Making it all fit: Carly Chamberlain stays busy with Public Church Fellowship, work, classes via distance learning

Carly Chamberlain

For Carly Chamberlain, her calling to the Ministry of Word and Service wasn’t some bolt out of the blue, but a “gentle calling” over many years.

Chamberlain, a first-year MAM student, sees her vocation, as well as her choice of LSTC, as the nudging of so many people at different points in her life.

After graduating from high school in her hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich., Chamberlain studied French in Boston. It only made sense, she said, to exercise that knowledge by immersion, so after graduation, she moved to France, where she taught English. It was there that the Spirit gave her another nudge—providing her with a Christian roommate who encouraged her in her faith.

“I’ve always had this gentle calling in the back of my head,” Chamberlain said. However, France was a turning point for her. “It was this beautiful, kismet kind of situation that put me with this woman as a roommate.”

After returning to the U.S., Chamberlain took a corporate job. But the pandemic ended that, and she ended up working as an administrator at Faith Lutheran Church in Phoenix. Feeling called during that work cinched it for her. She entered candidacy in the Grand Canyon Synod.

Originally, Chamberlain expected to attend another seminary. As she started telling seminary graduates of her intention, they all pointed her another place: LSTC. Chamberlain said two close friends, Stoney Bowen-Weiszmann (2006, MDiv) and Lara Forbes (2010, MDiv), the former pastor at Faith Lutheran Church, her congregation in Phoenix, both graduated from LSTC. Then she discovered there were three LSTC grads in her home congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Kalamazoo. Chamberlain said the message was overwhelming: she needed to look closely at LSTC.

It was the Public Church curriculum that made Chamberlain decide to attend LSTC. A full-tuition scholarship and Public Church Fellowship sealed it for her.

“[The scholarship and fellowship] has made it possible for me to continue to work full time to support myself without worrying about funds,” she said. “It’s been such a gift for which I’m incredibly grateful.”

Chamberlain works four to seven hours per week at Native American Urban Ministry for her Public Church Fellowship placement. She is helping the traditionally word-of-mouth organization establish an online and social-media presence. Along with that, she works a full-time scheduling job from home and takes three online classes. It is a busy schedule that requires her to be organized.

She said there are times she feels overwhelmed, especially with the amount of reading. “There’s so much reading I feel like my eyeballs are going to fall out of my head, but it’s really interesting reading,” she said. “I do sometimes feel like I’m back in undergrad studying a foreign language!” The energy of starting seminary balances the workload: “It is all enlightening and invigorating.”

Her stress-reduction methods involve knitting and other needlework, like embroidery and cross-stitch. Like many other LSTC students, her pets are another relief valve: she loves just watching them exist. “It’s the simplest pleasure,” she said.

She expects to graduate in May 2024. While she loves her work with Native American Urban Ministry, she anticipates her eventual calling will be intersectional and feminist, “however that looks.”

If her past experience is any indication, Chamberlain won’t have to look hard for that place. She will just continue to see where the Spirit is nudging her.  

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 Epistle magazine and was written by Gail Kenny, a third year MDiv student and a student worker on the Marketing and Communications team.

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