The Bulletin

The Bulletin, issued four times each year, is a newsletter designed to communicate information about the Seminary as an institution. It is distributed without charge to alumni/ae, churches, and friends and contains short articles about the current activities and purposes of the Seminary.

Picking up the pieces

The howling storm. The sirens. Then throat-tightening fear in the moments after, when words would not come.

Lexington Theological Seminary alumnae Jill Cameron Michel and Fay Barnes Blevins minister at separate Disiples of Christ churches in Joplin, Missouri, but in a moment, they found their lives and ministries intertwined as an entire community found itself in crisis.

Michel, a 1998 graduate, is the pastor at South Joplin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Married to Jim, Michel has two children, Cameron and Teegan, and two step-children, Katy and John. When the deadliest tornado in recent U.S. history struck, they were gathered with the SJCC youth at the Michel home that Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, Michel noted, the youth would have been meeting as usual in a second-floor room at the church, where the roof would be peeled back like the lid of a can. Michel’s home was untouched.

Blevins, a 2010 graduate, is the first female pastor of  First Christian Church in Joplin and is married to Wesley. Blevins was on her way back from a church meeting about 20 miles away when “the sky suddenly turned black…and we heard the tornado warning.” She and an elder from the church took shelter under an underpass as the wind pushed and the hail pounded the car. Cell service was lost, and Blevins was unable to reach her husband for some time. She eventually found him at their apartment, remarkably undamaged despite the chaos around them. That day and in the weeks to follow, 162 lives would be claimed by the tornado.

FCC sustained very little damage, while SJCC was devastated. Most of the roof was gone and much water damage followed in the torrential rain in the days following the tornado. Whole communities were wiped away in the 13-mile path of destruction, and Blevins and Michel set to work immediately helping both parishioners and strangers find shelter, warmth, clothing, and grace. “It was baptism by fire–or wind,” Blevins says. Their own grief and shock were helped by the outpouring of support from around the nation. Their LTS family played an important part as current students rallied to coordinate supplies from their home churches, and alums and friends reached out with prayers and gifts as Blevins and Michel worked to help set up distribution centers and minister to victims. Blevins’ church opened its doors to Michel’s, giving them a place to worship while their church is rebuilt. Months later, there is still much work to do. The aftermath is not over. Winter clothes will be distributed from Blevins’ church in October. Families continue to struggle with lost loved ones, lost homes, lost jobs. So much loss.

Gifts of time, money and prayer are still needed, Michel noted. Volunteers from church groups, readily available in the first weeks, are fewer but just as necessary as rebuilding begins. “This is both a physical journey and an emotional one that we will be on for some time,” Michel said.

Picking up the pieces: Fay Barnes Blevins

I am the senior pastor of First Christian Church, Joplin. I ask people to call me “pastor,” or “Fay” or whatever as long as it’s nice. This is my first call out of seminary.

First Christian Church is the typical downtown church in small-city U.S.A. We have a long history of 135+ years, planting several other churches around town in that time, and now figuring out what God is calling us to do in this time and place. I am the first female pastor and the previous pastor retired after 29 years.

