By Ryan Cullumber
Being a student at Claremont School of Theology was a rewarding experience in many beautiful and challenging ways. Having worked for 20 years in finance, coming back to school was a welcome change from the corporate grind. CST gave me the opportunity to converse deeply about spirituality and religion among many other topics. To have meaningful conversations with genuine people who were eager to serve their communities was a joy and a gift. My first two years, I was blessed to be able to attend my classes in person on campus at Claremont.
The fact that CST was moving to Oregon for my final year of seminary meant that I would lose the ability to attend class in person. In a weird sort of way, COVID did not impact my schooling because I was only going to be able to attend classes online anyway. Living in Southern California meant my only option was Zoom classes. The pandemic created more opportunities for me and every other student at the school since all classes were available to everyone online, no matter where they lived.
The professors did their best to make the online classes feel like a community, but it was not the same. It was certainly not the community feeling I had when attending classes on campus and meeting with my fellow students between classes or over lunch. That is unfortunately all lost in an online format. That spontaneity was a big loss for me and did make it harder to connect with my classmates and engage in discussions. But my biggest disappointment regarding CST and the pandemic is that I was not able to attend graduation in person. Not being able to connect and say goodbye to my friends one last time feels like a loss. There was a Zoom graduation, and it was very well done, but it could never replace seeing my friends and classmates on the Oregon campus.
Now that I have graduated from seminary, I am working at Harbor Christian Church with my wife Sadie, who serves as the Senior Pastor.* I am honored to be helping establish an environmental justice ministry known as Blue Theology at Harbor that will begin this upcoming July. Harbor will be hosting a group of DOC and UCC youth from Colorado that will be the first participants in this new ministry. My role with Blue Theology is to establish partnerships with various environmental organizations in the area. These partners will provide us with service opportunities for the youth as we learn about our oceans and wetlands. You can check out the ministry at BlueTheology.com.
DSF has been an integral part of my success as I transitioned from a career focused on the bottom line to one focused on service. Attending DSF dinners and prayer gatherings was a big part of my social life during seminary. I met many of my friends at DSF events and got to know those I knew from class on a deeper and more intimate level. DSF created a place for students to be a community, by creating sacred space in prayer circles or over a meal. I will be forever grateful for the support DSF provided me during my journey through seminary.
* Ryan will be ordained on May 28, 2022 at Harbor Christian Church in Newport Beach, CA.