Meet these graduates: Early 2022

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A sample of graduates reflect on their YDS experience and plan their future life and career.

Paul Agyei Essah ‘March 22 (Hebrew Bible)

When I received my acceptance letter from YDS just before the pandemic in 2020, I was so thrilled but also so shocked that for a while I didn’t believe it was real. I thought the committee made a mistake by accepting me. Fortunately, they hadn’t. Everything was real. Today, after graduating, I feel the same. I’m very happy, but it also feels like a dream I haven’t woken up from yet. I feel humbled to have completed my degree at such an impressive institution.

My experience here has been truly empowering, to say the least. Whether it’s a quick chat with colleagues and staff at reception (where I worked for two years), during worship at the Marquand Chapel, or during a rigorous Hebrew Bible seminar with one of my exceptional teachers (Profs. Baden, Collins, Reymond, Vayntrub), they all touched me in a significant way. Professor Jacqueline Vayntrub’s exegesis course on Ecclesiastes/Qohelet was incredibly transformative. I found it not only intellectually stimulating but also vital, although Qohelet was emotionally impossible to contain. I finished this course with many insights, thoughts and research tools, and skills that I believe will stay with me for a long time.

In the fall of 2022, I will begin an interdisciplinary doctorate. in Hebrew Bible/EMWAR here at Yale University. My work will explore the interplay between exile and imperialism, primarily in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern textual and iconographic depictions of the social, economic and religious life of ancient Israel in the shadow of the empire (Assyria, Babylonia and Persia). As a Ghanaian, I will study them by comparing them to African narratives of colonization, conflict-induced displacement and transnational migration. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to making the most of this rare opportunity.

Going forward, I hope my work as a Bible scholar will initiate conversations that will transform society and impact how we think about the Bible. Additionally, as one of the few African scholars of the Hebrew Bible, I see my work engaging deeply with African issues. I feel particularly called to bring African Bible users, whether in church, synagogue, classroom or online, to reflect broadly on the literary conception and socio-cultural context of the Bible in their processes of interpretation and to aim for the transformation of both humanity and society.

I’noli Hall ’22 M.Div.

Classes at YDS and the deep friendships I have made here have enriched my understanding of the Church. They helped me think of ways to incorporate ecumenical practices into my tradition.

After graduating, I will return to my home community in North Carolina as an executive pastor.

I envision an ongoing call to pastoral and musical ministry that includes healing and social justice in Native American communities.

Slade Hogan ’22 STM (Hebrew Bible)

Participating in Emmaus and other Andover Newton events has been the most transformative I have had at YDS. Although I was raised in The United Methodist Church and am now ordained in an Anglican tradition, my time with the ANS community has been very formative. It gave me new hope for mainstream Protestantism and for progressive Christianity as a whole. I think the Church will be fine as long as institutions like Andover Newton at YDS exist to raise up new leaders.

I am moving to Milton, NH to pastor Milton Community Church, an American Baptist and United Church of Christ congregation. I hope to pursue a distance-learning doctoral study in the Hebrew Bible, but I could take a year off before continuing my studies.

I hope to serve the Church in pastoral and academic settings. I believe YDS has further equipped me to pursue the ministerial and academic aspects of my vocation in a more caring, compassionate, and informed manner.

Tara Humphries ’22 M.Div. (Graduate student of Andover Newton Seminary, she she)

Before the pandemic, after the end of the Emmaus service on Thursday evening, some people left. But most people stayed to dance. Someone was still on the Hammond, another vocal handle and another on the keys. They got stuck. And we danced. A college student with his baby, the dean’s aging parents, and everyone in between. That’s how I learned to do community. We worked hard together and our relationship was far from perfect. But on Thursday night, we prayed for each other. And then we chose joy.

In August, I will begin serving a Unitarian Universalist congregation in southern Maine as a transitional minister.

Rooted in relationship and a deep love for our beautiful and broken world, I am called to serve and alongside faith communities through the transformative power of love. Whether inside or outside the parish, I will work in community to cultivate faith, trust, resilience and our capacity for collective transformation.

Joseph Rose ’22 M.Div. (Anglican Studies, Berkeley Divinity School)

During my first week at YDS, we met at Divinity Farm for a sunset prayer service. This encounter with the divine in the twilight of late summer in the company of the sky, the plants, the vegetables, the birds and the community sparked my Christian imagination in many ways. That night not only invited me to consider the Cosmological Dance of Incarnation in my curriculum, from the role of nature in scripture to preaching about the climate crisis, but informed my discernment of what what a priestly vocation involving environmental justice might look like.

After ordination into the Episcopal Church of Connecticut in June, I will continue as executive director of the Trinity Church of Wall Street Retreat Center in West Cornwall, Connecticut, where I oversee the farm and ministry of creation care, while serving as a missionary pastor at St John’s Episcopal Church in New Milford.

This is an important and exciting time to enter the Christian ministry. Something new is being born and we are called to respond in faith to a multiplicity of pandemics. Co-creating in community and with God, I hope to build healing and reconciliation ministries that explore new ways of doing “church”, while linking the proclamation of the gospel to the climate crisis in relevant and contextual. This vision ranges from plans for a mobile church on the Appalachian Trail, with a food ministry, to environmental justice work in marginalized urban neighborhoods. My vision is based on the hope that Eden is not only behind us, but in front of us.

Amina Shumake ’21 M.Div., ’22 STM

I had so many great experiences in four years at Yale, but what took over was spending night after night with friends at Latourette my freshman year. Our class attempts were minimal at times, but those times were special to me because we were committed to dreaming together. We studied preaching, theology, African American history, black religious and political thought, art, music and film, all to feed our imaginations of who we would be in the world. I am forever grateful to have spent time at YDS because I have learned to let my passion, creativity, and devotion to religion breathe, survive, and expand through the community.

I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in religion with a concentration in theology at Vanderbilt University. There, I hope to continue my research at the intersection of eschatology, feminist theology, and black feminist theory. My ultimate goal is to become a constructive multidisciplinary theologian focused on Continental Philosophy, Gender/Sexuality and Black Studies.

My vision is married to the expansion of theology and black religious thought through research, teaching and preaching. However, my goal is to learn how creative theology and black religion can be so that my work can inhabit multiple worlds.

Julian Sieber ’22 M.Div.

A wide range of experiences and great people at YDS have transformed me. Visiting the El Paso frontier as part of my internship with Saint Thomas More was perhaps the most tangible and memorable theology course I took; the meals shared with the migrants and those who accompanied them, who shared stories of immense loss and even greater faith, were perhaps the most impactful discussion sections. Studying Greek during the first summer of the pandemic, a difficult time for many reasons, sparked an interest in ancient languages ​​and began my journey in biblical scholarship. Also, I met my now fiancée Katie Rich ’22 M.Div. the first day of orientation!

I’m excited to start a PhD. in the New Testament and Early Christianity at Loyola University Chicago this fall. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of individual, community and institutional biblical interpretation in the Catholic Church and more broadly in the history of the reception of the NT. I am grateful to the many incredible and generous classmates, professors, and community members who have created such vibrant spaces for conversation and provided role models for the type of scholar and witness I aspire to be.

In the middle of my move to Chicago this summer, I plan to travel to Israel to participate in an archaeological dig through the Two Brothers Fellowship.

Having worked and lived at the intersection of Catholic and Pentecostal ministries in Australia, I came to YDS with questions about how different communities approach biblical texts. I seek to continue to explore and honor the depth of these questions through teaching in academic and religious contexts.


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