I was attending an Area Board Meeting about 45 minutes out of Joplin. We just finished our meeting and were preparing to have dinner-it was a church dinner and so….I felt the need to stay and enjoy…the dessert looked really good. I noticed several people looking at their smart phones and talking about the weather. As I finished eating, the Elder who was with me, suggested we might head back and “beat the storm.” So, we climbed into the car (I was driving) and headed towards Joplin. About 20-30 miles out, I can’t remember exactly, the sky become almost black and the wind was strong. Then the rain came down so heavy I slowed to a snail’s pace. We listened to the radio and heard there was a tornado warning. The weather continued to get worse and I could barely see. Semi’s were pulled off to the side of the road. (I had just watched a show on tornados that are hidden by walls of rain. People don’t see them until they’re swept up into them.) I decided to pull off the highway and find shelter. We pulled off at the next exit and pulled under a bride/overpass. There were several other cars there as well. We sat listening to radio, feeling the car trying to be pushed by the wind, and listening to the hail as it fell. The Elder and I tried to call our spouses, but there was no phone service. So, we continued to listen to the radio as they spoke of the tornado touching down in Joplin.
When the rain and hail let up some, we got back on to the highway and drove into Joplin. I still wasn’t able to get a hold of Wes, my husband. Then I heard the radio say, “There is complete devastation at 7th and Range Line.” I panicked as that was half a mile from our apartment and the tornado would have moved directly towards it. As we pulled into town we didn’t see much of anything except for tree damage, even though the radio reported mass destruction. I pulled up to my apartment complex and it was fine…not a shingle off or busted window! Just debris everywhere. I screamed for Wes and ran to our apartment to find he and the dog, randy, just fine, but all of us shaken. Wes had attempted to film the tornado from the balcony of our apartment, but when he discovered it wouldn’t work he went inside to take cover. Shortly, thereafter, we noticed the constant sound of sirens from emergency vehicles. That sound would be constant for the next 36-48 hours.
We didn’t have power or water in a our apartment and I wanted to check on the church and get numbers to call people. We headed to the church and our route didn’t take us anywhere near the damage, but there was absolute chaos in the streets. It tool 45 minutes to get to the church, when it normally took 15. Once I saw that the physical structure was sound, I opened our Family Life Center/Gym area thinking it could be used as emergency shelter. Within 2 hours churches from Kansas were delivering water, food, clothes, towels and soap. Within 3-4 hours, survivors of the storm were arriving. People covered in dirt, leaves and grass plastered to their body. Tattered clothes, wet and cold. All in shock and afraid. We served soup and coffee. We worked to help them find family and friends who would be looking for them. It was one of the most overwhelming moments of my life while at the same time being one of the most blessed. I don’t know who any of those people were or where they are now, I can only hope that we provided a bit of comfort and a sense of hope.
Our apartment was safe, but without utilities. We just closed on our first house the week before. It was left unharmed as well…though 75% of the homes we looked at were destroyed. We packed up towels, air mattress, toiletries, and a change of clothes and headed to our house. It was completely empty, but it had hot water and lights. There was no sleep to be had the first several nights. The next day I began the search for congregants and discovered a young 20-something couple who moved to Joplin about the same time we did, lost everything. They came and camped with us at our house for a week until we could find a more permanent solution. Which, coincidentally, was that they helped us move out of the apartment into the house and they assumed the lease on the apartment.
For two weeks I would search for people, trying to remember little tidbits of information I might have picked up on extended family members; picking the brains of others who might know something. All the members were found alive and accounted for…an amazing blessing, perhaps a real miracle. 14 families lost their homes, and over 30 families had severe damage or lost a job as a result of the storm.
The damage was/is incomprehensible. It was like the scenes from war movies…I thought I was watching “Saving Private Ryan” only without the tanks. Entire sections, neighborhoods, in piles of broken wood and glass. People wading through the debris were pitiful. Looking for any little thing they might be able to salvage.

Life since, has been a constant sense of inadequacy…for me, at least.

It’s been about listening to stories and making connections to resources. It’s been about being hospitable to our brothers and sisters in Christ as they need a place to worship, and being a place where people can give time and donations, and a place where people can find the things they need to make it another day. We operated a Distribution Center from Friday, May 27th to Sunday, September 4th. We still have our final winter clothing give-away on October 22nd (NO CLOTHES NEEDED!) It’s been a time of prayer and constant reminder to people that this storm was not punishment from God for some ill of an individual or nation.

It’s been a baptism by fire…or wind.

There is much left to do. The local government is coordinating with local organizations and churches are forming a Long Term Recovery Committee. Part of their work will be finding those who didn’t get insurance money or enough insurance money or didn’t get FEMA assistance and find them help to rebuild or repair. The LTRC will funnel financial and people resources into these projects. So, workgroups will be needed to feed the people resources necessary to rebuild.

I received MANY notes via Facebook and MANY phone calls checking in and offering us prayers. Their support has helped me immensely. I know I can call for a listening ear, a cheerleader, or a good laugh. Some even offer wise advice from time to time. Most of them reassured me that I was right where I needed to be, when I might have thought otherwise.

We are always happy to take financial donations directly to assist the community. Come volunteer when we begin rebuilding. We would love to see you! Support Week of Compassion as they do wonderful work and we appreciate ALL the support thy have given us these last, long months. Pray, pray, pray.

Our church is SO GENEROUS! With all the cries of fiscal concerns and budgetary worries here, there, and everywhere people have been generous with their time and their gifts. We received several emails, cards, and phone calls from people just wishing us well and keeping us in prayer. It’s an incredibly powerful/humbling moment to realize how many people might actually be praying for you. I have seen the Spirit at work in the church and it’s alive and well. I’m not sure how anyone could make it through a situation like this without the support of a faith community.

