The Road to Ministry

Kentina and Sophia

By Kentina Washington

‘I have taken the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.’ – Robert Frost

If I have learned nothing else in the last two years of seminary, I have learned one thing: how to talk about myself very well. Now, I don’t mean that in a narcissistic or self-serving way, but revealing to someone that you are in seminary (instead of just saying ‘graduate school’ when they ask you what you do for not-much-of a living) invites what I have affectionately coined: the 3-Second Pause. There is a pause while the person who you are talking with makes the connection in their mind of what the word ‘seminary’ means, either resulting in a look of wonder or of confusion, as they consider the whole conversation that they had with ‘a minister that they didn’t know was a minister.’ After the shock wears off, the next question is ‘So how did you know you wanted to be a pastor?’ To which I respond ‘I didn’t, and I still don’t, but I am enjoying the journey to figuring that out.’

I was born and raised in a suburb of Cleveland, OH, a community rich in ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural diversity. Growing up, I was not steeped in any particular religious tradition, but was always a theological ‘seeker,’ attending Catholic mass, worship services from many different branches of Protestantism, Jewish Shabbat on Friday evenings, and Ba’hai gatherings. I entered college searching for a rabbi with whom to explore my burgeoning interest in Judaism, and left 4 years later intrigued by charismatic experiences with the Spirit, but still congregationally ‘homeless.’

After 7 years on the corporate fast track, a job loss propelled me into seminary. Well, the ‘propelling’ did not happen as dramatically or instantaneously as it sounds, but knowing that I did not want to go back to work meant that there were no more excuses for me not to answer the call to seminary – to further explore my ‘theological curiosity’ – without the pressures of working full-time. And, so, five years after hearing the first real ‘nudges,’ I enrolled in seminary, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I am a proud member of the United Church of Christ (God is still speaking!), worshipping with the congregation where I first heard my ‘call,’ Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago. I have discerned a definite vocational call to full-time healthcare chaplaincy, and look forward to serving the spiritual needs of God’s beloved in that setting after graduation as an ordained clergyperson.

The road to ministry for me has been much like the route that it takes me to get from my home in Evanston to downtown Chicago for my ‘office days’ at the Presbytery. Catching the L means that, just as in life, I will encounter some turns, hard stops, slow zones, delays, and even an occasional on-time arrival. Despite the bumps and occasional moments of feeling constricted, riding the train allows me to read—for pleasure—for an hour (which is unheard of during my regular academic school year), giving me a sense of solace and peace in the midst of chaos all around me. When I step out of the station an hour later, I walk two blocks to the office and start my day working for Grace Commons as the Summer Seminarian. The journey from the NorthShore to the West Loop is a metaphor to me of what my life has been as I have traveled this twisting, winding , road of discovery to learn what it means to be loved by and to love like Christ. I look forward to journeying with each of you over the next 2 months as we seek to make Grace Commons a better place, uniquely positioned to love and serve God by loving and serving one another and this world, the world that God loves so much.

Kentina Washington will be entering her 3rd year at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in the fall of 2013.  While pastoral ministry is her vocational passion, her most important and exciting role  is being mom to her almost-kindergartener, Sophia.