Shawn Dickerson is a fire chief; Peter J.L. Pond is manager of site services for a pharmaceutical company; and Adrienne Clements is an adult education coordinator.
What do they have in common? Thanks to the flexibility of Bexley Hall's MDiv program, they all have the opportunity to attend seminary while maintaining their jobs and meeting family and financial obligations.
As is true for many seminarians, Peter J.L. Pond had long felt the call to ordained ministry. As is also true for many, daily life interceded and he focused on family and his job.
"So the call that I felt strongly got put on hold," Pond said. "I have four children. Raising kids, having a career....ministry didn't seem to be a possibility."
Four years ago Pond and his family moved to West Chester, Ohio, where they are members of St. Anne's Episcopal Church. A discussion with his rector caused him to go through a period of formal discernment, and he became aware that Bexley was within commuting distance.
The ability to attend seminary part-time gave Pond the opportunity to heed the call that he had felt since his youth.
"I'm trying to balance my obligations to my two college kids and two younger kids," he said. "I'm a first-year seminarian, and at some point I want to go to seminary fulltime."
Pond has a BA in history from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire and an MBA from Norwich University in Vermont. He works full time as is manager of site services for Amylin Pharmaceuticals in West Chester. He said he feels lucky to have the opportunity to follow his call.
There are a lot of people who don't pursue a call because they think those opportunities have passed them by," Pond said. "It's really sad to think that people would not follow that passion and develop the gifts that could make the kingdom even stronger. We're very lucky that the church is looking at alternate ways of education. I'm very lucky." Adrienne Clements
Adrienne Clements began attending Bexley part-time last year when she and her two young sons moved from Montreal, Canadato Cleveland, to join her husband, who had taken a new job. But her journey to seminary first began with her longtime interest in social justice and human rights.
After earning a bachelor's degree in anthropology and biology and a master's in environmental science, she pursued a career in international development. Her work in Kenya and Haiti for Save the Children and the Christian Children's Fund brought into focus the connection between her faith and justice issues. While still living in Canada, she began seminary at Montreal Diocesan Theological College, an Anglican theological college and a founding member of The Montreal School of Theology in affiliation with McGill University. She also served as a warden in her home parish of Christ Church Beaurepaire in Beaconsfield, Quebec, and was the stewardship officer for the Diocese of Montreal.
When the family moved to Cleveland, she entered Bexley as a senior and expects to graduate in June. She is working part-time at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland as the adult education coordinator.
"I really appreciate Bexley's flexibly, and not only in scheduling," Clements said. "There's also an attitude of inclusion, in spite of the fact that you're not there all the time. Anytime I can be there, they are delighted to have me."
Shawn Dickerson had been thinking about going to seminary for about 20 years before he finally decided to go. In the meantime he graduated from Kansas State University, taught public school for three years, served in the US Coast Guard, including a stint in Kuwa
it, and worked as a firefighter. Currently he is the full-time fire chief for the City of Norwalk, Ohio, a job in which he oversees fire protection for 23,000 people.
"I had been considering going to seminary for many years and finally decided I needed to go through the formal discernment process," Dickerson said. "I was drawn to Bexley because I needed to be a commuter student."
"In some ways it was the only choice," he said of Bexley, which is a little over a two-hour drive from his home. "But I was very impressed when I came down for the visit. I'm a cradle Episcopalian, and it's been fun learning more about the liturgy and learning more about the history. A nice thing about Bexley is that we're exposed to Trinity Lutheran Seminary. We are exposed to a different flavor of Christianity. It's only one flavor away from Episcopalian, but I can see the nuances between the different traditions, and it makes me appreciate the Episcopalians."
He attended Bexley as a full-time commuter student for his first year of seminary, but when he was promoted to fire chief, he had to become a part-time student. He's at the start of his third year and hopes eventually to transition from a commuter to a residential student. As for what he'll do when he gets his MDiv degree, he's not sure.
"It could be a military chaplaincy, could be parish ministry. A lot of options are open to me."
"When I meet with students, many often say, ‘I'm not a typical seminarian,' given their background or life situation," Bexley Dean Tom Ferguson notes. "I usually reply, ‘There is no such thing as a typical seminarian anymore.' The seminary is here for the students, not the students for the seminary."
The federation of Bexley Hall and Seabury Western is committed to providing a variety of flexible options-an in-residence MDiv; short-term intensives; and hybrid online classes-to adapt to the changing needs of students, new contexts for ministry and the changing nature of theological education. To learn more, call or email Dean Tom Ferguson at 614-231-3095 or