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Two UCC women are among last to graduate from the STM

Seattle University’s Board of Trustees voted in April 2020 to close the School of Theology and Ministry (STM).

Amara Oden is outside Hunthausen Hall which was used by Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry.                      Photo courtesy of Amara Oden

Stevi Hamill and Amara Oden, two UCC students who graduated in June from Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry (STM), are both grieving the loss of the school’s “solid program of theological study that has produced good pastors,” Stevi said.

STM emphasized integrity and compassion which are important for people to be effective ministers, she said, noting, too, it was one space Catholic women could have a theological education in the Pacific Northwest and has been a safe space for queer students.

Stevi, who just had her final ordination interview, continues at SU, hired as campus minister for retreats.

“Many of us feel a gaping loss in theological education in the region and felt STM added to the university and the religious community in the Pacific Northwest,” she said, noting the interreligious center announced in July has a place, but is not theological education for a MDiv.

Amara, who took seven years to complete her master of divinity degree,  is now seeking a call as a pastor. She received a Donald and Lynnea Mayer endowed scholarship.

She started at Tolt UCC in Carnation and then was a member at United Churches in University Place since she and her husband moved to the area 20 years ago. She became UCC as an adult and seeks a full time ministry.

“I feel sad the STM is closing because my first nudge to my call to ministry was 10 years before I went to seminary. I dismissed it because I was a mother of one and wanted more children. It seemed illogical and impractical, so I put off the call until I couldn’t ignore it.

“STU was the only school I could go to work and go to class at the same time. I would not do well online. No other seminary could meet my needs and allow me to meet my call,” she said. “It is not positive for those with unconventional calls to ministry. I could not move my family to go to seminary. So, while there are online options, the in person ministry training in the richness of ecumenical training are important to minister to people in this region where there are so few churched or religious people left.”

Amara appreciated being educated with classmates in other denominations, something that could not be replicated in online studies or a UCC only seminary. Sometimes she took just one class a year.

She was among those who helped organize Speak Out group to challenge SU, but could not stay with it.

“I mourn for people like me who need ministry formation who in the future will not be able to pursue a call to ministry,” she said, knowing some students who had to stop or move home.

“I have questions about the decision.  It’s hard to accept that it was the only option or in line with the values we were taught, raised to think creatively and imaginatively about God who moves through the world,” she said. “I did not see effort to find options. I was only told there would be a two-year teachout, extended now to three years.”

Amara said she was in Speak Out to join in re-imagining theological education, noting that the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement is not theological education.

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Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News © Winter 2021-22


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