 

 

 

Picking up the pieces: Jill Cameron Michel

I am pastor at South Joplin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Married to Jim Michel, I have two children: Cameron and Teegan and two step-children: Katy and John.

South Joplin Christian Church was founded in 1903.  We average just under 100 in worship.  It is a congregation that although largely a traditional, mainline congregation, has been doing intentional work seeking God’s vision for the future.

On the day of the tornado my family was hosting the youth group at our home.  It was the last regular meeting of the school year and we had them out for a cook out.  So, when the tornado hit the youth group was at our home.  This was fortunate because we live north of town and although we had bad weather and large hail were out of the path of the tornado.  Had they met as usual at the church, they would have been meeting on the upper floor when the roof of the church peeled back.

The first we knew of tornado damage was when the parent of two teens called to say their friends had been hit and to ask us to keep her kids here while she and her husband went to help.  Because there were several church members who lived in that same neighborhood, my husband headed in to town to check on them while I remained with the youth and leader to feed the kids and check in with other parents.  Very quickly we began getting more phone calls and seeing reports on internet that damage was much more widespread than we originally thought.  We made contact with all the kids’ parents.  The only of our youth whose home was hit was the home of our male youth leader and his son – his wife and daughter were home at the time, but she called to say they were fine.  Michael, the youth leader, remained amazingly calm and stayed until we had made contact with all the kids’ parents and figured out where we were delivering everyone.  Michael, the youth and I headed into town.  I met another church member at the church and after assessing the damage there, we went further into the tornado zone to begin trying to locate families from the church.

Words fail me.  As people who have come to volunteer here can attest, it looks bad on television but it is nothing compared to being here.  On television you can look away, but when you are standing in the midst of the destruction there is nowhere you can look to get away from it.  Because the path was so large (6 miles long within city limits and ½ – ¾ miles wide) it was overwhelming.  Each day for at least the first week I was still discovering how far reaching the path of destruction was.  On the Saturday following our Sunday tornado I was driving volunteers to a site where they were going to work when I looked up and saw a neighborhood I hadn’t even known to worry about where people who had recently attended our church lived – I was overwhelmed with the reality that I hadn’t even known to be worried about them until then.  It took us a full two weeks before we had located everyone in the church who lost their homes.

As I mentioned earlier, our home was not damaged.  The church where I serve (South Joplin Christian Church) lost 1/3 of the rood (it simply peeled back like the lid of a sardine can) and many windows.  Because of the heavy rain that continued for the next two days, we received extensive water damage inside.  Half of the children’s classroom (top floor) had to be gutted and redone.  The sanctuary, narthex and Children Worship & Wonder rooms all had to be totally gutted.  The library and two adult classrooms in the basement as well as part of Fellowship Hall had to be redone.  There was a point when I could stand in the basement and see the sky!  Work is underway and we are hopeful that we will return to our building in November.  First Christian Church where Fay Barnes Blevins serves has been gracious to host us since the tornado.

Life has been an interesting dance between the usual and the unusual.  While the regular rhythm of life still exists – Sunday still comes every seven days, committees still meet, people still get sick and people still celebrate births and deaths, new school years and weddings, anniversaries and retirements – it is all done in the shadow of the tornado.  This means weddings have to be moved to different locations, babies have to born at different hospitals, funeral dinners have to be held at other churches, school starts in different buildings.  This also means that I am always asking the question of how even our usual things need to be different in light of the tornado and always paying attention to where people are in their grieving and healing processes.

As disaster relief people will tell you – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  About six weeks after the tornado I felt like we were finally taking that to heart.  At that point my workdays looked more like they had before the tornado.  Things that since May 22nd had felt urgent shifted as I realized they would be long time companions.

In addition to the usual work on ministry and tending to the special needs of folks in our congregation, I have been trying to keep aware of the activities of the Long Term Recovery Committee, have been helping coordinate work for work groups, have been fielding calls and emails from many who are interested in helping, and we are in the process of building a Mission Station (housing for volunteers who will come in the coming years) at South Joplin Christian.

There is no room to list the many things that are left to do.  For years we will be recovering and rebuilding.  This is both a physical journey and an emotional one that we will be on for some time.  Physical rebuilding has really just begun and at this point is mainly being done by those with resources (usually good insurance settlements).  In the coming years volunteers will be counted on to help with the many who do not have the resources to complete their rebuilding or repairs.

