Not everyone pursues a seminary degree to prepare for ministry in a local church. Some, like PTS alumna Kate Lockard Snyder of Danville, Ky., use their theological education in unique and creative ways.
Kate, who graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2005 with a master of arts in theological studies, ended up at PTS because of a family connection. When family friend Dr. Charles Partee, at the time a professor of church history at PTS, heard that young Kate was interested in biblical archaeology, he arranged for her to join Dr. Ron Tappy, also on the faculty at PTS, for archaeological excavations. For three summers in college, Kate was part of the Seminary’s Zeitah Excavations led by Dr. Tappy. Following that, she enrolled at PTS to earn a master of arts with a focus in Old Testament history and archaeology.
“I came straight to PTS from college, so it was my first real experience with ‘adulting,’” Kate says. “Up to that point, I had always lived at home or in dorms. The relationships that were built while living in the apartments, studying together, practicing sermons in front of each other, was such a great experience. Many of my seminary classmates are still close friends, all these years later.”
Kate graduated PTS in 2005 with an eye toward Ph.D. studies. But first, she spent a year living in India and working at a boarding school. That experience led her away from pursuing a Ph.D., choosing instead to focus on a career in social services and nonprofit leadership. Soon her journey led her to Danville, Ky., where she resides today.
For several years, Kate worked at the Arts Center of the Bluegrass in Danville. However, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted her vocational path.
“The pandemic was a moment of soul-searching for me, as I began thinking, ‘What do I want the world to look like when all this is over?’” she says. “So I went through an entrepreneurial leadership incubator, and decided to start a children’s bookstore here in Danville.”
That bookstore, Plaid Elephant Books, opened in 2021 as a way of bringing the community together around books and art. In addition to offering story times for children and hosting author events, Kate has a studio space in the back of the bookstore where she teaches art classes and works on her own mosaic art. Earlier this year, Plaid Elephant Books hosted Christian author Matthew Paul Turner. The store also features a play area for small children called the Tiny Zoo.
The holiday season is always busy for Kate, and not only because people come to the bookstore to buy Christmas gifts. She is also in her ninth year of documenting the journeys of the Wandering Wisemen on Facebook. What began as a simple creative activity with her childhood Playmobil nativity set has grown into an annual tradition with a global following. Each day during Advent and Christmas, the Wandering Wisemen—who have their own Facebook page—seek signs, do yoga, meet new friends, and occasionally get way off course.
“My goal is not necessarily theological,” says Kate. “There are other similar things out there like this which include Bible verses or are more serious in nature. For me it’s much more about the human side of what the quest would look like. Imagine the wise men were guys who got lost sometimes and ate too many M&Ms.”
She recognizes that the holidays can often be filled with stress, busyness, and sadness or grief. She believes the Wandering Wisemen bring joy and frivolity to a season which often needs it. Over the years, many people have said it’s their favorite part of the Advent and Christmas season.
In a way, the journey of the Wandering Wisemen mirrors Kate’s vocational path. Her trajectory has not been what she envisioned when she enrolled at PTS back in 2003, but it has always taken her to where she’s supposed to be. Now, she brings joy to her small town and to all who wander in search of the Lord.