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Meet Kyle Reynolds

I was looking for something non-traditional to do as a field placement, and I knew I needed to do something over the summer. Garrett-Evangelical already had connections there, and I knew it was an opportunity like no other.

Field education is a key component of the Master of Divinity curriculum at Garrett-Evangelical. It gives students the opportunity to discern, test, and refine their call as they apply their seminary education in real life ministry settings. While many of our students serve in traditional parish settings throughout the Chicagoland area, third year M.Div. student, Kyle Reynolds of Olathe, Kansas, decided to venture a little farther away from Chicago for his field education placement. This past summer, Kyle served at Wesley Methodist Church in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He also participated in classes at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where students from all over South Africa attend to become full-time ministers in the Methodist Church of South Africa. We recently sat down with Kyle to talk to him about his field education experience.

How did you decide to go to South Africa for your field education?

I was looking for something non-traditional to do as a field placement, and I knew I needed to do something over the summer. Garrett-Evangelical already had connections there, and I knew it was an opportunity like no other. The people at Seth Mokitimi were extremely welcoming and very eager to have me.

What was your involvement with Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary?

I spent two weeks with the students in what is called “vocational intensive.” Students basically learn all the things you need to learn for ministry that you don’t learn in a normal classroom setting. The entire student body learns together, and the focus of this specific session was missions. We learned what the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) was doing on the larger structural level, what missions look like for the local congregation, and what missions look like for the seminary. I spent a few weeks attending classes like a normal student, which gave me a feel for what seminary students in South Africa were learning and a glimpse of what theological education looks like through a South African perspective.

Where did you do your practical ministry experience, and what were your roles?

I spent two weeks working in Wesley Methodist Church, which is a middle-class white congregation there in Pietermaritzburg. I preached, I attended and lead Bible studies, and I was a liturgist on Sunday mornings. In one week we were in five different schools, leading devotionals for staff, praying for students and leading devotionals for them too. The congregation was very proactive about being involved in the community, and that is something that really stuck with me.

If pastors in the U.S. would commit to taking on one public role (visiting prisoners, visiting firefighters, visiting teachers before classes start, going into a business area and leading a devotional over lunch), we would see a lot of change in our communities and in our churches. Pastors in South Africa were ministering wherever they could, wherever doors were open. Every time they walked through one of those doors, it seemed like two more opened.

What is something from your experience that you have found has really affected your classes here at Garrett-Evangelical?

My cultural awareness has grown significantly since I’ve been at Garrett-Evangelical. Becoming immersed in another culture and hearing critical opinions about the United States, even if most of them were true, were challenging and powerful experiences.  They gave me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the world through someone else’s lens, which has made me much more sensitive to culture and context in any conversation we have in seminary. It has also shown me the importance of being careful about making absolute statements about one’s understanding of God. I have learned to take a step back and reflect and realize the smallness of my context.

Has this affected your calling in ministry or your goals in ministry?

It allowed me to broaden my understanding of what the title of pastor entails. I don’t know that the people I met were doing anything totally different from what some are doing in the U.S., but I had never seen it before. All of the practical ministry experiences I had there broadened my scope of what ministry can include. It also built connections that I believe will last a really long time.

What is the best advice you can give to people who are currently looking at potential seminaries?

Learn everything you can about a school’s field education program. How flexible are they? What does a normal field placement look like? What are the requirements? What structure is in place? Are there churches and agencies they have long-standing relationships with? Are there new sites being added regularly? Can you go to a context that is not your own? That’s why I wanted to go to South Africa. I wanted to experience something completely different than what I have grown up in or what I may or may not be doing for the rest of my life. That’s also why I chose Garrett-Evangelical for my theological education. None of this would have been possible without the Seminary’s remarkable field education department and resources and for that I remain grateful.