Story Magazine - Fourth Quarter, 2003
Annual Report: Called to Teach
Beverly Self, Master of divinity, 2003
"Going to St. Paul was like going to Mecca," explains Beverly Self, describing her feelings about coming to a place so rich with Lutheran culture. To listen to Self speak of her background, her family and her views of Lutheranism is to listen to a poet.
Considering her doctoral degree in English literature and master of arts in English composition and rhetoric, it's no wonder that Self's eloquence is equal to her passion. "We have borne out the truth," says Self. "The Lutheran church has the most pure interpretation of the gospel of any church I know."
Self is not making a hollow comparison. She was raised in a deeply religious family that includes Roman Catholics, Methodists, Nazarenes and Episcopalians. In fact, prior to entering seminary, Self was a licensed pastor with the Church of the Nazarene. "But I wasn't sure God had called me to be a pastor," she admits.
While enrolled in Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio, and still searching, Self, with her husband and son, started attending a Lutheran church. It was then that her path revealed itself to her. In her words, "I finally felt the call."
A deeply committed scholar, Self immersed herself in the writings of Luther. "I became a Lutheran because of Luther's articulation of doctrine. I became a 16th century Lutheran!"
Today, Self is associate pastor at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Springfield, Ohio. Much of her work involves faith formation. "The Lutheran church is awakening to the fact that there are people who know nothing about God," explains Self. She considers that extremely exciting, as well as a challenge. "It calls you to examine your theology and how you express what evangelism means. "When you say to people 'God loves you, just as you are' that's such an incredible, revolutionary truth. My experience is that people are dying to hear that and dying to see someone who believes that."
Five years ago, before she had even considered entering Luther Seminary, Self wrote a single page on the call she heard from God. "It describes my call to Grace exactly."