For CTS Alumnus Rev. Jeffery Bower (MA ’97/MDiv ’99), the church has been a part of his life since a very young age. He grew up attending church with his grandmother who had a definitive impact on his relationship with God and who nurtured his faith. At the age of 6, his grandmother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he exclaimed “a preacher!” Decades later, Bower ultimately fulfilled that calling on his life.
Although he intuitively knew his future at a young age, like many of his fellow CTS alumni, he traveled various paths before entering into full-time ministry. Bower studied music when he was young and began playing for the church at the age of 12, growing into a gifted pianist and singer. Bower overcame many obstacles in his early life, as he supported both of his parents who faced health challenges. It was his faith and connection to the church that sustained him during those times.
After graduating from college, Bower married his high school girlfriend. Over a 20-year period, they built a life together, both pursuing high-pressure corporate careers. He worked in HR training and development, often working 70 hours a week. As he pursued his career, Sundays were his respite, where he served his church as the minister of music. He and his wife were blessed to have two children, Blake and Brianna. Bower achieved what society might deem as the ideal life. However, over time he realized this was not the fullness of life that God intended for him.
“I woke up one day–I had a great paycheck, beautiful home, nanny living with us to taking care of our kids, and I was miserable. I was working as the church organist and I was overwhelmed. I was just doing too much,” Bower shared. He ultimately resigned from his position as church organist, but he soon realized that he had resigned from the wrong position. “Music was the umbilical cord to my faith,” he said. “When I cut that out, I realized it was the one thing that grounded me to my faith.”
Soon after, Jeff again felt a sense of his ministerial calling. He said, “One day I sat on an organ bench and wept. It was in that moment that I realized God was again calling me to much more than pastoral music, but to be a pastor.” Not long after, he submitted an application to CTS. He had researched the seminary two years before and was now moving forward with the process. Despite a late application and limited student aid, he was ultimately accepted with a full tuition scholarship.
It was in Bower’s last semester in seminary studying “Theology for the Welcoming Church” that he came to wrestle with his own sexual orientation. He ultimately came out in January of his last semester at CTS. “I dealt with a great deal at that time. I was struggling financially and unsure how I would complete seminary. And, one day I went to my mailbox, and there was statement from the business office. Someone had made an anonymous contribution to my account with a note ‘with exceptional promise to ministry.’ That is why I’m so committed to my work at CTS. If it had not been for that blessing, I would not have graduated on time,” he shared.
Bower graduated magna cum laude from CTS, receiving both a Master of Arts in Church Music and a Master of Divinity. He currently serves as an Alumni Representative to the Board of Trustees and as the President of the Alumni Board, having done so for the past 6 years. Over those years, Bower has, along with other alumni and CTS staff, worked to build up the board to ensure broader representation and leadership. This year, Bower also served as a member of the core team for CTS’ strategic planning process, providing alumni feedback and input. “The alumni voice is a significant voice in this process,” he said. “We have had the opportunity to help shape the alumni survey and conducted one-on-one conversations to gain insights and perspectives. It was been a great deal of work and a tremendous commitment, but it has been wonderful. It has been a rich experience to think about theological education today, tomorrow, and years from now.”
Bower strongly encourages other alumni to get involved and stay connected to CTS. “We must go back to our own stories,” he explained. “It is easy for us to forget the important role CTS has had in our lives, ministries, formation, and leadership. When we tap back into our journeys and begin to tell the story of our own experience, we can look back and see just how much CTS has blessed our lives, our ministries and our faith.”
We are truly thankful to Bower for his years of commitment, leadership and support and look forward to many years to come.