Although Palmer Seminary has now been located at the St. David’s campus for several months now, many undergraduates still do not know a great deal about it. For those who don’t know very much about Palmer, the seminary’s mission aptly sums up the ethos of its identity: “The Whole Gospel, for the Whole World, Through Whole Persons.” This means that the seminary places particular emphasis on the good news for a diverse world, justice for “the least of these” and forming its students for transformative service. Students come to Palmer from all over the globe and from all walks of life. This variety of backgrounds allows students to learn from one another’s unique approaches to ministry and life. As Palmer student Christen Blore explains, “We’re sitting in class with the whole church.” The education they receive allows for not only intellectual development, but also for personal, social and spiritual development. To get a fuller sense of the Palmer community, I spoke to several students about what brought them to Palmer and what their experiences in seminary have been like.
“I studied at the University of Delaware and got my degree in English. My initial plan was to go to law school and be a lawyer….I was heavily involved at my church. I was a Bible study teacher for a lot of college students, and it was during this time period that I really strongly felt that God was beginning to place a call within my life to go into full-time ministry….All in all, I think my time here has been great. The seminary has taught me about more than just scholarly academic knowledge, but moreso about what it means to be a minister of the gospel and what it means to be a whole person who brings the whole gospel into a broken world. I’ve learned the value of being able to be open-minded and be open enough to at least understand, empathize and listen to other people’s stories, opinions and beliefs and not necessarily condemn them for that but to be able to—in seminary we say—‘stay at the table’ and just engage.”
“I went to a seminary open house, and that’s when I knew. I was sure that was where I was supposed to be….My major is Master of Divinity and International Development, so I’ll get a dual degree. When I started this program, I was working in Washington, D.C., and I was commuting to Palmer. It’s been an awesome ride. I really have discovered so much about myself as an individual and about how God is going to use me in the world and why I had to focus on international development and divinity and how those degrees will mesh with my long career in government. I worked in government for 25 years, and I’ve gotten to have some really great experiences. While attending seminary, I actually supported the Presidential Inaugural Committee and planned President Obama’s last inauguration….I have a heart for religious freedom, and I believe that my government experience and the M.Div. and the international development will come together as far as that’s concerned….I think Palmer is such a unique entity….It’s an awesome experience—the staff, the professors, everyone’s so unique….I’m learning so much from people who may have learned differently or may have had different experiences from mine.”
“I came to college here in 1960. The main hall was Walton, and my dorm was Doane Hall. I graduated in ‘64 and got a degree in teaching and taught French and Spanish for years. Then I retired, and then I came to my 50th class reunion….After my husband passed away, I felt that God called me to seminary to prepare for the next chapter of my life….I started taking classes here in August 2015, and I really feel like this is where I belong. I love the fact that I’m the oldest person in any of my classes!…I love being here with younger people. It’s great to get their energy, to get their take on things….I love the diversity. It’s just amazing. It’s the way the world should be. Things would not be so out of synch if we were more open and more accepting and willing to change.”
“I went to seminary because I felt like I was prepared for youth ministry, but I wasn’t prepared for other ministry positions….What I plan to do now is hospital chaplaincy. So that’s why I went to Palmer. But why I stayed at Palmer was really because of the diversity of the students and the faculty….I started to really value diversity, realizing that I didn’t have all the answers. My experience was very different, yet still valid, but maybe incomplete of what the greater world of faith and theology and church experience really was about….I’ve been in many different part-time ministries, and it’s tough to be in ministry part-time and a student full-time and then work part-time. It’s a lot of things to juggle. So I’m really looking forward to the hospital chaplaincy because it offers a structure. And there are people in the hospital that are different than congregation members. People in the hospital are in a really desperate and vulnerable and broken spot. What I’m learning is that it’s a real privilege and an honor to be able to hear their story and to be able to just be with them—not even to have to say anything, but to just be with people and just love people.”