In her junior year at Williams College, Naomi heard the call to continue her education. At the time, the decision between Ph.D. or seminary was unclear. She was aware of Gordon-Conwell’s reputation and great global legacy. Naomi’s encounter with the admissions team was the confirmation that Gordon-Conwell’s Hamilton Campus was the next destination on her life’s journey. She was impressed the admissions representatives, the campus, the curriculum and the ISBCE Scholar’s Program. As she recalls, “although the admissions representatives did not really know me, they prayed for the will of God to be done in my life.”
With a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Africana studies, Naomi is excited to not only extend her learning but to have the privilege of accomplishing research through the Institute. From witnessing the faith journey of her peers either being strengthened or beaten down in secular classrooms, Naomi understands “the specificity with which [God] created every person is precious” and she is determined to fight for racial justice, cultural sensitivity, multi-ethnic community and a revival of worship. A gifted worship leader and vocalist, Naomi has already had a dynamic impact on the chapel program on the Hamilton Campus. Her commitment to prayer is inspiring and an encouraging force as she joins a number of students on the road to “racial awakening and sensibility.”
It takes a tremendous amount of faith to say “it is about God using us to do what He wants to do.” After earning a bachelor’s degree in international business, a master’s degree in global management and over a decade in the finance world, Genevieve’s interests in global leadership directed her to the M. Div. degree with a focus in world missions. Always looking for what she can bring to the table, Genevieve is interested in making a contribution to the campus life of the Hamilton Campus. Her passion for broadcasting, video production and the technical aspects of ministry are part of her tool kit as she plans to find ways to bring the Bible to life for people around the world.
Genevieve is excited to be a part of a new era at Gordon-Conwell and excited to be a member of the second cohort of ISBCE Scholars. She recognizes her role as a trailblazer along with her peer ISBCE Scholars,paving the way for future Scholars and ministers. She is looking forward to exploring new cultures, particularly through the GCTS mission trips. In her work with the Institute, she is looking forward to accomplishing innovative research while also producing live broadcasts and resource materials for the local and global church.
Reputation and word of mouth introduced Jaronzie to Gordon-Conwell, but her long-standing interest in the roots of Black religion drew her to the ISBCE. Within the Institute, she’s found exciting coursework in an academic setting with others who are interested in the potential for research, collaboration and ultimately, growth.
Jaronzie’s calling and vocation are rooted in education with a particular passion for interpreting the Word. She appreciates the Biblical foundations that are a hallmark of GCTS training. Her experiences have led her to recognize the need to address the spiritual health of the Black community by deepening the interaction between social analysis and scriptural exegesis.
The Institute has become important in her theological development through its use of scholarship, critical inquiry and dialogue to engage the many dimensions of the Black Christian experience and consider the significance of those witnesses to the church today. Jaronzie’s research within the ISBCE will draw upon the diverse history of thought and activism that characterizes much of the Black Christian experience, exploring how the skepticism and relativism that marks the postmodern ethos has influenced how millennials organize around race, religion and movement building. Through theology and scholarship, Jaronzie hopes to minister with activists on the front-line; acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.
Jacob plans to take ministry to the streets. His experiences growing up tin Boston and working in the inner city revealed to him that many of the people around him who are in need of the Gospel may never sit in church pews. Jacob navigated answeting his call to ministry by accomplishing course work in Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and matriculating from Gordon College, where he majored in Christian Ministries with a concentration in Urban Ministries. Being inspired by the program model of the Emmanual Gospel Center, he finished his studies at Gordon College. Inspired by A. J. Gordon’s legacy in starting a missionary school for people of color, women, and Jews while equally inspired by his recent internship at the Emmanuel Gospel Center, Jacob is excited to serve the church and God’s people.
Despite having no initial plans to go to seminary after college, his counseling and pastoral gifts were affirmed by many. With a desire not to leave Massachusetts, his interest in Gordon-Conwell grew passionately. At the time, Gordon Colle and Gordon-Conwell’s Hamilton Campus were debuting a program where some of his advanced collegiate credits would transfer to the Seminary’s Master’s program. He also learned of the amazing ISBCE Scholar program. As if that were not enough, Jacob had the chance to hear Dr. Price speak at a Gordon College chapel service after Trump was elected and quickly recognized the sermon as an appropriate response to the hurt, shock, and confusion that some people were experiencing.
While Jacob is not sure exactly where his road will lead, he knows it will be God-ordered, and therefore, good. In earning his Master’s in Divinity, he is looking forward to developing his ministry and finding the right mentorship. What he has recognized is that people are hungry for the discussions that the ISBCE facilitates and he is learning not to be afraid of tension, while remaining mindful of his neighbor and supporting the growth we all need in order to promote reconcilliation.
