When Susan Wendel enrolled in seminary courses along with her husband 12 years ago, she had no idea she was taking a step toward her career as a college and seminary professor.
“I remember when we came to visit the school and we were thinking about preparing for further ministry,” Briercrest’s assistant professor of New Testament said. “I wasn’t even going to enrol in a program. I was just going to take a few courses because Bruce was the focus. At that time that was my context. I didn’t see myself as even being a minister in the church let alone a college professor!”
As Wendel began to take classes, she soon found her area of interest.
“When I started taking courses it really became apparent quickly that the thing that I was most passionate about and most drawn to was the study of Scriptures,” she recounted. “I didn’t realize that in an academic context you could just focus on that if you want. And I went, ‘Well, why don’t I just do this!’”
A word of encouragement from her husband set Wendel on course to become a teacher.
“I still wasn’t thinking teaching until Bruce said, ‘Really, this does suit you,’” she said. ‘It’s what you were wanting to do in lay ministry. You should just keep going and do your PhD. It makes sense for who you are.’”
The decision to pursue more schooling was a family affair. Wendel, her husband and their four children all relocated to Hamilton, Ont. for almost five years as Wendel completed her PhD studies at McMaster University.
“All four kids were in school,” Wendel explained. “Bruce worked in a couple of ministry positions but also worked for FedEx. He had to do all those things at once in order to keep us going.”
Balancing work, studies, and home life was a challenge.
“It was exhausting,” Wendel admitted. “We bought a teeny house in the university area so I could walk to university and the kids could walk to school. I had to go to the university part of the day nearly every day to attend a class or teach a tutorial or lecture. But most of the time I was at home so that was such a saving grace.”
After graduating from McMaster University with her PhD, Wendel accepted a position teach New Testament in the college at Briercrest. Beginning in the Fall of 2012 she will be dividing her teaching time between the college and seminary.
Wendel remembers what it was like being in graduate school and she welcomes the opportunity to teach seminary students who often have more life experience.
“I’m excited about teaching mature students that come already serving the church,” she said. “(They) have a wealth of experience that they bring to the text which I think introduces a completely different dynamic to the classroom. That’s part of it. The other part is I’m really excited about thinking together with other people about Christian community. Teaching the Bible in a context where we are intentionally reflecting on the life of the church together. That’s what I hope is going to happen.”