Union Theological College, Ireland
Adjunct Instructor of Bible & Religion
Rita also worked as registrar and the dean of women students at WSC from 1998-2002.
Her husband, Richard, is also an alum of WSC and a pastor in San Diego.
Why did you originally choose to attend WSC?
My desire to pursue formal theological training came as the result of witnessing the transforming power of God’s word in the lives of individuals, including myself. Prior to attending WSC, I had the privilege of directing the Women’s Ministry for the church where my husband, Richard, served as Senior Pastor. It was then that I sensed the growing need to become better equipped to teach the Bible.
Shortly thereafter, Richard and I attended a biblical counseling conference that brought WSC to my attention. It was through the ministry of Professor George Scipione (then a WSC professor) that we witnessed a profound depth of biblical knowledge, coupled with a life that emanated a sincere devotion and ardent fervor for Jesus Christ. As I inquired further, I was led to WSC.
What were the most significant things that you learned/gained during your time at WSC?
Firstly, I remain profoundly grateful to both God and my husband for allowing me the privilege to study theology at this level. I have learned that this privilege is a gift from God and family to be used in the service of God for His kingdom and glory.
Secondly, WSC introduced me to the tools for a lifetime of learning. It introduced me to the biblical languages and gave me a solid theological foundation, rooted in the historic Reformed faith. Moreover, the Bible became a much more open book to me. I was able to see the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, and to understand that Jesus Christ is the hermeneutical key to understanding the biblical canon as a whole.
Thirdly, WSC introduced us to many dear friends with whom we still have contact, including former students, professors and colleagues.
What are your present endeavors?
I am presently working on a Ph.D. in Old Testament and Biblical Theology with Dr. T. D. Alexander through Union Theological College in Ireland. I am in my second year and have been granted the privilege of working from the U.S. for the 2010-2011 academic year.
In addition, I am currently teaching at the community college and university levels in the Department of Religious Studies. This coming academic year I shall continue to teach courses in World Religions and Introduction to the New Testament.
How did your education at WSC equip/prepare you for your present and/or future roles and responsibilities?
As I stated earlier, WSC gave me the tools for a lifetime of learning. The Master of Arts in Theological Studies program provided the language and theological foundations needed to pursue further graduate and post-graduate studies. After WSC, I completed a second master’s in Biblical Exegesis at Wheaton Graduate School with Professor G. K. Beale. Now I am working on a Ph.D. Moreover, the Master of Arts provided the necessary qualifications for me to teach at the college/university level.
I can honestly say that had it not been for the foundational theological training at WSC, I would not have been equipped to undertake a second master’s degree, let alone a Ph.D., nor would I be qualified to teach at the college/university levels.
How has your relationship with the faculty developed/continued in the years since you graduated from WSC?
I had the unique opportunity of being a student of WSC (1994-1996), and later an administrator (1998-2002) for WSC, so I enjoyed the privilege of developing relationships with many of the faculty. Although I do not presently see them on a regular basis, when I do visit the seminary, it is always great to catch up. I am particularly grateful to three professors who have written academic and professional references for me in past years.
What is one of your favorite memories of your time at WSC?
Commencement was probably one of my favorite memories as a student. Everyone takes part in the celebration: the professors, administrators, staff, and fellow classmates, many of whom you had grown to know and love over the years. Family is an integral part of the celebration, and each class receives its own special charge. There is nothing like the thrill of graduating. It is a mixture of relief and exuberant joy. Firstly, there is the relief that the course work is over, and secondly, there is the joyful anticipation for what lies ahead.
Commencement was also one of my favorite memories as an administrator. From this perspective, I had the double blessing of helping to plan the event and also to take part in it! But probably my most favorite memory centers in on the relationships that were shared with fellow colleagues and students who were at WSC during 1998 and 2002. It was a very special time.
What advice would you give to prospective students considering graduate theological education?
That’s a tough one. It depends on the individual and his or her life context. For me, the desire to pursue formal theological training kept growing. It would not go away. In addition to this, I had opportunities to teach which confirmed I had gifts in this area. My husband was one of my most ardent supporters. So, it began with a desire, followed by a confirmation, and then a sense of calling. But I did not know where the calling would lead. It started in the context of teaching Bible studies and doing retreats for women in the church--which I love and continue to do--but then branched out into teaching in an academic setting. The progression took years (from 1990 to the present), but God was and is faithful to lead the way and open the doors. The important thing is not to get out ahead of Him. A passage from Scripture comes to mind right now. It was one that I meditated on prior to applying for WSC in 1994:
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. (Psalm 37:4-6)
The Reformers believed that all of life is sacred, including the seemingly mundane things typically associated with the "secular" realm. As one Christian scholar put it, God calls his people “to be wise in all areas of life by locating and living according to his [creational/new creational] norms.” He calls us to express this wisdom as exhibited in the fear of the Lord in the home, the church, and the broader culture (creation). As Christians we are called to bear witness in life, word, and deed to the coming kingdom of God, which is already present, but still awaiting its consummation. In considering a graduate theological education, the question is how will this prepare you to be more faithful to God in accomplishing this?
Speaking to women, I would say that a theological education might not necessarily lead to a calling in the field of academia. I have known women who attended WSC for the theological training it provided, but then went on to study medicine or law. Others went on to become homemakers.
The same applies to men. A theological education may not lead to a calling to the pastorate or academia, but it may be useful for further training to equip them for service in God’s kingdom as husbands, churchmen, and citizens. Either way, sound theological education is essential and highly practical! In fact, I believe that we need more trained Christian theologians working in the marketplace.
Imagine a culture in which prospective Christian politicians, doctors, journalists, businessmen and women, social workers, artists and the like made it their priority to pursue a theological degree from a sound Christian graduate institution prior to pursuing further education/employment in their respective fields. Imagine the impact for the kingdom of God.