A story of grace
Faith has always played a prominent role in Kristen Baker’s life, and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary continues to shape her faith and ministry. After working in corporate America for several years, yet feeling the call to ministry, Baker started classes in the Master of Divinity program in 2019.
Kristen Baker’s story is about a life filled with joy and grief, but also a story of fulfillment by God’s grace.
After working in corporate America for several years, yet feeling the call to ministry, Baker started classes in the Master of Divinity program in 2019. She said a friend initially invited her to a discernment event at the Columbia campus, but she was nervous about enrolling.
“I have never been the studious type and was quite nervous about the Greek and Hebrew languages,” she said. “But, when I got there, I loved the sense of community.”
Being at the seminary is helping to arm me with tools that are vital for pastoral care, preaching and teaching, like the ability to interpret the original text of the Bible.
Fast forward to 2022, and Baker has completed Greek I and II language classes – excelling in both – and is on her path to graduate in spring 2023. Again, she gives God all the credit for her accomplishments.
“When God was calling me to pastor, I was like, “‘God, no,’” she said. “I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll preach now and then, and I don’t mind teaching and leading worship but not pastor.”
Baker said others could see the call on her life, but she was not ready to surrender – until God defined that moment for her.
“I went through a season wrestling with God about what I had been called to do,” Baker stated. “Finally, I just had to resolve that this is who I am called to be – and who I’ve always been. I asked God to make me what He wants me to be, and the end game is for me to shepherd God’s people.”
Spiritual and financial support launches Baker’s ministry
Baker credits the support, both spiritually and financially, from the seminary to do God’s work.
“Being at the seminary is helping to arm me with tools that are vital for pastoral care, preaching and teaching, like the ability to interpret the original text of the Bible,” Baker said. “In addition, the scholarship support has been a tremendous help because it is a breath of fresh air not to have the burden of debt that can often be associated with education in America. I’m extremely grateful for the scholarship and for donors seeing me as a worthy investment.”
Through COVID-19, Baker has planted a nondenominational virtual church in South Carolina: The Healing Place. She leads a weekly Bible study community and a morning prayer @_HealingPlaceSC. As an influencer, her presence is also on Instagram to include praise and worship services on YouTube as well as the downloadable application – THP App. Initially, her work started as a Bible study in 2019 that led to the formation of her ministry.
“When I was living at the Columbia campus, it started with seven people coming to my apartment to study the Bible in my living room,” she stated. “We prayed, worshipped and ate together afterward.”
Eventually, she opened the Bible study to the public, and it grew to more than 60 regular participants. In addition, the virtual component allows her to connect to people outside Columbia, South Carolina, including people in different states such as North Carolina, Washington, D.C, Chicago, Illinois and more.
One of her courses at the seminary has supported her as she’s navigated the challenges of COVID.
“Field education has been a phenomenal course,” Baker said. “The case studies and examples of how to handle situations in a pandemic have been extremely helpful.”
Baker finds joy in individuals making connections to her shared Bible teachings.
“It blesses me when a love for the word of God is growing in them, and I can see it,” she said.
Unyielding faith in the face of hardship
In the past year, Baker has walked through a personal trial of loss and praises the seminary for its support.
“I’m grateful for the teachers who have supported me as a person,” Baker said. “Last year was devastating. But my advisor supported me, even in the process of grief. The entire LTSS community supports me as a person first before anything else.”
In addition to the encouragement she receives, Baker said she has learned to be disciplined to balance life, work and seminary school.
“I am not the best at it; I am a work in progress,” she said. “When God calls you to serve, He also graces you. God has graced me in this season and point of my life to do all of it, so it’s a combination of grace, discipline and stewardship of time.”
The challenges and trials of life have shaped Baker’s determination to earn her divinity degree.
“One of the lessons for me, even in grief, was to have the ability to see God even in that trial,” Baker stated. “It can be hard because this was a loss that I never imagined. I can’t even talk about the unexpected and overwhelming loss of my closest and dearest friend without becoming emotional. But through even that, I’ve seen the love and the grace of God. Finding God, even in the hard places or the hard times, has changed me – it’s helped me see life differently, and it’s helped me have a greater sense of urgency. Life is short, so I want to maximize the time and the moments I have been given.”