By Holly McCray
Location, location, location. The real estate mantra proved also valid for the second graduating class from Saint Paul School of Theology at Oklahoma City University.
On Aug. 24 at OKC-Church of the Servant, six people received Master of Divinity degrees from the United Methodist seminary. For the milestone moment, a joyous crowd overflowed the church’s Chapel of the Cross.
In that audience was 6-year-old Aidan, whose mother and grandfather were two of the graduates.
When Tiffany Nagel started seminary study, Aiden was 1 year old. "He has only known Mama in school, studying, reading, writing papers. Now he’s in first grade; he understands the school thing a little bit more," said Tiffany, an associate pastor at Wickline UMC in Midwest City.
"That was really cool for him to see his mom and Pawpaw graduate."
At the 2007 Oklahoma Annual Conference, Alan Nagel (i.e. "Pawpaw") was present when the proposal won approval to expand Saint Paul from Kansas City, Mo., to OCU. "I was jumping around in the back" with excitement, he said.
Strongly feeling called to ministry, he had been weighing how to manage his local business and attend any seminary beyond the Oklahoma City area. He also knew about God’s tug on his daughter’s life.
Tiffany had considered Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colo. Her uncle, Don Messer, is its former president. But Aidan was a baby. Finances were a challenge. "I threw my hands up," Tiffany described.
The day after the Annual Conference vote, Alan told her about the new seminary.
"I got to say to her, ‘We just voted to do the Saint Paul thing.’ I think it was a great motivator for her," he said.
Dad and daughter team to study
Saint Paul at OCU launched with one class in Fall 2007. Professor Mark Davies taught Christian ethics. And Tiffany was among those enrolled. Her dad started in Spring 2008.
"Those who put this thing in Oklahoma City made my life a lot easier," Alan said.
Father and daughter had a majority of their classes together; Tiffany earned a specialization, "Women, Church, and Society." Both completed their coursework in January.
And although Tiffany was part of that very first class, Alan noted that he got his diploma first on Aug. 24 (due to alphabetical order).
"All in good humor," he added. "Graduation was a moment in time of great fun. It was such an affirming time."
He continued, "It’s exciting to watch your daughter blossom and grow. I have tremendous pride in her."
Alan is pastor in Crescent, where an intentional multi-ethnic ministry is growing. Last year in that central Oklahoma town, the historically African-American congregation of Mount Vernon UMC and the majority white First UMC cooperated to minister from one campus: First Church. Rev. Nagel pastors both. He said the seminary class "Black and White Theology" has been especially valuable for the Crescent work.
Professor continues working
Like Alan, graduate Kathy Brown enrolled in January 2008. She is pastor at New Life UMC, Moore.
She also is a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond. "Location allowed me to continue that," she said. "At my age, I wouldn’t have gone far into debt. So location was the primary reason (to attend this seminary), but it ended up being the right place."
Rev. Brown said the interaction with the other students affirmed her choice. "I vividly remember the first time in class," she said. "They turned to me; they welcomed me; they said, ‘What can we do to help you.’ From that moment there was camaraderie I had never before experienced."
Staying close to family
Devon Krause originally considered seminaries in other states, but "my family is real important to me," he said on graduation day. Western Oklahoma is his home territory.
"My brothers were freshmen in high school when I started. I didn’t want to leave and be a stranger to them when I got back. I knew it would take three years."
Then he introduced his wife, whom he met during his study. "It is nice to have a seminary here in Oklahoma," he said, smiling.
Rev. Krause is associate pastor at Elk City, and his brothers now attend college in Weatherford. A big group of family and friends stood and cheered as the new graduate received his diploma.
Three members of the Class of 2012 graduated with honors: Marla Lobo, pastor at OKC-Leland Clegg; Paul Francel of Piedmont, a physician; and Brown, who also earned a specialization, "Wesleyan Studies."
Education on John Wesley and Methodism was important to the graduates who were interviewed.
"I fell in love with John Wesley’s theology. I was able to learn this is why I’m a United Methodist," Brown said.
Tiffany Nagel enjoyed exploring Wesley through the lens of women of the Church.
Krause summarized, "Before I was in seminary I didn’t know much about Wesley. This helped me get a grounding in grace and baptism and all that. It ended up being a really good place to build my faith."
For commencement, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference Superintendent David Wilson preached from Jeremiah. Marcus Briggs Cloud of First American UMC, Norman, performed the Song of Response, "Este-cate en Yvhiketv." A Native-design pitcher and basin were gifts to Elaine Robinson, dean of Saint Paul at OCU.
Six people received the Certificate in Lay Theology for completing Seminary Lite, inaugurated during the 2011-12 school year. Oklahoma Conference Lay Leader Chuck Stewart made the presentation. A total of 12 people earned the certificates. They completed six Saturday courses, with related reading assignments. A total of 119 people from 57 cities attended one or more of the courses.
News from both campuses
During the past school year, a total of 36 seminarians were enrolled in Saint Paul at OCU. Saint Paul in Kansas City reported 184 students. Almost 300 people completed the Saint Paul Course of Study, offered in Oklahoma City as well as in two Missouri locations.
In Kansas City, 31 graduates received diplomas in May.
In related Saint Paul news, a letter of intent was approved Aug. 17 by the seminary board to collaborate with The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Kansas City, which could lead to course offerings at that church’s Leawood campus in Fall 2013.
Seminary President Myron McCoy said, "The vision is a Saint Paul School of Theology that offers education without being encumbered by its own bricks and mortar. The vision is a seminary decentralized: first at Oklahoma City University, then at the Church of the Resurrection, with the hopes of looking at other locations, reaching across the jurisdiction, the United States, and even the globe."