Rev. Dr. Hilary E. Cooke explained that she first felt God calling her to attend seminary early in her time as an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College. Although she initially resisted the call, after meeting with trusted professors, she began to consider a vocation in pastoral counseling.
Cooke originally pursued a dual-degree Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work program at Princeton Theological Seminary. As she fully embraced her call to ministry, her tendency to overwork shifted. Over time, she said she realized that simultaneously pursuing both degrees might not be the healthiest route for her. She decided to continue with her MDiv training and graduated in 2002 before being ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in 2006.
Soon after, Cooke relocated to Indiana after marrying her husband. As she was welcoming her second child into the world, she began researching pastoral counseling programs and came across the Doctor of Ministry degree at Christian Theological Seminary. As she researched, Cooke said that something just felt right about the program. During the exploration process, she met with Prof. Felicity Kelcourse, Prof. Bernie Lyon, and student Cassie Nelson Craig, who gave her a tour of the campus. She remembered feeling immediate at home at CTS.
She said she most appreciated how friendly the program was to commuter students. She still marvels at how she was able to manage an hour-long commute to and from CTS with a newborn and a 2-year old. It was her love of learning that kept her motivated, and she said that Prof. Kelcourse’s emphasis on life-long learning spoke to her spirit.
“I don’t know what I expected,” Cooke said. “I look back now, and I think, how on earth did I do all of that? A commute, work, and all of the practicum hours with having young children. It was all God’s hands,” she said. “There is no way I could have done that on my own. Cooke explained that it was the cohort experience that really shaped her time at CTS. She remembered being in a cohort of six students who completed their practicum experiences together. She said it was like ‘trauma bonding’ because there were so many highs and lows that they shared throughout their journeys together. She recalls the group being very supportive to noe another as they each changed and transformed during that time.
After graduating from CTS in 2012 with a Doctor of Ministry in Psychotherapy and Faith, Cooke went on a much-needed sabbatical. After a period of aggressive undergraduate studies, marriage, two children, seminary, and doctoral studies, this reprieve was well earned and well deserved. Upon her return from sabbatical, she remained at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette, IN, and oversaw the Montessori-based Godly play program at the church for children ages 3 through the 5th grade. She explained that this was an unexpected shift in her counseling ministry, as she originally expected to enter into private practice with adults.
“I didn’t know I would want to work with children, but I did. I was nervous about working with kids, having not had the experience. But, the practicum taught me how to just sit quietly, and listen,” she shared. “You learn in practicum that people want to be heard, they want to be known. That’s what children want as well. They want to be treated like children and not mini adults.” Cooke has allowed the children to hear the foundational stories of our faith, to tell their own stories, and to find their own place in God’s story.
In 2019, Cooke began serving as Chaplain at Chapel of the Good Shepherd in West Lafayette, IN, a ministry of the Episcopal Church to the campus community of Purdue University, where she now oversees campus ministry. “What I love most about college students is that they are discerning for the first time themselves how to be adults and figuring out their places in the world,” she said. While truly grateful for her current work, she admits the pandemic has made it more difficult to fully engage with the students on campus. Thankfully, with extended warmer weather, a small cohort has maintained their connections with outdoor services and gatherings.
As an admitted workaholic, Cooke emphasized that she does focus on self-care, especially during the pandemic. She is a runner and just completed her 36th virtual race since March. She is also a singer, and she loves to sing with her choral group, which is currently recording for the Christmas season over Zoom. Along with spending quality time with her family, she said that these activities are helping her stay balanced.
In reflecting on guidance she would share with current CTS students, she said, “Be gentle with yourself. It is a lot of emotional work. You can’t always see the work you’re doing, but it’s there and happening deep down. Giving yourself grace is key.” Cooke emphasized that the faculty and staff at CTS truly want the students to succeed. “There is a great love for the students, they want the students to learn and everyone is on their side,” she said.
We are truly grateful that Rev. Dr. Cooke heeded her call to ministry and continues to share her love and energy with the students and families she is blessed to serve.
Also included in the November 2020 Christian Theological Seminary Connection
- Faith & Action Project November 2020 Newsletter - Read the newest edition of the Faith & Action Project’s monthly newsletter!
- Alumni Board Profile: Rev. Dr. Hilary E. Cooke - Rev. Dr. Hilary E. Cooke explained that she first felt God calling her to attend seminary early in her time as an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College. Although she initially resisted the call, after meeting with trusted professors, she began to consider a vocation in pastoral counseling. Cooke originally pursued a dual-degree Master of Divinity […]
- Alumni Gather to Discuss Faith and Vocation - Over recent months, CTS has hosted three online events as part of its “Virtual Alumni Speaker Series” addressing topics relating to leadership, healing, and the life of faith. The first installment, on May 14th, was “The Bible in a Time of Pandemic,” and featured a conversation with Prof. Kimberly Russaw and Prof. Amy Lindeman Allen. […]
- CTS Responds to Anxious and Uncertain Times - CTS lives out and advances its core values of justice, wholeness, and respect for the dignity of all people. In addition to weaving these values into its coursework and programming, this means caring for students and stepping into prophetic and civically engaged community leadership. In light of the urgency of the 2020 election and the […]
- PhD Students Build a Legacy of Scholarship - In 2016, CTS launched the world’s first PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric, welcoming its first cohort of students in January 2017. Nearly four years in, members of the program’s first two cohorts are building a library and legacy of scholarship. The PhD program is deliberately designed for its students to forge […]
- Faith & Action Project Invests in Community Change - In October, CTS announced that its Faith & Action Project awarded grants totaling $100,000 to four poverty-fighting organizations in central Indiana. The Project was specifically looking for proposals that would make a difference in taking steps toward racial equity and removing barriers for those confronting poverty. Read the full announcement here. Among this year’s recipients, […]