From England to America
January 25, 2012
Mark Howard is a Westminster student in the MDiv pastoral program. He grew up in England, and came to America to work for a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church in Greenwich, CT, where he met his wife. While at the church in Connecticut, many of the pastors in the Metro West presbytery recommended that he attend Westminster for pastoral training. In 2010, he heeded that advice and moved to the Philadelphia area with his wife, Cherilyn.
His first semester at Westminster was not easy. “When I first came to Westminster, I struggled a little bit, partly because American and British education systems are just different. Also, my undergraduate degree was in Physics. I think I read 4 books in 4 years! Therefore, getting used to the amount of reading here has been a huge change for me.” However, one thing that kept him going was the seminary’s commitment to the Reformed faith across all classes. “I appreciate how the curriculum is put together. I think a lot of seminaries are more ‘pick-and-choose,’ but I like being told what to do. I trust that someone else has a better sense of what I need to have studied to become a well-equipped pastor.”
A highlight so far for Mark has been the Doctrine of God class with Dr. Oliphint. “The reason I enjoyed that class was not necessarily because there was an individual ‘wow’ moment, but I really appreciated how much time we spent in the Scriptures themselves. We looked at a whole range of passages of Scripture, and that’s what I’m used to. I find that I love and I affirm the Westminster Confession, but I don’t want to be taught from it. I want to be taught from the Bible.”
He has also found that the counseling courses at Westminster to be some of the most helpful courses for his day-to-day living, especially in his marriage. Cherilyn is a student in the Master of the Arts in Biblical Counseling (MABC) program, and they have grown together considerably as a result of these classes. “We moved to a new place together, we found our feet together, we try to take a class together each semester, so there’s been something good for our marriage in terms of coming together and learning together.” While it has been frustrating for him to be away from doing ministry and serving people in the church, he understands that Westminster is teaching him to pastor himself during this season in his life.
Mark recognizes the seriousness of his calling to be a shepherd of Christ’s Church, and that is one reason he chose Westminster. “If you’re going to be ministering to God’s people, you need to have a theological depth personally, so you can take people deeper. In terms of seminary, people need to be trained well. You wouldn’t go to a doctor to have medical treatment physically if you heard the doctor only spent a few years in an apprenticeship; you want to know that he knows the whole body and he’s studied the whole thing. And so, if you’re going to be a minister to people’s souls, you have to have studied widely and thought hard; it’s a danger to the church to have poorly trained ministers.”
The faculty has been a great source of encouragement for Mark. “I feel, across the board here, the staff genuinely believes that the Scripture is God’s Word. [Westminster is] here to train ministers of the church, so it’s not about entertaining all sorts of fanciful notions, it’s about being committed to the biblical faith.”
Mark is currently serving in the PCA, and would like to stay in that denomination, but is open to serving wherever God will have him and his wife. Please keep Mark and the rest of the student body in your prayers as they train to proclaim the whole counsel of God to a changing world.