Senior M.Div. student Kristen Uroda was studying illustration at Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston when God called her to ministry.
“My plan was to be a famous artist, live in the city, and do mission trips,” she says, but during one such mission trip to Cincinnati, OH, she found herself falling in love with the inner workings of the church. When the leaders made an altar call for those called to ministry, she heard God say, “That’s you. Go.”
Back in Boston, she told her pastor that Europe was on her heart, even though the mission opportunities through her Korean-American congregation were predominantly in Asian house-churches. Providentially, her pastor had just met some pastors from Romania who needed interns. For one year, she helped that team plant a church from the ground up. When she returned home, her pastor encouraged her to start looking at seminaries, and she found Western (WTS).
“I really liked the program and how WTS wants to form students as full-rounded pastors and not just fill us with information and send us on our way,” she explains. She enrolled and moved to Michigan.
First year Master of Divinity students take a ministry formation course called The Abbey. One aspect includes lengthy discussion of the Enneagram personality profile.
“Going through the process of the Enneagram was very hard, and we all came out rather shell-shocked,” says Kristen, “but it helped me develop my pastoral heart. This is what I was praying for, and this is what I got. You don’t see other seminaries do that really deep inner work. It is so critical to formation.”
For her “Teaching Church” internship site, Kristen landed with Engedi, a youthful, cutting-edge church planted from a large Wesleyan church in Holland.
Kristen spent her first year learning all she could about the nuts and bolts of the church—things like finances, leadership, and day-to-day operations. Her internship led to a paid position as the executive pastor’s assistant.
When a communications position opened up, Kristen showed the church her art portfolio and they immediately offered her a new role—design coordinator.
“I definitely did not see myself in the place where I am now,” she admits. “When God called me to ministry, I thought I would have to give up art. I didn’t see how those two were ever going to fit together.”
“Art has always given me a lot of life,” Kristen says. “When I don’t do it for a long time, I feel like I’m not living up to what I was made to do.”
Kristen isn’t sure yet how God will combine her passion for church planting with her passion for art, but she is more convinced than ever that he has a plan for both.
Recently Kristen helped lead a youth trip to Guatemala where she designed a mural for an impoverished community. Also, last year National Public Radio (NPR) hired her as an illustrator.
“My inspiration and vision is how I can make this world a more beautiful place. The world can be dark, scary, and uncertain, but art touches the heart in ways that words alone can’t. Guatemala was an opportunity to test that out,” she says. “Maybe the church God is calling me to plant will look different than the usual kind of church.”
Whatever church she plants, Kristen wants it to be multi-cultural and multi-lingual.
“I can do it!” by Kristen Uroda
“What would it look like if pastors around the world and within neighborhoods could work together? Where it’s just the shared identity under Christ’s name? I think the church is our best bet for crossing cultural barriers and healing divisions.”
Kristen’s interests could land her anywhere—her passions range from the Native American community to the people of France. She is open to wherever the Lord leads.
She is grateful to her pastors at Engedi for making space for her gifts and helping her incorporate them into both leadership and worship. As for her time at Western Theological Seminary, “I went in not really knowing what it was going to be like, and it has been a good experience!”
Above all, she now knows that wherever God leads, she will be using both her pastoral and artistic gifts to meet the needs of people.