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The Bible & Theology Toward Christian Maturity

Seminary Graduates Serve In and Beyond the Pulpit

Ministry on the Ground

By Hannah Notess ( | Photo by Matt Eddleman

Matt Eddleman
“As a chaplain I am able to minister to those who would otherwise never set foot inside a church,” says Seattle Pacific Seminary graduate Matt Eddleman MDiv '12 (center).

Most seminary graduates wouldn't expect to find “unclogging toilets” in their job description.

But John Harrell MDiv '12 does minor plumbing and much more as program coordinator for Lazy F Camp and Retreat Center, a ministry of the United Methodist Church. He serves as lay pastor to the camp's summer staff, oversees youth camping and discipleship programs, travels around the U.S., and serves as “all-purpose around-camp guy” (even fixing toilets). All his work pays off, he says, when he sees God's Spirit in action.

“When we get to see a camper react to God's powerful love, it's amazing to watch the freedom and wholeness that starts to rush into that camper's life,” he says.

A member of Seattle Pacific Seminary's first master of divinity graduating class, Harrell and his classmates are using their degrees way beyond the pulpit.

“Our graduates are going into all sorts of different ministries, not just the pastorate,” says Doug Strong, dean of the Seminary and of the Seattle Pacific University School of Theology. “We aim for our graduates to be theologically grounded and have the practical skills necessary for any sort of ministry.”

For Annie VanderPol MDiv '12, ministry means being “bivocational.” She is associate director of young adult ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, and she is also a marketing coordinator for Thinkspace, a co-working community in Redmond, Washington, that provides shared office space for tech startups and other independent workers.

She was surprised that, when she was hired at Thinkspace, the CEO encouraged her to use her degree. “He said that just as ministry is about people and relationships, so is business,” she says.

Building relationships is key for 1st Lt. Matthew Eddleman MDiv '12, an Army chaplain candidate. He knows he'll serve with soldiers from a wide variety of faith backgrounds. Whatever their beliefs, he says, “People are hurting. I want to be the kind of guy they can look to for healing and for something different — something deeper. It is a high calling and a great honor.”