Tamra Tucker is an explorer.
When she was an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma she’d occasionally just drop into her car and go for a ride, ending up in Florida or Minnesota, or Boston, which she had always admired from a far.
In August, Tucker will begin to explore Berkeley when she takes up residence at CDSP. She has been awarded her one of the seminary’s two coveted Excellence in Ministry scholarships, which include full tuition and a $1,000 stipend.
Thanks to alumni and donors who have contributed to funds through estate plans and endowed gifts, CDSP has expanded its range of scholarships and financial aid for the 2015-2016 academic year.
“I think right now CDSP is the most stable and life-giving community that there is,” says Tucker, who will soon be a postulant for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Massachusetts, and serves as the operations manager at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston’s Back Bay.
The admiration is mutual. “Over the years, CDSP has been fortunate to welcome excellent students from the Diocese of Massachusetts,” says the Rev. Andrew Hybl, CDSP’s director of admissions. “Tamra’s energy and passion for ministry are palpable. I believe the gifts for ministry that she brings will be expanded during her time at CDSP, which will prepare her to excel in any ministry setting.”
Tucker grew up in Oklahoma, a diocese that she says had a strong youth ministry program. “We were all close,” she says of participants in the program. “And our camps and chaplains were encouraging of asking difficult questions about our faith. That led many of us to discernment for the ministry.”
As an undergraduate, Tucker sang in the choir and worked as an intern at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Norman, where CDSP alumna the Rev. Twila Smith (MDiv ’14) was a lay member of the parish staff.
“I learned a lot from her about ‘finding the gap’—figuring out what services were missing in a community and then figuring out whether the church could help to provide them,” Tucker says of Smith.
Smith, now a missioner at Church of the Mediator in Allentown, Pennsylvania, says the “stirrings toward ordained ministry” were apparent in Tucker during her undergraduate years. “You don’t have to be around Tamra long to hear and see her love of God and love of the church, and her dedication to both seem to grow with each passing year,” Smith says.
After college, Tucker moved to Boston—which she “fell in love with” on one of her impromptu road trips—to participate in Life Together, a part of a national network of intentional communities for young adults called Episcopal Service Corps.
Tucker and the other interns in the “relational evangelism” branch of the program received training in community organizing and were sent out to talk with people about their needs and hopes, and to help organize the community to bring about political change. The work was not easy, Tucker says. “But I like struggle. I like working things through and going the hard way, so I enjoyed it.”
When the program ended, she found a series of jobs that allowed her to remain in Boston, and began worshiping with The Crossing, a community that convened at St. Paul’s Cathedral. “I was a co-convener, which is their version of a vestry, and was part of the leadership of the worship circle,” she says. “I loved discussing liturgical design. We’d form partnerships with churches that wanted a fresher expression of worship and work with them.”
Eighteen months ago, she began working at Emmanuel, a church that is a popular venue for concerts, weddings, 12-step meetings, and other kinds of events that keep an operations manager busy. As she made her way through the discernment process, her thoughts turned to CDSP.
“I’ve had a list of seminaries in my head for ten years since I first started to think about becoming a priest when I was 18,” she says. “And I’ve come to realize that the thing I yearned for most was a different atmosphere, a different environment than what I had been serving in, or what I had grown up in. I needed to experience as much as possible before I settle in one place.”
She’s also eager to study with CDSP’s partner schools in the Graduate Theological Union. “I like going to the source of things,” she says. “I can imagine studying at a rabbinical institute for Hebrew, studying preaching with Baptists. Even if I put my own Anglican spin on it, I can see what it is like to get that cultural perspective.”
Tucker says she is drawn to prison ministry and working among the homeless, but adds, “I think I would really love and be challenged by parish ministry. To commit your family and your life to an already-formed community, and then to be charged with leading that community in some direction, I think that is a challenge I would find very enlivening.”