Bringing God's Light to the World of Public Education
For Lori MacDonald (MA '06), choosing to attend Fuller was a quick decision. A teacher in the Sacramento area, MacDonald heard from a friend at church about a Fuller intensive course taught by the notable theologian Dallas Willard. After looking it up online, she found herself combing Fuller's website for more information. "Five hours later, I knew I was going to seminary," recalls MacDonald.
Just as her path to Fuller was out of the ordinary, MacDonald's chosen path afterward has been a unique one. After graduating and working in a church in San Francisco for a year, she felt drawn back to the field of education. She explains, "I didn't realize how much the educational system was a part of me--I missed it." After receiving her administration credential, MacDonald signed on to help launch the charter for the Academy of Alameda middle school, working as the principal writer on its petition, drawing from cutting-edge research and "learning everything I could about how to run a school." Now, she serves as the executive and academic director at the Academy.
Although MacDonald is not serving in a "typical" ministry setting, she sees clearly how Fuller prepared her for the demanding role she has now. "Studying the Old Testament and understanding doctrine differently helped me reframe my work," MacDonald explained, saying that what she learned galvanized her to help those who have been underrepresented. She realized that she had even underrepresented herself as a woman, and her own intellectual and political power. "Now I know I can affect the world in a much broader way than I realized," she shares.
Further, MacDonald's studies at Fuller helped her to "straighten out my faulty theology," especially her eschatology and ecclesiology. Rather than seeing Christians as gritting their teeth and hanging on until heaven, she realized that if the Kingdom of heaven is at hand and the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, thoughtful action is mandatory. MacDonald's views of the Church changed, too--no longer seeing the Church as a historical institution but as "the dynamic gathering of people that are following and filled and empowered to continue the mission that was started so long ago." Instead of coming out of the world and into the safe church, MacDonald believes that the Church is the presence of God in the world.
Indeed, she finds opportunities for ministry every day at the Academy of Alameda, from reminding her underpaid, underappreciated faculty of the ultimate significance of their work to helping struggling parents and students to find resources and encouragement. When she deals with difficult students, MacDonald draws on resources from her time at Fuller, including empathetic listening skills and a worldview that has helped her understand that "the most difficult and the most despised are actually beautiful and precious."
For MacDonald, the field of education may not be a typical ministry setting, but it is important and just right for her. "The good news we have is that God is here and loves us, and there's power in this love to make us whole," she says. "If that message is true, then it is true whether I am wearing a minister's robe or my business suit at school." She added, "Being in the church means going out and bringing the light and love of God to the darkest places I can find--and public education is a good start!"