Seminary as Pilgrimage


Think about God in all your ways, and God will guide you on the right paths. -Proverbs 3:6

In life challenges will arise. There will be times decisions will have to be made that go against loved ones or the norms of society. In the same spirit it takes to make those decisions, one must hold on to this motivation before and after one's seminary experience. One internal conflict may be leaving the comfort of “home.” This option may never cross one's mind, but this thought should be a welcome challenge for the many students contemplating seminary.

I have talked to many McAfee students who relocated. They explain there was a seminary in their hometown, but they knew God called them to McAfee. They admit there was fear of the unknown, fear of change.  Many people in ministry made the case for them to stay in the area, but they knew there was something more. It's difficult to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. It is hard to believe in something one can't see, but this is the beauty of faith. To continue to walk, even though you cannot see what is ahead.

If I never left home, I would have been ignoring God. This statement may seem extreme to some, or may be something many of you reading this are doing at this very moment.  I grew up in a small town outside the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Steelton). This is a town where everyone knows your name. A town made up of families and stores that have been there for decades. The atmosphere is one I appreciate. I can attest there is nothing like it, but I always had the feeling of what else is there?

Let me be clear, I do remember blatantly ignoring God's call. I remember knowing it was time to move and didn't. With this choice I was living a life I did not deserve. I was in other words living a lie. I made a choice, and it wasn't easy. Honestly, leaving your comfort zone can be scary, overwhelming, and cause pain for loved ones. While these reasons may make one question leaving home at all, this decision can be exciting, empowering, and just what the doctor ordered. It takes action; the first step may be the hardest, but well worth it.

We can repeat an action so much we do not realize it has become routine. A slight change in position or direction can make the difference. One change could possibly push one to his or her full potential–the potential God has deemed for all of us. We can sometimes get in our own way. The wants and desires of self can be placed above the desires of God. Seminary prepares students for ministry, but also allows students to be free to exercise their gifts–their potential. It is never good to limit God. Oh the places one can go with faith.

There is a time for everything as we learn in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. There is also a space for everyone to take up. To be realistic everyone cannot leave their current location. There are those who are needed to use their God-given gifts to make where they are a better place. While this is true, this should never be an excuse not to take risks. We are taught faith without works is dead, right? There are many who say, “I wish I would have done this or that,” and the opportunity was always there, they just never took the first step.

To go or not to go is the question. When fear comes into the picture, one can limit oneself, and live an unfulfilling life. I will never forget what my grandfather would tell me, “there are two kinds of people in this world, those who wait for things to happen, and those who make things happen.” Wherever you may be, you can make things happen. I think the pertinent question is, “what happens if you are not where you're called to be?”

Once I graduated high school I relocated to Richmond Virginia to attend undergrad. With this choice I was four hours from my comfort zone. I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the country, develop my leadership skills, and learn a lot about myself. I built relationships, and even worked at a Fortune 500 company. To get up again and go from this very comfortable place of contentment was difficult.

With God guiding my footsteps I accepted the offer to attend McAfee School of Theology to receive a Master of Divinity. This choice pushed me eight hours from Richmond and twelve hours from my beloved hometown. Atlanta was an unfamiliar place. I discovered where I am from does not define where I am going, but has played an integral part in who I am. The journey for me is not limited to one place or one group of people. 

A pilgrimage is a journey toward an intended destination of significance. There are many roads you can take to get there, but it is what happens along the way to the destination that will transform you. To experience the unknown can be scary, and cause you to turn the other way, but embracing the journey ahead is well worth the risk.

Leaving home may not be what God has for you. For you who know that your time to minister is here, don't be afraid to step out on faith and listen to God. I have learned when you hear the call it is always better to not only listen, but act. Your story may not make sense to everyone around you. There will be many who will try to tell you what you should do. There will be pressures and even negative voices saying you can't do this.

What will be your destination? Should you leave your place of comfort? I cannot answer that question, but I can tell you if this is what God has for you, it is worth it.  God has led me to McAfee, but this is not the end. Seminary equips the individual to fully take on the assignment.

If you choose to leave home, you don't forget about those who have influenced you along the way, but take a part of them and that place everywhere God leads you. Once you get to the place, remember the work does not stop. A pilgrimage is a long journey, one full of twists and turns, one that may take leaps of faith.

As I continue to grow, and be encouraged by the word of God I may be led to many different places. I pray my pilgrimage is filled with courage, and I pray the same for you.  

Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. NEVER GIVE UP!

Written by Brittini Palmer

Brittini Palmer writes for McAfee as a second year Master of Divinity student. She is a graduate from Virginia Union University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications and Journalism. In addition to writing and freelance reporting, Palmer has always been active in the community, and advocates for human rights. She believes everyone has a story, and writes to bring those stories to life with a passion to help someone along the way.