When I graduated from Grove City High School in Grove City, Pa., in 1997, I had never seen or heard of a female pastor. And certainly, I had never considered going to graduate school to earn an MDiv. In spite of my leading and planning worship since the age of 15, receiving a scholarship from my high school for Christian ministry, and then going to college to major in religion, the possibility of being called to pastoral ministry never occurred to me.
Upon graduating from college I discerned that the best way for me to serve others was through social work. I entered the MSW program at the University of Pittsburgh having no idea the adventure God had in store for me. Through my work I discovered that an MSW was not enough, I wanted to add theological education to my social work experience. To my delight, some of my friends and professors told me about the joint MSW/MDiv degree with the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Seminary. This changed the course of my life.
Through my education and field placements at PTS my world opened up to the possibilities of how God could use me to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ. And though I had been wandering around trying to figure out how to put my gifts together, the perfect structure, degrees, and future was already in place for me.
I wish my story was unique, surely in 2014 everyone has been exposed to a female pastor. But each summer I have a conversation with one of the high schoolers at the Miller Summer Youth Institute, and I am the first female pastor they have met. And I tell them my story and how God’s plan for our lives is greater than we can ever imagine.
Not all of the SYI students are called to pastoral ministry, but for both the men and women, just knowing it is possible grants them a freedom to dream, pray, and explore their own calling.
The Rev. Erin Davenport is a 2005 alumna of the MDiv program. Through the Seminary’s joint degree program, she also earned her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. A former chaplain, she now resides in Pittsburgh and serves as the Seminary’s Director of the Miller Summer Youth Institute.