I did hear from many with whom I had built relationships at LTS and I heard from Sonny Wray on behalf of LTS.  It was helpful because these were people who were calling or emailing to check in but who also understood that my time was in high demand and so they were calls of comfort not calls that took much out of me.

Not only in Joplin, but in any place that experiences significant disaster, remember the recovery will take years.  What this means is that prayers, donations, gifts of time and energy will be needed for a long time to come.  It is easy to shift our attention to the newest disaster, but there is a real skill to finding a balance of remembering those who are still responding while also caring for those with new needs.

I also always go back to Amy Gopp’s (Week of Compassion) advice about waiting until communities are ready to actually go and help.  There was a need for immediate responders and many came.  There were also days when there were really too many volunteers for folks here to coordinate.  There will be a need for long term responders and we hope people will continue to come.  The key is to go at the time the community is ready for you and can use you.  It’s also important for people to understand that when they go to help they need to be able to not be a burden on those they are helping.  This means the best help comes from those who can provide their own transportation, find their own lodging (which is often offered by Disciples churches), provide their own meals (unless the local system offers meals), and often even contribute financially to the materials they will be using.

I have learned that the body of Christ is amazing.  I have watched churches and people of faith in Joplin working together in tremendous ways.  I have also watched as churches and people of faith outside Joplin have reached out a caring hand in ways I hadn’t ever thought of.  The responses people have made have been as if this was their own disaster.  I have been reminded that we are all part of one body and have seen the truth of the statement that when one hurts, we all hurt.

I have also learned a lot about what is helpful and some about what is not.  The ways people and churches have responded to us will forever change how I and the congregation I serve respond to other people’s disasters.  I continue to be overwhelmed with the generous hearts of people throughout our Disciples and UCC churches and beyond!

 

Creating community

Michael Junkroski was a church musician and a full-time business owner/operator in Florida when voices within–and without–began urging him to consider going to seminary.

“People in the congregation and my pastor approached me and said, ‘You’d make a good minister.’  The idea of going to a school where I could learn more about that and become someone who could minister to the ills of the world was extremely appealing,” Junkroski said. “But I have a business with my brother that we’ve had for 15 years, I was already implanted in my town, and leaving to go to seminary was impossible.”

Because there was no seminary close to his Florida home, he wasn’t sure when or how he would take that step.

Learning of the new program at Lexington Theological Seminary, with 2/3 of classes online, “was obviously a Godsend,” Junkroski said.

But the next part of the journey was a surprise. Junkroski expected to be largely on his own with 2/3 of the classes online. However, he quickly found that LTS students have a tight-knit community.

“My attachment to the people here has been pretty surprising,” he said. “We’re a very close group of people, really. We communicate with each other all the time, … through email and text chats and calls. We’re in touch with each other and supporting each other.”

That support is an important part of spiritual formation at LTS, he noted.  “Seminary pushes your buttons, and it needs to push your buttons, sometimes in profound ways,” Junkroski said. “Not only are we in the student body there for each other, but I found the faculty to be extremely accessible.” He noted that faculty often will have face-to-face chats via MegaMeeting, which “is a big, big help. It’s a very supportive environment. The biggest reason for the success of this program is the faculty. If we were left just doing the assignments online, it would be very cold and impersonal, but I feel I’m really involved in a community of caring people who  have my best interests in mind.”
IT Director Ben Wyatt says that the technology used by LTS (Edvance 360, Megameeting, PowerPoint and others) are used to enhance, not replace, interpersonal relationships. For example, online discussion boards within the LTS Online system give students a place to post prayer requests. Students also communicate offline.

“Technology is the medium we use at LTS to bring students together,” Wyatt said.
“At the same time, students are learning the concepts associated with ministry as well as these technological tools which, once they graduate, they could definitely integrate within their own church if they wish.”

M.Div. student Vernie Bolden of Virginia said he was “somewhat apprehensive” about the technological aspect of the new Seminary model when he enrolled last year. His father is a D.Min. alumnus of LTS, but “things have changed a lot,” since his father, Vernie Bolden Sr., graduated in 1975, said Bolden. He had sensed a call to ministry for several years but was working full time as a manager at a hotel in Roanoke and had family who needed him, as well as being involved in ministry at Loudon Ave. Christian Church. “There was no Seminary close by, so when I heard about the program at LTS and it was affiliated with the Disciples of Christ…it seemed the opportunity to pursue my call, and it has worked out very well.”

