Reluctant Pastor Describes ‘Long Spiritual Struggle’

Post a Comment » Written on May 25th, 2006     
Filed under: News
KANE, PA (May 25, 2006) – Rebecca “Becky” Erickson didn’t want to go to seminary. She told God he was “mixed up” in calling her. She didn’t have the education, having never attended college. Besides, she says, “I was too old.”

The pastor of Emmanuel Mission Church was in her mid-50s when she finally entered the seminary. She was wrong about being too old, but wasn’t wrong about much else in her studies. During The North Park Theological Seminary commencement on Sunday, the now 60-year-old Erickson was awarded the Ahnfeldt Medallion, which is given to the graduating student with the highest grade point average, hers being a nearly perfect 3.89.

“It was an exciting moment,” Erickson says. “It was a high moment.” Making the moment even better was the other women students thanking her and saying, “We women need women heroes.”

Rebecca and Jon Erickson Erickson didn’t feel heroic. She had fought years with God about going to seminary and credits her high GPA to being “terrified all the time.”

Erickson was in her forties when she began a “long spiritual struggle.” She started a journal she called 40 Days in the Wilderness and believed she would have a clear direction by the end. The process stretched longer and longer. Finally, on the day Erickson knew God had called her to seminary, she says, “I was just overwhelmed with tears.”

When Erickson, who had taught Sunday school for years, told her pastor of the call, “He laughed, and said, “I was wondering when you were going to hear God calling you.”

Still she put off going to seminary, opting first to take online courses through Moody Bible College and then getting her lay minister’s license through the Evangelical Covenant Church. Erickson says that, like many other seminary students, she became sure of her call to attend North Park while hearing Dr. John Weborg speak. “I was just so blessed and so enthralled with all I was hearing.”

Moving to seminary meant leaving her husband, Jon, for months at a time. Erickson says she struggled with loneliness at times, not having peers and being away from family. She didn’t realize she was developing new ties, however.

Her apartment became a sanctuary for homesick seminary students and the North Park University foreign undergraduates she tutored. Unlike the haphazardly furnished student apartments, “My apartment looked like home,” Erickson says. “They would say can I just come over and sit in your home for a while.”

When students from Sweden held a party at the end of the year, they told Erickson in no uncertain terms they expected her to attend. Several students escorted her to the apartment. “Everybody had to have their picture taken with me,” she recalls. “I looked around and then realized this is my family.”

Despite being away from her husband, the two shared a Chicago ministry experience. He participated in a session of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE), during which students spend several weeks at different inner-city ministries. “I told him it was such a foreign experience, there was no way I could tell him about it over the phone. So I told him to join me.”

Inner-city ministry is similar to the work she now does in her Appalachian community, Erickson says. People in both areas struggle with extreme poverty, feelings of being isolated from the rest of society, and similar family issues.

Erickson says the education she received at the seminary was invaluable. “I didn’t know how desperately I needed the education,” she adds. “I’ve learned so much that has been so really helpful.”

Erickson eventually spent two and a half years at the seminary before returning home to complete her course work online. She credits her husband’s constant encouragement for helping her finish.

In the end, however, she says, “This is God’s story.”

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog