in Uncategorized
January 30th, 2012

Dear Dean Hill,

I hope you are doing well.  In November, we spoke in person about my interest in theology and my plans to pursue a Master of Divinity degree.  During our discussion, you asked if I’d be willing to write and share with you a summary of that interest and those plans.  You felt that this information could perhaps be of inspiration to the Marsh Chapel Community.  Now that I’m finished with my applications and have an even clearer sense of my interest and plans, I am glad to share with you the following:

Three experiences significantly influenced my decision to pursue a Master of Divinity degree.  The first experience was being a member of the Inner Strength Gospel Choir.  I joined the choir as a freshman and was a member for all four years of my undergraduate studies.  The choir gave me the wonderful sense that I was wanted and loved by God.  While the choir was undoubtedly Christian, it attracted and fully accepted members of various faiths.  By embodying God’s love for all of humanity, the choir helped me to embrace Christianity more eagerly.  When I served as president of the choir during my senior year, I discovered my passion and aptitude for leadership in gospel ministry.  As president, I found immense fulfillment in helping to promote faith and awareness of God’s love for all people.  I found personal fulfillment as well in creating my vision for the choir, which included ensuring that all choir members felt welcome and could freely share their needs and receive support for their personal struggles.

The second experience that contributed to my decision to pursue a graduate theological education was worshipping at Marsh Chapel, my first real spiritual home.  I regularly attended morning services at Marsh Chapel as a senior and found that, like the gospel choir, the services gave me spiritual sustenance and solid religious guidance.  I often felt God’s presence at Marsh Chapel.  It usually came in the form of a tingling sensation that swept through me, bringing me peace, comfort and strength, and then always passing.  I often felt that form of God’s presence while singing with the gospel choir at rehearsals and concerts; praying or sitting silently in the pews; and listening to sermons preached by Dean Hill and the music led by the Marsh Chapel Choir.  When I moved to Washington, DC two years ago to work for a Congressional advisory agency, it took a while for me to find a new church at which I could feel at home.  During my search, I became even more appreciative of the tremendous spiritual home that Marsh Chapel was for me.

The third experience that encouraged me to pursue a graduate theological education was my exposure to the teachings of Howard Thurman.  I first learned of Thurman through Boston University’s Howard Thurman Center for Race, Culture and Ethnicity.  What I found appealing about Thurman was that, like the gospel choir, he was a Christian and accepting of other faiths.  Because of my experience in the gospel choir, I was intrigued by Thurman’s belief that when a diverse group of people seek God together, and when this seeking is sustained for a sufficient time, then all the barriers that often divide people—such as race, class, and faith—begin to melt away in the radiance of God’s presence.  This and other of Thurman’s ideas made religion come alive for me and, ultimately, encouraged me to pursue a graduate theological education that will help me understand and explain the biblical basis for what I felt as a choir member and as a worshiper at Marsh Chapel: that God’s love can be more compelling than any differences that divide one person from another.

At this point, I am considering a range of vocational directions, including pastoral ministry, academia, and health policy.  I hope that through my graduate theological education I will be able to explore and further develop my career goals.  I plan to use my Master of Divinity degree to become a more effective leader within my future church—whether as a pastor, a layperson, or in some other capacity.  I also plan to use my graduate theological education to compose meditations, similar to the ones Thurman composed, that address all aspects of human experience and that serve to help people of all backgrounds draw closer to God.  I hope that my graduate theological education will help me to grow in my ability to think reflectively on, and to creatively synthesize, various areas of knowledge: faith, public policy, science, and the arts.  I also hope that my graduate theological education will help me to develop a heightened sense of justice and a larger heart for compassion in both my personal and professional life.  Lastly, I hope that my graduate theological education will help me become a finer representation of the loving spirit of Jesus so that others may know him through knowing me.


All my best to you and the Marsh Chapel Community,



Matlin Gilman