As with others beginning the new program, “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I might be on my own,” he said. Instead, he found the technology easy to navigate and the gateway to a community of students and faculty.

“We support one another. We care for each other,” Bolden said. “I’m finding my faith is being burnished, in essenence. I’m learning about my strengths and areas where I need to grow. … I take it back (to my church), even if it’s just because I’m not the same person,” he said.

Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe is associate minister at First Christian Church of Las Vegas, co-owns a consulting company which oversees accessibility issues for the Miracle League, a baseball league for physically challenged children. He also works full time for a trade show company based in Las Vegas. He wanted to pursue an M.Div. but couldn’t leave his job, his church, and most importantly, his family. LTS offered the flexibility he needed.

However, Rippetoe worried that there would be no sense of community because of the online format and limited time together on campus; students attend on-site intensives in January and June. Those fears were quickly set aside as he bonded with his fellow students, faculty and staff.
“We didn’t form a community when we came together on campus. We were already a community. We are a community because we have a sense of being so grateful that we can be here to begin with,” Rippetoe said. “We come together with a sense of community and know enough about each other to have that mutal respect. This program is designed for people like us.”

It brings “more people to a Seminary experience so that we can lead more people to God and serve humanity,” Rippetoe said. Seminary leadership “stepped outside the comfort zone, changed the shape of their box, and created something that works…for the universal Church.”

Coming full circle

Those who know Rev. Janet Ehrmantraut also know that she has an affinity for turtles. Maybe it’s the quiet grace that draws her, with their slow and steady determination, or perhaps it’s the appeal of the round, hard shell–that protective circle–that allows the rain and thumps of life to go by without much damage. Either way, to those who know her, all of the above makes sense.

A 1983 graduate of Lexington Theological Seminary, Ehrmantraut embodied those qualities–among many others–as she served on the staff of the Christian Church In Kentucky as associate and regional minister. She also pastored at Antioch Christian Church in Lexington, Ky., and, most recently, at Central Christian Church in Lexington, where she was Minister of Pastoral Care.

Now, LTS welcomes Ehrmantraut as Mentor Program Coordinator, and in this role she helps new students find mentors in their communities.
It is indeed a coming home for Ehrmantraut, who once benefitted from having a mentor as a student at LTS.

But there is more to her story.

Near the end of her tenure at Central Christian Church in 2010, when she hoped to be making travel plans with her husband, Curt, she found herself facing an old enemy–cancer.

Instead of mapping out stops along Route 66, she and her team of doctors were mapping out chemotherapy and radiation treatments. How would it affect her? She did not know, but she took it one day at a time. The support of her husband and congregation, and having access to good health care are not taken for granted by Ehrmantraut.

“There is nothing I did to earn that. It was simply the circumstances of my journey, yet I ache for those for whom the journey is so much more difficult,” she said.
That sense of compassion and gratitude carry through to her new role, which she embraces with steady determination. “I owe this institution and its servants a great deal–for an excellent education and a community of peers and leaders that have influenced me since I walked through the doors in January of 1980,” she said. “And quite selflishly, the Seminary offered me a reason to get back into a community of ministry and use my brain and heart at a time when there was little else I could do. For that I am very grateful.”

Ehrmantraut finished her treatment regimen in February. She is enthusiastically working with regional ministers as well as local congregations and pastors in the areas throughout North America where LTS students live.

“She brings many gifts for ministry,” notes LTS President James P. Johnson.  “We are thrilled to welcome her.”
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Taking the distance out of learning

Me Taking the distance out of learningAnna Hope Curwood has always had a heart for art, but she has ministry in her DNA. She is the daughter of two Lexington Theological Seminary graduates, the Rev. Bill Curwood, who marked his 50th anniversary in ministry in February, and the Rev. Linda Curwood, who was ordained more than three decades ago.

Still, ministry was not in her long-range plans as she grew up, went to Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., and prepared for a career working in a major art museum. That lifelong dream came to fruition when she landed a position at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Then, the unexpected.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working in a large museum, but over the past few years, I believe God has been encouraging me in a new direction,” Curwood said.
Another unexpected twist, the downturn in the economy, seemed to present an obstacle for Curwood. With the real estate market suddenly stagnant, unable to sell her house, she needed to continue to work full-time in Cincinnati. The prospect of moving to attend LTS and begin working toward an M.Div., as her parents did, seemed remote at best.

