by Patrick Craig, May 2017 graduate of Duke Divinity School [caption id="attachment_2357" align="alignright" width="200"]Patrick Craig Patrick Craig. Photo courtesy of Paul Robertson.[/caption] In August 2014, I packed up as much as I could possibly fit into my vehicle and left my hometown of Montgomery, Ala. As I drove away, I left behind the comforts of friends, family, and a job I enjoyed to venture off into the foreign world of divinity school. The experience felt like something akin to the moment in Genesis 12 when God commands Abram to leave his country, his kindred, and his father’s house and journey to an unknown land. Abram follows God’s call, casting himself on the impossible possibility that the grace of God is going before him and that there is an element to the faithfulness of God waiting on him in a land he has not yet seen or discovered. For three years now I have clung to this story. Having learned ancient Greek, attended early morning classes, and written countless papers, I have now graduated with my Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School. My time at divinity school has proven to be some of the most rewarding years of my life. Countless times I’ve had my eyes opened to new ways of thinking about God, reading the Bible, and imagining the church. I have cultivated close friendships with people from all over the country, and across denominational lines. While at Duke I even met my fiancée, Kelli! I spent my summers working at large membership churches in Mobile, Ala., and Birmingham, Michigan, and during the academic year I worked for a new church start in downtown Raleigh, N.C. At each of these places, I witnessed God do incredible things and I have been spiritually formed by talented pastors and mentors.
As my final class at Duke came to an end, we were fittingly reminded that when God calls Moses and Moses asks God, “Who am I that I should go?” God does not answer Moses’ question. Instead, God responds “I will be with you.” This has certainly been true of my own life and of my time in divinity school. One way in which I know that God has been with me is because as donors to the Stegall Foundation, you, as the body of Christ, have been with me every step of the way. As I opened my final check from the foundation, I sensed an ocean of sacrifice, prayer, hope, and love – signifying all of the people who have given and prayed me to this point. Your prayers and financial giving have sustained me during this season of life, which has been trying, difficult, stressful, and yet still life-giving. I truly could not have completed this good work without your support. I feel as though my graduation is as much your accomplishment as it is my own. As I make plans to move back to Alabama and begin my first appointment at First United Methodist Church in Opelika, I will once again take with me the promise that I’ve learned from Abram’s journey, Moses’ calling, and your generous support: God goes before me and will be with me every step of the way. Thanks be to God.