God Was Leading the Way

by Dr. Kira Moolman Pettit

If you had told me ten years ago that I would one day be in charge of Christian education and formation in an Episcopal church in Texas, I would have been surprised. When I look back on my life, however, it is easy to see how God has been at work to lead me to this wonderful church in Houston.

I was born in South Africa and moved to Canada when I was young. Because my family moved around a lot, I went to a variety of Protestant churches growing up: a Missionary Alliance church, an Afrikaans-speaking house church that my parents helped start, and a few different kinds of Dutch Reformed churches. All of these churches took Christian education (“catechism”) very seriously, and I thrived on learning as much as I could about the Bible and about who God shows Himself to be through His Word.

As I got older, I started getting involved in ministry life at camp, at my high school, and then at university – but never in church proper, as my denomination was against women in leadership. Once I neared graduation, I considered becoming a therapist, but my university chaplain, Syd, advised against it. “Kira,” he said, “you have the wiring for building community, and therapists tend to work one-on-one.” Instead, I decided to go to seminary to study theology. I told people it was because I knew that I wanted to help people, and the best way I knew to do that was with God. I thought if I knew more about God, I would be able to help others better, but I was also deeply curious to learn more about God, the Bible, and being a Christian.

I only knew of a few places nearby to study theology and one of them was an Anglican seminary – Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. A friend of mine had attended and loved it, and she said it was so encouraging to study with people from all over the world who worked in all sorts of areas – non-profits, counselling, campus ministry, mission, different denominations. I thought that it would be a good fit for me, as I knew I would never ever want to, or be able to, work in a church. Instead, I dreamed of becoming a university chaplain.

My time at seminary challenged me to see that God had prepared me to lead in his church as I realized that I had already been doing this under different names, like “serve” or “share”. This all affirmed what God had already been doing in my life, and that God had made me for exactly this purpose: to preach, teach, and lead, and to help others
learn who God is.

At first, I was adamant that I would never become Anglican, and yet slowly, but surely, I fell in love with the Anglican Church, in all its messiness and brokenness. What ultimately drew me in was the gift of its Scripture-saturated liturgy. I attended morning and evening prayer every day in our chapel and began to appreciate the rhythm of worshipping in community, kneeling and standing and sitting, and learning the words of these prayers by heart.

The more you study theology, the more you understand just how very little you actually know – and the more you want to keep studying! So, after receiving my Master of Divinity degree, I stayed on to do a PhD in theology. My master’s thesis had been on the theology of death in children’s literature, and I felt I had barely scratched the surface of this topic.

What compelled my research was the knowledge that while I had the opportunity to study theology, many people do not have the resources (or desire!) to do so. My research was a way for people to better understand what it means to be mortal creatures in particular, made and loved by God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I knew I could put my theological training into terms that people could understand through something as seemingly simple as a children’s story. I had come to see that God speaks to us through both His Word and His world – through the stories we tell and keep telling.

Today, I see my vocation as one of translation, where I work to translate the often-esoteric language of theology into everyday language so that people can understand God and His love more and more. I am so grateful to be at a church where I am equipped and supported in this vocation, and not just as it serves the people of St. John the Divine. What is amazing to me is that we have a parish that both wants to better understand the person and love of God for themselves – for their own ongoing discipleship
– but always for others, so that others can come to know the richness of God’s grace in Christ through the Spirit.

In my role at the Church of St. John the Divine, I want to build on the good work that has come before me – the beautiful Sunday worship, the deep friendships, the eager desire to know God through His Word and in His world, and the loving heart for mission and service. I invite you to pray over the classes, small groups, lectures, conferences, videos, publications, and especially the people of this church, as we learn how to be disciples of Jesus Christ together, drawing others into the fold as we go out for the sake of the church and the world.

And I want to thank you for inviting me and my husband, Trent, into the fold. You all are the reason that I wanted to work here! When I interviewed last Ash Wednesday, I was so humbled by the love for God and neighbor so evident in the people of this church, and I continue to be humbled by  you as I learn from you and with you.

— Dr. Kira Moolman Pettit, Director of the SJD Teaching Center

SJD Campus

2450 River Oaks Boulevard, Houston, TX 77019 Map

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