“I was excited when I found out about the online program at LTS.
The program has offered the flexibility I need to pursue my degree while working full-time. It has definitely been an adjustment to go back to school after a 10 year absence from an academic environment. But, the challenges have been secondary to the growth and encouragement I have found in the M.Div. program at LTS,” Curwood said.

Curwood began her M.Div. journey at LTS in August. She attributes the supportive environment to the community of other students, as well as her co-pastors and ministry support committee at First Christian Church in Fort Thomas, Ky., just outside Cincinnati, where she is serving as a student intern under the guidance of co-pastors Mark and Lisa Caldwell-Reiss, LTS alumni. Another invaluable source of encouragement is her mentor, the Rev. Diane Zehr at Florence Christian Church in Florence, Ky.

Technology has been a conduit rather than a barrier to forming relationships with other students, Curwood noted. “It is definitely a different style of community, but we are  forming a community online. I had classes with several students when I began my work and had not had another class with them until this month. We were excited to ‘see’ one another again in class and have kept in touch via the prayer request discussion board, table talk discussion board, and others.”

Through the recent implementation of MegaMeeting technology, students can also interact face-to-face online during class discussions. Students have used the technology for virtual pizza parties, convenant group meetings, meetings with mentors, and have worked on projects together online, noted educational technologist and instructional designer Ben Wyatt.

“The discussion boards have become much more interactive and powerful, because students within the online courses have had a chance to meet and interact with their peers and can visualize them,” Wyatt said.

Two-thirds of courses for the Master of Divinity program are online, with short, intensive courses at the Seminary. Other degree programs and certificates offered online are Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies for Roman Catholics, Certificate in Pastoral Ministry, and Continuing Education. The Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program is expected to follow online soon.

The M.Div. program is meeting Curwood’s needs, and now she can envision herself serving as a chaplain or in other areas of ministry. “I would definitely encourage potential students to consider LTS, with the flexible schedule and ways to complete their degree while thriving in their local church, work and academic environments.”

The Right Direction
A muddy construction site at midnight is far from the traditional classroom setting, but for LTS student Joseph “Joey” Pusateri, it was the ideal place and time for furthering his understanding of ministry.

It was October, and Joseph’s family’s business, Elite Homes of Louisville, was heading up the construction of a very special house—a home for the Lampe family, featured on an Extreme Makeover Home Edition episode in January.

The construction of the house was a ministry in itself to the 32-year-old husband and father of two. In the months prior to the build, Pusateri had been in a bit of a quandary.
Pusateri joined the family business in 2008 after moving to Louisville two years earlier. Neither he nor his wife, Jennifer, also 32, were regular churchgoers, but with their family growing, they sought out a home congregation. Pusateri’s wife joined the praise band at Middletown Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, and Pusateri soon followed in joining the church.

Then in May 2010, Pusateri began to sense a strong call to ministry.
“I felt immediately that God had the wrong number,” he said. “I kept saying, ‘I don’t think this could possibly be right.’ I had come to work for my dad in the homebuilding business, and I thought this was the last move of my life. It put a big question mark on my career path.”

However, once Pusateri set aside his fears and accepted the call to ministry, he knew it was the right thing to do. He just wasn’t sure how to attend seminary without disrupting the life his family had just begun to establish in Louisville.
Pusateri came across Lexington Theological Seminary during a web search. A friend, the Rev. Scott Cox, an LTS alumnus and pastor of First Christian Church-Georgetown (Disciples of Christ) also recommended LTS. As Pusateri continued to research seminaries, LTS consistently stood out.

“With the new online program, the more I researched it, it seemed the right direction to go,” Pusateri said. “The online program at LTS was the only way I could do this. It’s exciting to break out of the old paradigm of how seminary is taught and let the technology take us where it will as we discover new ways to connect.”

Pusateri was just getting started in the program when producers from Extreme Makeover Home Edition reached out to Elite Homes to build a home. Elite Homes also built a home for the show in 2007, before Pusateri moved to Louisville.

“It was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity happening twice for our business,” Pusateri said. “For me, it was an opportunity to help someone I had never met. In light of the calling I’ve had, I just felt it was something I should do. It was a long, arduous decision to make with the amount of commitment required for the build and for my courses.”

Pusateri scaled back to one class for the month of October. He took his laptop to the job site and watched lectures and participated in online discussions with other students early in the morning, during breaks, and late at night. He recalled one night in particular when he was frantically searching for a WiFi connection among the mud and equipment so he could submit a paper before midnight.

