Darcy Tillman: A Journey of Faith, Service, and Curiosity

Headshot of Darcy Tillman

Darcy Tillman, MDiv ’99, took an unconventional path to congregational ministry.

I grew up in a time when you didn’t see a lot of women in ministry, but I’d always been active in the church,” she said. “The first time I seriously considered seminary was after I moved to Washington DC, and the pastor of my church asked if I had ever thought about ministry.”

Though Rev. Tillman had long been passionate about service and international work, it was the conversation with her pastor that helped her realize her true calling.

Rev. Tillman embarked on her theological education, guided by a sense of purpose and curiosity. She chose the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) because of Chicago’s welcoming atmosphere and the potential for connections with international communities within the city.

Once at LSTC, “My focus became mission and evangelism,” Rev. Tillman said. “Seminary was eye-opening. It was challenging. It was nurturing.”

Rev. Tillman’s commitment to international service became clear during her seminary internship in the Central African Republic.

One of the best and most challenging years of her life, Rev. Tillman says the experience exposed her to raw realities, including the HIV/AIDS crisis and extreme poverty. It also helped her understand the importance of being present with people as they walk through difficult moments.

After earning her MDiv, Rev. Tillman accepted the Associate Pastor role at Lord of Life Lutheran in Northern Virginia. There she continued to serve international communities in need, most notably in Haiti, an invaluable and rewarding experience that lasted three years.

In 2002, she was called by LSTC to direct a Lilly grant-funded program to encourage high school youth to explore ministry as a vocation.

As Director of Youth in Mission, Rev. Tillman spearheaded the marketing program, directed the development of a youth center, and initiated a program for youth that included service trips to Mexico City.

“It was fun to see the young people realize a broader context of faith and begin to understand that they, too, have a calling,” Rev. Tillman said about her experience with the teens.  

After laying a foundation of success for the program, Rev. Tillman felt called to return to a congregational setting. She spent six years as the Pastor for Nativity Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia, then 10 years at Lutheran Church of the Covenant in Dale City, Virginia, before being called to a unique opportunity to serve as Pastor/President at Lord of Life Lutheran Church and Adult & Child Services in Depew, New York.

Here, Rev. Tillman is both the pastor of a congregation and the president of a separate nonprofit that operates an adult day health center and child development center.

“The work excites me and has opened a window for me to seeing God at work,” she said. “It allows me to continuing helping people see and connect with God.”  

For students starting their own journeys of discernment, Rev. Tillman offers this advice: “Pray a lot. Be curious and talk to others who are in ministry to hear about the different ways people are being called to ministry. And when you’re ready to take that leap of faith, I think that no matter what, you can get something from it.”

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