Rev. Luis Gierbolini is the Associate Pastor at Central Christian Church in Indianapolis and the new President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. A chef by training, his unique path brought him unexpectedly to CTS and to a life of ministry in central Indiana.
Gierbolini was born and raised in New York City and grew up at Sinai Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Spanish-speaking congregation in Brooklyn that his family had been a part of for its entire seventy-year existence. Gierbolini’s call to ministry came from his involvement in the church, but not quite in the way he anticipated.
While pursuing an undergraduate degree in Culinary Arts, he began feeling God pulling him towards ministry. However, given the examples of pastors he’d encountered, he imagined that ministry might be something he’d pursue years down the road. At the time, he explained, “I thought I would be a chef and pursue my dreams and then follow the call to ministry in the later stages of my life.” However, in conversations with his pastor while working as a private dining chef, the call to ministry began weighing heavily on his heart.
Considering his next steps, Gierbolini started looking into programs in Urban Ministry. “I did not want to be the person preaching, stuck in an office, or dealing with boards,” he said. “I wanted to be out in the streets working with people we did not see in church on Sundays.” Excited by a visit to a college in Chicago that offered a program for this, he realized that more school was definitely in his future. When discussing the visit with his pastor back in Brooklyn, his pastor suggested Gierbolini look into CTS where he’d graduated. Gierbolini said, “The experience I had when I came to visit CTS was vastly different, and by the end of my two days, I knew this is where I wanted to go to school.”
Looking back, he recalled, “I enjoyed my time at CTS, and it was very informative and helped shape my foundation for ministry. I loved chapel services, especially when President Edward Wheeler preached, and when we got together for lunch or dinner in the dining hall.” Among the classes that most shaped his pastoral identity, he mentioned Contextual Theology with Prof. Michael Miller, Prayer in the Hebrew Bible with Prof. Wilma Bailey, and preaching/exegesis courses with Prof. Ron Allen. Notably, he said, taking The Theological Ethics of Martin Luther King, Jr. with Prof. Rufus Burrow “changed the trajectory of my seminary education.” Gierbolini also celebrated the many relationships he formed with Mary Harris, Cheryl Miller Maddox, Rebecca Furnish, Prof. Tercio Junker, Prof. Debora Junker, Prof. Lorna Shoemaker, and Prof. Ron Sommerville, who preached at his ordination. For these and other bonds he made at CTS, he said, “I am forever grateful!”
After earning his MDiv in 2011, Gierbolini spent six years as Chaplain in the Indiana Department of Correction at Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility, taught four years of Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, and served as an interim minister at Danville Christian Church in Danville before coming to Central Christian Church. He is also now a member of the seventh cohort of the Wabash Leadership Program.
Gierbolini explained that it took him some time to reconnect with CTS as an alum. At the time, some changes at the seminary left him and some other alumni disappointed, but he always came back to campus when contacted by a member of the faculty or staff. “Christian Theological Seminary invested a lot into me, and I am glad to give back in any way I can,” he said. “The future of the school is bright. It has excellent leadership, faculty, and staff. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.”
Learn more about the MDiv program at CTS here.