As I get to know the Central Baptist Theological Seminary community, I want you to hear some of the amazing stories that I am hearing. To share those stories with you, I am “interviewing” students, alums, faculty, staff, board members, and supporters and sharing an interview on my blog, THIS IS CENTRAL. I invite you to join me on the journey of meeting members of our Central community.
Today’s interview is with Lauren Ng, a Doctor of Ministry student at Central.
Lauren, tell us your Central origin story. How did you come to be a student at Central? What led you to Central?
I am enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program with an expected graduation of Spring, 2023. As a lifelong American Baptist, I have always known about Central and its excellent academic offerings. But as an east coaster who transplanted to the west coast, I had never considered attending a seminary in Kansas! When I determined it was time to pursue my DMin, I decided trying something new would be the most exciting and enriching for my ministry. Why not learn from and with a diverse community of leaders with origin stories and contexts of ministry vastly different from my own? All the sudden, Kansas sounded just right.
An exploratory conversation with Dr. John Park gave me even more confidence that Central was the place for me. As soon as I saw that the DMin program includes a course on Human Centered Design, I couldn't contain my excitement. My work at the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) is focused on missional entrepreneurs, innovators and creators and I already utilize human centered design in my ministry practice.
Tell us about your call to ministry and your ministry journey—where you have served and where you are now serving.
I felt the call to ministry as a recent college graduate living in Center City Philadelphia and working at International Ministries (IM) of the American Baptist Churches. While serving at IM on the Development Team, I was in the process of completing applications for an MFA in Creative Writing. This had been my major at Oberlin College (a double major in English and Creative Writing/Poetry to be exact) and like most of my peers, I had my eyes set on that MFA and on spending my life as a struggling poet! My passion for completing these applications, however, was close to nonexistent. As I drove home from work one day, I called my Dad to divulge my apathy. I told him about the essay questions on the MFA applications and how uninspiring they seemed to me. He asked, "What essay would you like to write?" I thought about it a moment and replied, "I'd like to answer the question, 'What are your God-given gifts and how do you want to use them to serve God's people?" "Honey," he said, "I think you might want to apply to seminary."
Within a year my husband and I had driven across the country to California where I began attending the Berkeley School of Theology. Upon graduation I served as associate pastor at the First Chinese Baptist Church in San Francisco, California, where I was also ordained in 2006. After five years of service there, I took nine years to be a stay-at-home parent to our three children who are now ages 14, 12 and 10. In 2018, I began my work with ABHMS and continue to serve there as the director of Leadership Empowerment. In this role I convene a team of experts in leadership cultivation and apply a good deal of my own time to supporting missional entrepreneurs who are broadening our definition of ministry and pursuing Christ-centered ventures outside of traditional church models.
What have been the best resources and experiences you had in your time at Central?
I am so thankful that our cohort was able to gather in person for our first intensive in January, 2020, before COVID changed everything. The opportunity to learn and engage one another side by side, to share a meal, and to feel the palpable excitement of being students again was a great way to kick off our program. Since then, the support of Dr. Pam Durso, Dr. John Park, and all of our professors have made for an experience that is relationally rewarding and academically challenging, despite the fact we cannot physically gather. I have been impressed by the ways Central continues to foster a sense of family and community in the midst of a challenging year.
What is bringing you joy in this hard season of COVID? What hobbies, activities, adventures, family connections are keeping you healthy?
As many others have experienced during this hard season of COVID, there have been surprising moments of joy and unexpected blessings to be discovered as a result of this year. Our family of five (plus Mochi, our mini goldendoodle!) have spent more time together than we ever imagined we would. We have learned to cope and grieve together, process anxiety and disappointment together, and don new ways of seeing that enable us to receive the blessings God showers upon us daily. We've done the family game nights. We do a weekly Friday night pizza and movie. We've discovered new hiking trails behind our home and around our town. We've read a lot of books and eaten a lot of takeout. There are memories to be kept and treasured from all of these and I am grateful. This brings me joy.
I have also become an avid hiker this year. There are mountain ranges all around us here in the north San Francisco Bay Area and much of them are protected as open space preserves. I am hiking an average of five miles a day, exploring new trails and taking in magnificent vistas each time. My 10-year-old son is my primary hiking buddy and I am convinced the spaciousness of the open mountainside encourages the conversations we have while walking side by side. These forays into each other's hearts, minds, and dreams for the future might not have emerged if not on a mountain. And our love for the mountain might not have emerged if not for the circumstances of this year. God has blessed me with such joy and with the ability to recognize it in the midst of a hard season.