Sabrina Slater: ‘A voice and face people aren’t used to just yet’
by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — As coordinator of the office of Financial Aid for Service at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which awards more than $1 million dollars annually to students pursuing degrees, Laura Bryan and debt assistance mission specialist Melonee Tubb take joy in what they do.
“It would be hard not to fall in love with this ministry,” says Bryan, “Our mission is simple, reduce financial barriers to service for Presbyterian Church members. It becomes extraordinary when you get to know the students seeking resources to honor their God-given gifts. We work with college students, seminarians, candidates seeking calls, and pastors with educational debt.”
Captivated by applicant stories, Bryan and Tubb decided to launch a new quarterly video series to inspire other students to apply for financial aid.
Just as the Rev. Sabrina Slater did.
“We wanted to tell her story because she’s resourceful. She figured out how to use three of our aid programs in sequence,” says Bryan. “From the time she was in seminary, to the time she left and was seeking a call to ministry, to when she was called, she seized opportunities and sought resources to serve her call.”
- While working on her M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, Slater was selected to receive a Presbyterian Study Grant.
- When seeking a call to serve as a minister in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregation, she received the Season of Service Loan Assistance.
- After receiving a call in July of 2017 to serve at Christ the King Fellowship Presbyterian Church in the small village of Spencer, New York, she entered into Transformational Leadership Debt Assistance for her service to a small church.
“We didn’t line it up neatly for her by reaching out and saying, ‘do this next,’” says Bryan. “Sabrina did the work to find resources, ask questions, and she did the most important part — she applied.”
While at Princeton, Slater studied in Israel/Palestine, India and Brazil. She participated in a Peacemaking Travel Study Seminar in South Africa, and after graduation, she represented the PC(USA) at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland.
Her ordination service took place in Spokane, Washington, in November 2017 in her home presbytery and church at Hamblen Park Presbyterian.
“When we would do our semi-annuals check-ins with Sabrina as an inquirer and then candidate for ministry we weren’t able to fly her in,” says the Rev. Sheryl Kinder-Pyle, Executive Presbyter of The Presbytery of the Inland Northwest.
“Literally the first question we would ask her is, ‘Okay, where in the world is Sabrina Slater,’ because she was everywhere.”
While at Princeton, Slater also interned at the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C. when PC(USA) Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson, II was its Director.
“Here was this legacy black preacher in the Presbyterian Church,” she says of the opportunity to work alongside Nelson. “I wanted to learn as much as I could from him.”
Slater’s experiences prepared her well for what she faced early in her ministry. On her third Sunday at Christ the King, she was asked to preach a community ecumenical gathering — right after deadly violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The hope that I saw of God active all over the world in amazing ways was with me,” she says of that weekend in August.
“I walked up to the pulpit offering what I felt needed to be offered, wondering if I would have a job the next day.”
Slater told them white supremacy “is evil” and that “we cannot be silent as a church.”
“Because of all of my experiences I was able to be there, I think, in a space of integrity from a voice and face that people are not used to just yet.”
Apply and find more information at pcusa.org/financialaid
Subsequent videos in the series will be posted to the PC(USA) Financial Aid for Service feed on Vimeo.
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