Learning how God communicates has always been important to Tolieth Marks. This understanding inspires her work in replying to God in her worshipful lifestyle, and this communication is ultimately was directed her to Gordon-Conwell. After learning about others in her circle who had studied at GCTS, she submitted her application out of obedience to the calling.
Tolieth has been empowered to manage her roles of being a mother of three, an ISBCE Scholar, a vocal coach, and a consultant helping worship teams develop their programs. Her work involves focusing teams so that God can do the work He wants to do. Born in Jamaica and raised in America, she brings a global perspective to conversations, aiming at getting away from the enslavements of what we have been taught and inspiring others to be empowered to move forward in spite of difficulties.
Sensing the urgency of the current cultural climate, she has never been afraid of addressing things that need to be addressed, nor tiptoeing around issues that cause hurt. During her studies, Tolieth hopes to learn how to navigate a way through tough subjects “to win people back to oneness – to be kingdom minded, one voice, one sound”.
Being an ISBCE Scholar is important to Tolieth because the words “race reconciliation” resonate strongly with her. While she prefers to be behind the scenes, she steps forward to bring people together through her music and worship.
Knowing the reputation of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is one thing, but discovering the vision and mission of the ISBCE was a key attraction for Stephanie. A mother of two, who invests in her children, Stephanie is looking to make an impact in the lives of many by leading and healing through compassionate relationships.
Stephanie holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in psychology and a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Pursuing the Master’s of Arts in Biblical Studies at the Hamilton Campus will offer her the final piece to prepare her for effective biblical leadership as she continues to pour into her children, her students, and her women’s empowerment activist group, “Altogether Beautiful”.
Stephanie’s intent is to penetrate her community with a social justice approach to the Gospel. Her goal is to serve in church/ school ministry as an advocate for racial justice while shining light on the necessity to build diverse relationships as a part of the healing process.
Community well-being touches the heart of Zachary Stephenson, the ISBCE’s newest scholar. A “highly committed servant leader who enjoys building and maintaining meaningful Christ-centered relationships,” Zachary’s training in social work is “focused on helping others succeed.” His spiritual journey has brought him from his hometown of Augusta, Georgia to earn his BLA in social work at Alabama State University and his MSW at the University of Connecticut concentrating on group work, mental health, and substance abuse. At Gordon-Conwell, he is in pursuit of the M.Div degree.
Zachary has been a dedicated volunteer in multiple communities – Montgomery, AL, Breezy Point, NY, and Hartford, CT. He has committed himself to full-time social work with several organizations in Hartford. While in Connecticut, Zachary obtained two important licensures: licensed master social worker and licensed minister. In fact, his social work complements his direction in ministry.
Zachary comes to us from The First Cathedral in Bloomfield, CT, where he has participated in several church ministries and served as youth advisor and youth director. It was at First Cathedral where he worked closely with ISBCE Advisory Council Member and GCTS alumnus, Co-Pastor Michael Bailey, M.Div. ’09, D.Min. ’15. Recognizing his gifts, Dr. Bailey encouraged Zachary to attend Gordon-Conwell noting that the experience and robust curricula would equip him in his pastoral calling.
Through his studies as an ISBCE scholar, Zachary hopes to further marry his knowledge and experience in social work with his growth as a minister. He believes that mental health warrants more attention in today’s church and he aims to lead and encourage ministers to impact today’s culture as led by scripture.
Having finished a certificate in theological studies at Bethel Seminary of the East, waiting on God’s timing to further her education led her to GCTS in ISBCE’s inaugural class of Scholars. The existence of the Institute was a key factor for her because to have a program explicitly centered on the Black Christian Experience proved that “our worship and dynamic experience transcends our community”.
Katishia manages her full-time work with her full-time studies while her ministerial development is unfolding. She is currently an ordained minister looking to focus on individual and small group development through mentoring and training teams for spiritual growth.
“I feel the Black Christian Experience, principally in the U.S., has a wealth of experiential knowledge to offer the Church. The historic birth of black churches came forth in the context of white supremacy. We embraced a Bible and a Gospel that many used to oppress us and invalidate our humanity. I’m interested in studying how we were able to love and live a Biblical Gospel, while inhabiting a world that marginalized our existence. I’d like to explore the social dimensions of the Gospel, and how we can promote the equal value and dignity of all human beings created in the image of God.”
Katishia plans to faithfully contribute her voice, abilities, and resources to assist the Institute in fulfilling its vision, mission, and goals. She wants to know what she doesn’t know about the Black Christian Experience, and how that knowledge will change her and the people she influences. Her research will explore the effects of injustice and inequality on the soul of both the those in power, and the marginalized, and determine how the eternal redemption and reconciliation found in Christ comes to bear in repairing the souls of both.