Category: This is Central
Your Calling. Your Values. Your Seminary.
This blog post is written by Central student Bradly Baird as part of the “Your calling. Your values. Your seminary.” blog series.
Six years ago, I was conducting hiring interviews for my employer. One of the applicants had just completed her Clinical Pastoral Education in a nearby hospital and was searching for a new full-time role. She spent most of the interview describing her work as a chaplain.
I was intrigued by what she had to say, asked a lot of questions, and experienced a powerful, very personal, internal response to her work. The experience felt similar to the day I encountered God for the first time and I walked out of that meeting knowing in my heart that I would become a chaplain, though I knew nothing about the process or where the process would lead me.
Three years later, I entered the Clinical Pastoral Education program at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and, in those first few months, the idea of attending seminary began to creep into my mind. Initially, I dismissed the feelings but the further into chaplaincy education I moved, the more I began to think about attending seminary until one day I found myself exploring different seminaries from across the country.
I looked at a wide range of institutions and could find nothing that suited me or seemed to fulfill the sense of call I was experiencing. I expressed my frustrations to a colleague (a recent Central Seminary graduate) who started telling me about Central and her experiences.
Our conversation provoked a sense of importance and sparked a strong interest in the institution. I continued exploring and spoke with others from Central. Those conversations convinced me that Central was the right place and I started the admissions process right away.
At the start, I did not know what to expect and I entered the school with a skeptical feeling about how a Master of Divinity could impact my life. But by the end of the first year, I already saw ways in which this energetic community of engaged learners started to transform many things in my life, including my thinking about ministry and my understanding of human approaches to faith.
I felt great support from each of the faculty and from the other students. They respected my personal journey, expressed interest in my faith tradition, encouraged me to continuously wrestle with my questions on faith, and encouraged me to apply the tenets of my theology and tradition and to the conditions of humanity on our planet.
The community also helped me discover a new theological viewpoint that lurked beneath the surface of my humanity for a long time (I can now declare myself a liberation theologian, though a conservative one) and encouraged me to embrace a new vocational call growing in my mind.
I now feel compelled to work with the rapidly growing refugee community in our world. I am deeply affected by the fact that in 2022, the forced migrant population grew to more than 100 million, which is approximately 1.2 percent of the total global population.
The Governor of Utah recently declared that our state would house as many of those immigrants as possible, which means the need to minister and provide support will skyrocket. I plan to eventually join that ministry and, as part of my education at Central, I plan to devote more time and explore this growing call.
To support the exploration, I look forward to taking Central Seminary’s Contextual Learning courses and to completing a Capstone project, which will offer the opportunity to work with Utah’s Sudanese communities through a connection provided by my employer.
Central Seminary has played such a critically important role in my life and in my ministry development that its importance cannot be overestimated. I look forward to the next two years and to the continual gifts I will receive from this wonderful institution.