The home build required six weeks of preparation and five intensive days of nearly round-the-clock construction.

“I’ve heard this process described as a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, and it was for me,” Pusateri said. “It takes all the planning and the people and the equipment, but it takes a whole lot more than that to pull it off. It takes a collective community of selfless participation as we all become one in this thing that’s greater than ourselves.”
The experience further fuels Pusateri in his journey through seminary.

“I’m trying to learn everything I can so that I can be equipped to help people,” Pusateri said. “Where that will lead, I don’t know. This is God’s calling for me—it’s not my plan for myself. I’m just taking one step at a time, and I know I will end up where I’m supposed to be.”
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The Bulletin, Vol. 46 No. 1, Spring 2010

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The Bulletin, Vol. 46 No. 3, Fall 2010

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The Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 2, Summer 2010

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It’s About Time

Jacque web Its About Time

Growing up in San Diego, the idea of serving a congregation in Ashland, Kentucky, was nowhere on the path Jacque Parlato mapped out for herself.

She attended church with friends from time to time, but it wasn’t until after she finished her undergraduate degree in New York state that she became consistently involved in the life of a congregation.

Her parents had moved to Ashland, Ky., to establish a medical practice, and Jacque agreed to help. That was nearly two decades ago, and in the interim, Jacque married, had two boys and found herself active in children’s ministry at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Ashland.

In the summer of 2005, the church’s senior minister, LTS alumnus Rev. Ike Nicholson, asked Jacque to serve as interim youth director until the church could call an associate youth minister.

“At first, I just wanted to learn enough to survive and do my best for the sake of the ministry until a full-time person was called,” Jacque recalled. “As time went on, I started to see myself as much more than the ‘sub,’ and so did they. I felt drawn there, as though I was supposed to be there.”

At the end of her first program year, Jacque accepted an offer to serve on staff as director of youth ministries, no longer the interim. She now serves as director of youth and young adult ministries and directs St. Andrew’s Kids, the children’s afterschool program at FCC. She also is active in the region as an adult member of X-Committee, the regional Disciples of Christ youth council.

That support and involvement in lay ministry stirred in Jacque the realization that the next step in her life was to attend seminary.

“I learned that I was now ready for more disciplined preparation and filled with a desire to professionalize my work,” said Jacque. “I have discovered my call through the opening and closing of doors throughout my ministry and a trend of revelation through those with whom I do ministry.”

Jacque recalls the call to her mother the day she decided to apply for seminary: “She said something so simple, yet so powerful–‘It’s about time.’”

The decision to apply was not one Jacque reached easily—initially. With her family rooted in Ashland, she did not know how she would attend seminary a few hours away.

Over breakfast with some colleagues in the region, Jacque said something that seemed at the time to be wishful thinking: “If only LTS had an online program.” Little did she know that an online program was an idea that was actively percolating at the Seminary.

When the program was announced in late 2009, Jacque’s hopes of attending seminary were renewed. “This was an answered prayer—not just for me, but for so many who are being called to ordained ministry but could not commit to relocate until after seminary.”

Jacque completed her first online course in the M.Div. program this year and found it to be a much more personal experience than she imagined. “I understand the concerns many have regarding the in-class one-to-one experience, but I have to say that I developed closer relationships in my online community than I ever did during my undergraduate studies. We were in constant communication with our classmates as well as our professor.

“Technology such as ooVoo and Skype have enabled our small groups to meet via webcam. I have had only positive experiences from day one. I longed to be back in class immediately after completing my first semester.”

Attending seminary online while being rooted in her congregation has added further opportunities for growth. “As I gained knowledge, I shared it with our staff, youth and sponsors. The congregation, clergy and staff have been tremendously encouraging not only to me, but to all of our seminarians.”  Three of FCC’s four seminarians are LTS students.

Jacque hopes others will be encouraged by the changes taking shape at the Seminary.

“I encourage friends of LTS to get to know the students and grow with us as we walk this path together. We are here because we are called to be here along with the professors, administrators and staff of LTS. It is with your prayers and support that we will learn, grow and serve together.

Jacque continued, “The seminary experience at LTS may be changing, but if it were not for these changes, many would never be able to answer their call to ordained ministry. They would have been among those who have said, ‘I felt that I was being called to ordained ministry but was unable to get there.’ But now they can.”