Meet Sean Gray, a rising 2nd year, full-time, M.Div. student in Wesley’s Public Theology specialization program. Sean came to Wesley immediately after graduating from Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA, where he majored in history and religion.
“I started off just being interested in studying religion in a classroom in undergrad, and along the way I realized that it was pointless to sit and study and read about religion and theology without actually using it to do anything, and so that is how I started to realize that I was being called into ministry and wanted to come to seminary. Along with that, I was always very interested in U.S. history, government, and civics, so when I was looking at seminaries and Wesley’s Public Theology program popped up, I knew exactly that that’s what I wanted to do!”
Sean resides downtown in Wesley’s Birch Intentional Living Community. He admits that initially, “It was a shock; but I always wanted to live in an urban place, at least for a little bit. I think it’s exciting; I never see the same thing 2 days in a row, and especially being downtown, there’s a lot of opportunities to see the hurt in the city. I see a lot of our unhoused neighbors everyday, and so it’s a daily reminder of both of how blessed and how fortunate I am in life, and how much works needs to be done in the world."
Reflecting on his classes in first year, one in particular, the Community Engagement Seminar, had an deep impact on him. “Dr. Parrish and Dr. Miles are nuancing the way I think about leadership and community, and how to take all of the things that we’re learning about in all of our other classes and using that to inform our community and our public work. It’s fascinating, and sometimes I don’t really get a grip on it very well, but I’m working on it.”
As for public theology, “I had to realize that public theology is a lot bigger than what I thought it was; it has a lot more to do with living out faith in a meaningful way than about engaging the government, but it can also be about engaging the government. And by living downtown, it really helped me realize that there are many more things to work on other than just trying to make Congress do things. There is a plethora of opportunities to use my education and training in ways that affect the city, or ways that affect certain individuals in a way that is important and needed. Much more useful than just getting angry about national headlines.”
Sean has also been working with a local chapter of Project Transformation in Washington, DC, which also partners with the Baltimore Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church. “Our mission is “to engage young adults in purposeful leadership and ministry, support children in holistic development, and connect churches with communities.” (http://www.projecttransformation.org) He started working with the national, non-profit organization last summer as an intern, and now he will be fulfilling his PMM requirements as House Pastor for the interns. ‘’This basically means that I will be a chaplain to the interns that are running the summer camp. I’m really excited for it because this is my first real opportunity to be in any sort of ministerial leadership role, and I’m happy that it will be in the environment that I’m familiar with, and with an organization that I have a relationship with. I should be able to relate to the interns that are doing the job I had last year, and to be able to help them work through their experiences."
Sean is currently a certified candidate for ordination in The United Methodist Church. Since being at Wesley, he has started attending Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, and looks forward to becoming actively involved in their ministries.
With such a busy schedule, Sean describes his multiple roles and responsibilities as “ambitious”, and he also encourages future seminarians to do the same. “Be ambitious in pursuing your goals, but also be ambitious in taking the vast amounts of opportunities there are in DC to use and engage in your education while you’re here, because there’s everything you can possible think of somewhere in the District.”
Learn more about our Public Theology specialization at Wesley via our Center for Public Theology here.