add the names of my professors, who make learning a joyful spiritual discipline itself, and who do not hesitate to share with us their own stories of life lived in Christ. Finally, the newest members of my balcony just took their seats within the last month, as a result of the assigned readings for my Reformed Christian Spirituality focus; Julian of Norwich, Miester Eckhart, and the Beguines. Things are getting crowded in the balcony, and I still have many books to read, questions to ask, and professors to meet.  I may have to put out more chairs….

Catherine, Master of Divinity graduate and D.Min. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


1/5 2012

Alum Rebecca Jones Bridges the Word and the World in Zambia

Recently Pittsburgh Theological Seminary alum Rebecca Jones ’11 received The Phillips Talbot Global Ministry Fellowship, awarded by Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (New York City). She was selected from a national pool of PC(USA) students nominated by their seminaries for the award. This highly competitive fellowship funds a two-year program of ministry that includes a year-long immersion experience in the dynamics of the Christian church in the “Global South.”

After ordination and a summer-long orientation in the U.S., Rebecca moved to Kitwe, Zambia, to work as an intern with Theological Education by Extension Zambia. Throughout Africa, the Church is experiencing such growth that the demand for ordained leadership cannot be met. With TEEZ, she is helping to  train lay leaders, teachers, and preachers through classes on Scripture, theology, and skills for ministry in an effort to address the leadership shortage in Zambia. When she returns, she will put her experiences to work as a staff member of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church for six months before pursuing her next call to ministry.

Please visit the Rev. Rebecca Jones’ Blog to get a glimpse of how she bridges the Word and the world in Zambia.


12/1 2011

Preach Like a Girl!

When I arrived at PTS, like many of my peers, I was questioning my call to ministry. After all, I didn’t really have any pastor role models who were female. So what made me think that I could, or should, feel that I was called to pastoral ministry?

Thankfully, I have had some wonderfully affirming experiences at PTS! The homiletics course called Women’s Preaching Traditions as well as my most recent experience helping to lead worship with an all women chapel team, are two of these experiences.

The Women’s Preaching Traditions class gave me the opportunity to realize that women had a history of responding to their call to bring forth the message of Jesus Christ throughout history, not just recently. My classmates and I saw that women were able to speak with authority because their message delivered the Gospel in a way that it could be heard by marginalized groups, by those who needed to hear the message in a different light, or by those who understood that the messenger was not the message. We wrestled through “Texts of Terror” passages from Scripture where women were shown to be victims of terror. We contemplated how these messages could speak to current situations, and we noted important differences that women bring to the delivery of these messages. I particularly loved the camaraderie that was evident in this class. We had a running phrase “Preach like a girl” which captured the heart of what we were learning and also empowered us in owning our pastoral identities as women.

Working with ordained female pastors (the Rev. Cathy Purves ’97 and the Rev. Kimberly van Driel) to plan and lead chapel services for the first week of Advent provided another perspective on women in ministry. One thing that I noted was that these female ministers took specific steps to consider how music and readings would impact the congregation. They were both interested in how the message would be received if the congregation was overwhelmed by the exhaustion of a difficult song for example. They helped us to think theologically as we made decisions about the various parts of worship. I especially appreciated how they took special care that the logistics were in place to ensure that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would care for all, including those with special dietary needs. The level of thought that went into planning showed a compassion for those they serve in their own congregations.

I know that there are still many places where women are discouraged to participate in ordained pastoral ministry, but I have also seen and participated in opportunities where women’s voices have added a new dimension to proclaiming the Gospel message. Praise be to God for these valuable experiences that encourage me and my female peers! In the words of both the male and female students of the Women’s Preaching Traditions class, it is a good thing to be able to … Preach like a girl!

Kathy Shirey, Senior MDiv student

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