What are you doing today (professionally) and how did Religious Studies prepare you for this?
I am currently an Anglican priest in The Woodlands (Houston), Texas. I serve as an Associate Rector and the Pastor of Family Life at the parish, as well as the Communications Director for my Diocese.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying Religious Studies?
First I want to say I think ALL students should at least take one Religious Studies course. I think liberal education, but especially Religious Studies, is designed to teach students who they are and to teach them wisdom, not knowledge for its own sake. Religious Studies then is a place where students get to take a deep dive into themselves, to have their souls stirred, and where they can be formed into emotionally, morally and spiritually intelligent individuals (something I would argue is greatly needed in the modern world).
I think this question also ties into the work I do as a priest. I think a large part of my calling is to baptize imaginations and to wake people form the stupor of the world around them. I think part of my job is to paint vivid pictures of what is true, good and beautiful, and to point people to that and let them know they can both experience, live in and build a world like that.
I think those that fully take the deep dive into Religious Studies have the opportunity to emerge as those emotionally, morally, and spiritually intelligent individuals who get to lead the charge in building a world that is true, good and beautiful.
What advice do you have for current Religious Studies students?
Don’t enter the Religion Studies classroom and do the “student sleepwalk”. It is so easy as a student, especially at a high-level school like Wake Forest, to get into this hamster wheel of “enter class, take notes (or pretend to), do some reading, do a bit of research, write the perfect paper, make note cards, take your exam” and finish the class without ever wrestling with the subject matter. Religious Studies classes are one of the few places we get to wrestle with what it means to be human, to explore life and death, love and hate, multicultural and international ways of being and to straddle the boundary between objective evidence and subjective experience. And this is hard work and takes time and effort and mental and emotional energy. But you will learn more about yourself and the world when you do this.
How have other areas of your life been shaped by studying Religion?
I think this is an important question, especially as someone whose vocation is tied to religion. And I think Religion and Religious Studies influenced far more than my vocation.
Again I think religion and Religious Studies transcends the arbitrary lines we as humans create as dividing lines. Religion and Religious Studies have a really remarkable way of reminding us we are all human. The Religious Studies Department was one of the few places at Wake I found a truly diverse collective of people, practice, and thought. And the co-laboring we did together shattered the cultural bubble I grew up in. I found (and still find myself) looking at the world and the people that inhabit it differently. It made me self-evaluate my own thoughts and practice. It led me to travel and live all over the world. It led me to believe there is nothing more communal and barrier-breaking than table-gathering. It led me to remarkable friendships, to be ok with not always having the answer, to try to always stand for justice, act with mercy, and walk in humility. And most importantly to understand that there is some inherent goodness and brokenness in all of us. And that means life together will be messy and hard, but it is also good and worth fighting for.