Taking the journey of seminary education at Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, which ultimately leads to service to the church and the world, is very much done in concert with the administration, faculty, and staff of the seminary and consortium to which the institution belongs.

“The heartbeat of the staff of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary . . . is our understanding of the call and passion of our students,” Leslie Essien, the seminary’s development officer, said in a video on the seminary website. “We also understand that this call and passion is what we are here to support.” 

The seminary, the only historically black theological seminary of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has roots dating back to 1867. Today it is part of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), a consortium of seminaries in Atlanta.

The support that Essien cites was particularly significant to the seminary experience of 2012 graduate Lauren Moaten, whose concentration was philosophy and theology. 

She said one of the “most impactful people here while I was on my journey” was her mentor, the late Edward L. Smith. Smith, who died in 2012, was associate professor of systematic theology at the ITC. His disciplines were philosophy and theology.

He “really helped to shape me and mold me, not only as a theologian and as a preacher, but as a scholar,” Moaten shared on the seminary website. 

Yet another faculty member who has worked hand-in-hand with students through their formation process is Margaret Aymer, associate professor of New Testament at the ITC. 

She instructs a range of students in classes such as New Testament, Greek, and exegesis. “The idea (at ITC) is there is one faculty for the whole center, and we have all sorts of kinds of persons there,” the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister said.

Johnson C. Smith Seminary President-Dean Paul Roberts echoed the theme by saying his “greatest joy in being there for students is watching them wrestle.”

“Seminary is hard, and the spiritual journey of a seminary career is extra hard. It’s not what we expect. . . . It’s personal,” he said.