In a community filled with dedicated and faithful future leaders, Christopher Stewart’s passion for both learning and for helping the homeless stand out.
Stewart is enrolled as both a master of divinity and master of theological studies candidate. When he graduates this year, he has one more educational objective in his sights.
“Law school is the goal for me. I feel called to be an advocate for the homeless and for our youth,” says the native Washingtonian. “That is what I have felt called to since I started my political science degree at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I want to become a juvenile court judge. That will be my pulpit in a sense.”
So why add the M.Div. to his M.T.S. course load? Although he doesn’t foresee pursuing ordination, Stewart says, “The M.Div. offers me more of an opportunity to theoretically and practically address some of the questions inside and outside of the church. The tools I’ve learned in my courses will certainly help me with my pursuit of a law degree and beyond.”
Wesley also has equipped him in another way. “I would not have been as prepared for law school without the ecumenical conversations and dialogue in and outside of class,” he says. “Meeting so many people from so many different traditions, I’ve learned a great deal from the students as well as the professors.”
The topic of his M.T.S. thesis centers on juvenile justice and the church’s response to offering care and ministry to young people. “I have met so many young men who have so much to give to the world but aren’t sure how to do it,” he says. “They haven’t had the guidance to help them discover their gifts and talents. It pulls on my heartstrings. And I’m accountable. As a man. As a black man. As a human,” he continues. “I’m responsible for making sure these young people see they are loved and that they have so much to offer.”
Stewart became active in homeless outreach with his church and school while in high school. It was at a summer internship at the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in college that his call coalesced.
“I met a homeless man right out front of the courthouse,” he says. “Over the course of my internship, I formed a bond with him. I would bring lunch, and we would have lunch together. I developed a passion for ending homelessness as opposed to pacifying it.”
A Missional Fellow, which comes with a requirement of leading an intensive project, Stewart chose to work on a project creating a transitional house for the homeless. “To be part of the Mission Fellows has been a blessing. It has given us an opportunity to focus on a project and something that is so dear and close to our hearts.”
While completing his coursework at Wesley, Stewart has also taken classes at Catholic University that will eventually earn him a master of library science. “I have been working at libraries since St. Mary’s,” he says. He now works fulltime at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library, the main branch of the D.C. library system.
While working at the D.C. library, he learned of a conference on learning disabilities. On his own, he submitted a proposal about learning disabilities and homelessness. “They had never tackled such a topic, so they were interested,” he says. Stewart gave a presentation to the Learning Disability Association 52nd Annual International Conference in Chicago in February.
He says, “I want to tackle all kinds of factors of homelessness, including something as small as or as large as having a learning disability and being homeless. What do we do with that? How do we serve that?”
If all of this seems a lot to do for a student who is also a husband and a new father, he says, “When you’re taking courses that mesh well together, it becomes a lot easier to do it.”
“My plan was to graduate from St. Mary’s in 2005, but I did it in 2012,” says Stewart. Midway through his degree, wanting to serve in the world but not seeing the connection between the classroom and the real world, he left school. In addition to working, he also volunteered in Haiti and Ethiopia. Along the way he discovered he needed experience and education. After finishing college, he enrolled at Wesley and will graduate this year. “I have goals and dreams. That is what all of this is leading to.”