Following God's Timing

As a child in Richmond, VA, Joslyn Shipman decided that someday she wanted to take classes at what is now Union Presbyterian Seminary. “There was something about the red brick buildings,” she says. “They called to me.”


A third–generation Presbyterian, Shipman grew up attending Richmond’s First United Presbyterian Church and still remembers Sunday school lessons from her childhood. “I’ve always had a desire to know more about religion and about God,” she says. “I just didn’t go down that road until later.” Decades later, in fact.


Shipman, now 59, earned her MACE degree from UPSem last year and is on track to complete her M.Div. in 2015. Before seminary, she held jobs in a variety of fields. A 15-year stint in the U.S. Army gave her the opportunity to see the world beyond Richmond. She spent time overseas, in Germany and South Korea. “It was a chance to get out and explore,” she says.


Finally, Shipman made her way back to Richmond and those red brick buildings. And there are other older students at Union, she says. “I am not unique in being a second-career student on campus.” She appreciates the give-and-take with younger students. They are more in touch with emerging technologies and popular culture, she says, while “life experiences are what I bring to the table.”


Shipman is moderator of the Black Caucus at Union, about 10 students who meet regularly to support each other and promote awareness of African American church culture and history.


One of the highlights of her time at Union so far has been an internship with a program for homeless mothers. She developed and led a biblically based workshop for these women and offered them spiritual guidance.


Shipman has faith that God is preparing her for some type of ministry. “For me, this is God’s plan, God’s direction,” she says. “There is something God would have me to do.”


She expects that speaking, preaching, and definitely writing will be part of her ministry. An avid journal-keeper (“I have notebooks that go back for years”), she also writes stories about women in the Bible—the ones who don’t generally make it into sermons. It’s a way of “giving these women a voice,” she says.


Telling these stories reinforces her belief that “the Bible is just as relevant today as when it was written.”


Shipman also feels called to reach out to the growing numbers of unchurched young people. The best way to get them interested in the church and the Bible, she says, is by “helping them develop a relationship with Jesus.”