Meet Brian Smith
Name: Brian E. Smith, Sr.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois (Englewood Community)
Degree Program: Master of Divinity
Why did you choose Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary?
I chose Garrett-Evangelical because my congregation has a longstanding history with the institution and I was familiar with its practices and culture. I have a pastor’s heart and I appreciated Garrett-Evangelical’s emphasis upon practical ministry. Garrett-Evangelical trains students to become preachers, teachers and leaders in the church.
What are you planning on doing after you graduate from Garrett-Evangelical?
I am planning to serve as a pastor or assistant pastoral leader in the Baptist Church. I intend to pursue post-graduate education opportunities and I would like to serve with organizations that focus upon international ecumenical relations or economic development.
I have always had a keen interest in building cross-cultural and religious partnerships on an international level. I also come from an entrepreneurial family, which has sparked my interest in assisting with the development of both labor and business, especially in underserved communities. Garrett-Evangelical confirmed my passion and calling to tend to the full flourishing of communities both in terms of their spiritual well being and their socio-economic advancement.
Which of the three chapel services is your favorite and why?
I am perhaps biased towards the Wednesday evening Gospel service in terms of my favorite worship experience simply because it is one I am most familiar with. I love soulful music and worship. However, I also enjoy the Tuesday Word and Table service because Holy Communion is offered at every gathering. In my own Baptist tradition, communion is served only once on the first Sunday of each month.
What has been the most influential worship service you have attended Garrett-Evangelical and why?
I have attended numerous worship services but the most impactful service that I can recall is the Word and Table service in which Dr. Stephen Ray preached from the Exodus passage describing the moment when Pharaoh’s army was drowned in the Red Sea. This service was held in the context of the killing of Mike Brown. Dr. Ray’s message was profound and clear: Don’t take on the ways of your oppressor. Given the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the killers of unarmed black men, it is imperative for Christians to actively respond to evil without hatred in our hearts. This is not an easy task but Dr. Ray reminded us that we must always strive to reach our higher calling; to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
In what ways have you assisted in either the planning or taking part in the chapel services?
I have preached at a number of services and I have ministered through singing in chapel. Every experience is unique and informative, particularly in the traditional formats that are outside of my own worship style. I have learned to appreciate the variety of expressions and even incorporate some of those elements into my own worship practices. I am comfortable in a variety of settings and it brings me joy to know that I have an extended family in the body of Christ.
Do you have any advice for students who are currently applying to seminaries and going through the discernment process to find out which seminary is right for them?
I advise prospective seminarians to pay close attention to their passionate responses in life. Pay attention to the things that make you excited. Even your negative emotions provide clues in terms of your calling. Don’t underestimate your abilities or God’s ability to work through you. If you are an older established professional seeking a change in your career, recognize that God can and will use everything that you have experienced for God’s glory. Be patient with yourself and remember that God is never in a hurry. Remember that God is always present but quite often we are the ones who are absent from God.