|Master of Divinity student spending summer at Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center
San Francisco Theological Seminary Master of Divinity student Ryan Schlimgen is spending eight weeks this summer at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center in South Carolina. Growing up in the military town of Great Falls, Mont., Schlimgen believes he is called to help those serving in the armed forces to “have a sense of God’s presence in everything they’re doing.” He says that his theological education at SFTS and the Graduate Theological Union is proving to be an ideal training ground for chaplaincy.
“When I visited SFTS, I knew this is where I should go,” Schlimgen said. “It felt like home. The GTU was a big influence.”
SFTS is a founding member of the GTU, one of the largest and most diverse partnerships of seminaries and graduate schools in the United States. For Schlimgen, exposure to various faiths and spiritual beliefs gives him the exact insights needed to minister to military personnel from all denominations.
“Having an ecumenical understanding is needed since I will be seeing all faith groups,” he said. “At the GTU, I can go and study with other faith groups.”
Another benefit Schlimgen points to is the increased options for learning through courses taught at all GTU schools, including SFTS. Schlimgen is particularly interested in pastoral care classes and plans to take advantage of ethics classes taught by Dr. Carol Robb at SFTS, which complement many military principles.
Schlimgen’s own faith path includes his days as a kid when he spent summers at Glacier Camp & Conference Center, a mission of the Glacier Presbytery. He would later return as a counselor and guest pastor, and initially thought he was called to youth ministry.
Schlimgen earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from University of Montana and an MBA in human resource management from Colorado Tech University. He entered officer candidate school with the Marines to train to become a pilot, but did not complete the training because of personal beliefs about taking a life. Military chaplaincy ultimately turned out to be the best of both worlds for Schlimgen.
“I’m much more focused on the personnel of the military rather than the military itself,” Schlimgen said. “Growing up near an Air Force base I learned the ways the military has affected lives positively and negatively, and how God can affect these people’s needs.”
Schlimgen has really grown to appreciate the SFTS community, especially his fellow students. “They’re influential – they challenge you. I know I have people I can reach out to to help me work through things.”
Last summer, Schlimgen was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Reserve. Several of his SFTS classmates attended the ceremony aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda, Calif. Just as the ceremony was about to begin, the seminarians realized no one had carried a Bible onto the flight deck. One quick-thinking and resourceful student pulled out his iPhone with a Bible app, allowing Schlimgen to be sworn in on the phone.
“It’s a great network I’m creating,” Schlimgen said.