A new light: New curriculum offers new opportunities

Sometimes God speaks in a still, small voice. At other times, God speaks through a rear-end collision with a compact car. At least, that’s how it happened for Trudy Betts.

A young wife and mother of three, Betts had been quietly wrestling with a call to ministry.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘Surely this isn’t right,’” Betts recalled. “I kept feeling nudges from God, but I didn’t want to tell anyone.”

On the way home from a spiritual retreat in which the theme was “Nudges from God,” Betts was rear-ended by a small car. When she got out of the car to inspect the damage, she was stunned to see the woman driving the other car was wearing a priest’s collar.

“This is all God’s fault,” Betts told her.

“Oh, no, I’m just a representative,” the woman, an Episcopal priest, told her.

Betts explained that she was feeling conflicted about her call to ministry, and the priest responded, “You’d better answer it. I’m a car. Next time, God will send a Mack truck!”

Betts relented and embarked on her education with the goal of attending seminary. Betts will graduate with a BA in History and a Judaic Studies Certificate in May 2010. She became a licensed minister through the Disciples of Christ in 2006 and is now serving her second Disciples congregation as Associate Pastor at Tropical Sands Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a growing congregation with four services each weekend.

Her desire to attend seminary has not wavered, but Betts worried how to balance seminary education with her service to her congregation, her children’s needs and her husband’s job in the local school district.

“When I read the mission statement of LTS, I just knew it was the place for me, and when I made a campus visit, it felt like home,” Betts said. “But getting there was going to be very tough.”

When Betts learned of the Seminary’s plan to offer a new model of theological education, she wept for joy.

“It’s all in God’s perfect timing,” Betts said. “It’s an answered prayer–a great relief financially and emotionally. “

Betts will take her first seminary course at LTS in the fall. In the meantime, she has hardly tried to contain her excitement about the new M.Div. program at LTS. At a recent youth event, she shared her plans with a colleague who is also an associate minister but has been searching for a way to attend a seminary with a rich tradition of pastoral training like LTS.

“Because of this new program, it is now possible for him to attend seminary. This is going to fill a lot of needs,” Betts said.

It also will help span the physical divide between Disciples congregations scattered throughout the U.S., she noted.

“I can already see the sense of community this is creating,” she said. “It demonstrates how seminary is still relevant to our churches, and that together, we’re much stronger than we can ever be standing alone. I think we have to be open to seeing things in a whole new light.”