The life of a theologian is a fascinating story. dr. davis (who uses lower case spellings of her name to decrease herself as God increases in her life) has a faith story that is no exception. Her story is Spirit-led, practical and rooted in prayer. The opportunity to talk with her is always a joy. In our conversation, a theme that came up again and again was an unapologetic surrender to the Spirit. This way of being began when she was a young adult and found her faith again. As a child she went to church but did not identify with her faith until she was entering adulthood. She discovered that her faith could heal, soften sharp edges, and bring hope to herself and those around her. She reacquainted herself with her faith through opening her perspective to God and whatever the Spirit had in store for her. The Spirit led her to teach faith formation classes in her local parish and the rest is history. She now blesses IPS with her teaching and leadership as an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology.
In our conversation I asked about her journey into academia within the backdrop of her Spirit-led faith. She chuckled at the question because her career in academia was not originally her end goal. She shared she was working in churches in faith formation capacities and felt that was where she was supposed to be. She came to IPS after the former Dean of the IPS, Dr. Brian Schmisek, heard her speak at an event. He shared with her there was an opening for an adjunct professor at the IPS. That position led to a new tenure-track professor position at the IPS. This hiring for the position she currently holds at the IPS was the beginning of an unexpected and successful path into academia.
She shared the context around the decisions she faced when accepting the appointment to a professor position at the IPS. She and her husband were and are entrepreneurs. The career path she thought she was on, when the Spirit came in and opened up these academic opportunities, was a small business offering pastoral counseling and spiritual accompaniment. Her husband is a clinical counselor and with him, she was developing plans to fund the counseling program through another small business offering medical billing services. She noted, God had different ideas. She found that the spiritual accompaniment and counseling business gained enough traction to stand on its own. With that intact, she said yes to the professorship and began to acquaint herself with campus life. As a woman of color, she discovered there was ‘an assumption that she ‘should be’ in the social work or education fields. She felt a Spirit prompting that being in academia was a necessary calling. As a professor at the IPS, she can challenge assumptions and be a role model for future theologians and ministers of color. Through this consistent surrender to the Spirit, she has embraced teaching, writing, presenting and research. It is easy to see the congruence with her Spirit-led posture and the many speaking and writing requests she receives from student and professional organizations looking for expertise in how to bring the next generation of faithful into the Church.
In closing, I asked her what makes the IPS a unique higher ed experience for those seeking a ministry-focused graduate program. She said, the IPS has God, it’s that simple. This summary coming from someone who has vibrant faith journey filled with testimony about what God has done for her, makes this statement a compelling one.
dr. davis shares her spirit-led message of faith at events and on multiple platforms. She has also written a book focused on faith formation through intergenerational storytelling entitled: Intergenerational Catechesis: Revitalizing Faith Through African-American Storytelling. She is the first woman of color to be awarded tenure at the Institute of Pastoral Studies. Her tenure achievement was recognized at the 2023 Faculty Convocation. She is returning to write at https://movingtowardspeace.blogspot.com/ and will soon have a podcast that features her preaching.