Transition from pulpit to podium a great leap of faith

Transition from pulpit to podium a great leap of faith

Transition from pulpit to podium a great leap of faith

Dr. Louise Graves has seen much of the world.

She worked six years with Xela Aid, a Guatemalan relief and development agency, and has travelled extensively in North America. Raised in Ottawa, Louise has also journeyed through Kenya, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, India, England, France, Bermuda, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Monaco, Italy, Andorra, Spain and Holland.

In the course of those travels, Louise has determined several universal truths, among them, all seek happiness.

But after 20 years as an ordained minister with the United Church, Louise was not happy in a professional context: she was ready for meaningful, purposeful change. The dynamics of parish politics in a small community and at her local church drained her. But she was still quite passionate about spirituality as a subject matter.

Her primary responsibilities as a minister were leadership in worship, pastoral care, Christian education, administration, leadership development, fund-raising, community and global outreach. They also included, to a large extent, teaching.

“I love teaching,” Louise says. “In one form or another I have been teaching much of my life. I am moved by teachers who point the way to our hearts. I am inspired by those who rouse the courage to live their beliefs and commit to a path.”

But committing to change is not easy: sometimes a career specialist is required to better define who we are in terms of work. It is important to identify the specific frustrations and obstacles that stop us from moving forward in professional basis. I helped Louise reconnect to that passion and showed her how teaching might be a better fit for her.

Louise completed the exercises I suggested in identifying her loves and skills. She contacted me a few months later in regards to a position as an Assistant Professor, Spirituality and Pastoral Care, Faculty of Theology at the University of Winnipeg. She had completed B.A. in religious studies and psychology, an M.Div and a PhD in psychology and theology from The Claremont School of Theology in California. However, she had no experience in academia and did not feel confident about obtaining a teaching position at the university level. She was very well grounded in the subject matter and her work history as a social worker, counselor and ordained minister met the requisites of relevant experience but Louise had no direct experience in teaching at a university level.

The posting stipulated specific experience in First Nations spirituality and learning styles, ethnic sensitivities, feminist values, peace and justice and the care of creation, and the traditions of the United Church of Canada.

I converted her two page career résumé into an academic CV, a record and document of her work and experience relevant to the academic posting. I sent her questions related to what universities look for on CV’s when filling teaching positions. Writing a curriculum vitae is an entirely different process than writing a résumé. CVs are longer, more detailed documents commonly used within medical and academic communities. Unlike a résumé, where the goal is to market the highlights of an individual’s career, a CV is a comprehensive document highlighting professional experience, education, credentials, licenses, certifications, public speaking, teaching experience, internships and residencies, publications, and professional affiliations. We wrote a cover letter together designed to stand out and increase the chances of human resources reading her CV. We also attached a list of references who could attest to Louise’s academic abilities.

On the strength of her CV, Louise was contacted for an interview. I spent three hours coaching her for the academic interview and conducted several mock interviews. There were numerous details to attend to immediately prior her interview: how to dress, who to visit on campus before the interview, how to research “the agenda” of the interview and other suggestions to increase her chances of success.

After the interview, we followed up within a few days with a note that reflected Louise’s passion for the position and summarized why she was a good fit for the position.

We acknowledged her lack of full time teaching experience at the
university level and instead focused on other assets of her value proposition:

Commitment to continue to research on spirituality and pastoral care
in the contemporary Canadian context
Experience and sensitivity to working with First Nations people
Strong personal commitment to the work of social justice
Creativity in teaching and sensitivity to diverse learning styles
Pastoral Counselling Training with the A.A.P.C. that could be
transferred to C.A.P.P.E. to attain accreditation at the level of specialist
Enthusiastic to teach in a number of disciplines, including spirituality, pastoral care and counseling
Excitement at the possibility of working as part of a team within the faculty and throughout the larger community

Louise was interviewed for the position and hired two weeks later.
Several years later, Louise applied for a position with the Institute for International Theological Education (, a non profit organization that works in conjunction with international scholars and religious leaders to raise awareness of theological issues related to globalization, poverty and environmental degradation. Subsequent to her interview, Louise was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Institute.

Her responsibilities include overall oversight of all aspects of development and operation of the Institute, program development and delivery, promotion, public relations, human relations and administration, Louise also continues to teach: she is primary faculty for overseas courses and regularly offers meditation workshops in Peterborough, Ottawa and Winnipeg.

“I had been chewing on creating a position like this for quite some time before I approached George,” she says. “I met George a few steps before moving to the position I am now in. The move to the University prepared me to move on to what I am doing now. My interactions with him helped me enormously in realizing this vision.”

Teaching allows Louise to have an impact and effect on people. Her oversight of the nonprofit allows her to positively influence the Institute. She has a strong inclination to exert a shaping influence on people, activities and processes: she takes satisfaction in knowing that she has made a distinct impression or impact. Her job satisfaction is dependent on the degree to which she is able to change and shape people and/or organizations. Working as a minister provided this opportunity but not to the same extent as a professor and director of the nonprofit.

“I want to contribute to making the world a better place,” Louise says. “Contribute to helping people actualize greater capacities for goodness, truth, beauty and love. George was extremely helpful in encouraging me to move towards my passion and in identifying my gifts and strengths.”

~with Harry Gallon

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