Monday, March 6, 2017

Our Journey to Scotland: A Mayward Family Update

The Roundel, a study area for Divinity postgrad students at St Andrews
In September of 2012, the Mayward family sold our home and moved to Canada. With a new pastoral role, as well as a desire to get my master's degree at Regent College in BC, our family felt led by the Holy Spirit to uproot from our home and ministry in Arizona to embark on a new adventure, excited about the possibilities we saw in our new context and community.

While we made lifelong friendships and loved the beauty of BC, our season in Canada proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. Two years into our stay, I found myself in burnout and depression, prompting our family to move back to to Portland only days before Christmas 2014 in order to heal and discern what God was up to. A few months later, our son Alister was born; a few weeks after that, he was diagnosed with congenital heart disease, ultimately leading to open heart surgery when he was six months old. In the midst of my darkest emotional and spiritual season, we also navigated the experience of caring for a child with a life-threatening disease. During those weeks and months, I resonated with the biblical stories of Job, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk: God, what are you doing? Why is this happening? Where are you in all this?

During this season, I went back to seminary. For a long time, probably since my early college years, I've wanted a doctorate. I'd delayed in getting my master's degree for years, dabbling in a class here and there, until finally enrolling full-time at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, now Portland Seminary.

A lot of people were perplexed. You're in burnout...and you want to go to seminary? Wouldn't that make everything worse? Yet I have *loved* my time at Portland Seminary. It has been richly therapeutic and life-giving. I love reading. I love writing. I love pondering and processing and deconstructing and reconstructing. I love communicating ideas with others, whether verbally or written, in the hopes of sparking interest and inspiration, shaping and sharpening their paradigms and practices. Becoming a theologian in the world of academia sounds right up my alley.

Still, I also love being a pastor. I continue to feel a commitment to the local church. Thankfully, I've been able to serve in an interim youth ministry position at a very gracious church who has encouraged my academic pursuits. The art of shepherding others, being a spiritual guide and sounding board--it's a sacred privilege and a joy. Moreover, it's a calling, however one wants to parse that term. Yet through this vocational discernment process and all the winding paths, I have more clarity than ever: I need to pursue becoming a professor, a pastor-theologian.

I view my vocation as one of building bridges. I often find myself standing between communities, with one foot firmly planted in each. I want to build bridges between the worlds of the local church and the academy; between theological conservatives and progressives; between various cultures, faiths, and tribes in order foster conversations about meaning and morality with grace and respect. In our current climate of political unrest and polarized non-dialogue, I am convinced that beauty, truth, and goodness are more important than ever.

So, let me share some good news: I have been accepted into PhD studies at the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts (ITIA) within the Divinity School at the University of St Andrews. Katie and I visited the UK last spring to explore potential PhD options--as well as celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary--and we fell in love with St Andrews, both the town and the university. This academic journey means our family of five will move from the Portland, OR area to the coast of Scotland for three years of adventures and education in Europe. I’ll graduate from Portland Seminary with my MA in Theological Studies on April 28, and my PhD program (“programme” in Scotland) begins on September 27. Our whole family is thrilled by this opportunity, as it will be an incredible cultural experience for all of us, especially our kids.

Joel and Katie, St Andrews, Scotland

Why Scotland and the University of St Andrews? I will be focusing my studies on the intersection of theology, ethics, and film; specifically, I'll be studying the films of the Dardenne brothers, theological aesthetics in the vein of Paul Tillich and Hans urs Von Balthasar, and various philosophers and ethicists (Emmanuel Levinas in particular). ITIA is a unique interdisciplinary program at one of the best, most highly regarded Divinity schools in the entire world. It’s the best possible program for this kind of study, and I’m grateful to get accepted. (Fun trivia: St Andrews is where the opening scene of Chariots of Fire was filmed, is considered the birthplace of golf, and is where Prince William and Kate Middleton met while attending university. Also, N.T. Wright happens to teach there.)

The way visas work for the UK, we have to have proof of adequate finances within our bank account for each person in our family. To cover the travel and visa costs for our family of five, we will need to have at least $40,000 saved in our bank account by June in order to move to Scotland. Over the past two years, we have saved up nearly $30,000 for this adventure, so we need at least $10,000 more to reach our goalBetween accommodations, visa and travel expenses, school tuition, and various fees, we recognize that we need financial help and support from others. We humbly ask for you to support us.

In the past few months, we have been asked by many people how they may be of help in this adventure. So we have come up with a number of ways that you can support us:

  • Give financially. Please make a donation to this GoFundMe fund, or you can send us a check or cash (Mail checks to 12435 NE 20th Street, Vancouver, WA 98684). We estimate that we need $10,000, so we cherish every donation. If 50 people gave $100, and 250 gave $20, we'd reach our goal!
  • Give us stuff to sell (or buy our stuff). We are planning on having at least two garage sales to sell all sorts of things, including our furniture, TV, kids’ clothes and toys, and books. If you have something you’d like to donate for us to sell, we’d love to pick it up from you if you live in the Portland area. We are also looking to sell our Subaru Forester just before we go, so if you’re interested in a fantastic used car, let us know.
  • Give to our travel needs. We will need enough large pieces of luggage for our family of five, so if you have any luggage you rarely use, we’d love to take it to Scotland! If you have airline miles you could donate, we are also looking to offset our ticket costs—five plane tickets to Edinburgh can get pricey.
  • Hire me. I’m available to write for your publications or speak for your conference, camp, class, retreat, etc. during the months of May-August. I can also do webinars on any of my three books. Contact me: jmayward (at)
  • Share this campaign and blog post. We don’t want to add to the social media noise, but we do want to share our good news and gain the support of anyone and everyone who wants to help. Share with your friends, family, co-workers, church small group, or anyone who cares deeply about education and the arts. Use #maywardadventures if you're a hashtagging sort of person.
  • Pray. Sometimes this can feel like the Christian spiritual add-on to these financial requests, but we’re quite serious—we truly need people to be praying for us, not only for the beginning of this adventure, but for its entire three-year duration.
One of our family’s values is to live a great story. This means developing our character, choosing difficult paths intentionally, and take the harder-but-better road. We see this move to Scotland as a new chapter in a greater story God is telling in and through us, and we invite you to be a part of that story with us!

Grace and peace,

Joel, Katie, Copeland, Eloise, and Alister


No comments:

Post a Comment