Rahdearra A. Paris
– Hope and Faith
When my wife encouraged me to apply to Iliff, I was skeptical and did not know what I was getting into. My relationship with G*d and religion was on the rocks but here I was blindly applying to a school of theology with no real understanding of the institution, or what I was doing or going to do there when I graduate. I always knew there was a calling in my life to ministry but I ignored it because I was in a very tenuous place with G*d.
Iliff has forced me to grow in many ways as well. Iliff has taught me to push back on, fight against systems, and stand firm on what I believe. Iliff is not the most diverse place, but I believe Iliff has the desire to become more diverse and culturally aware. While I have had to struggle with my fellow classmates and their privilege (including some professors), I have learned to stand firm in my authority.
Before coming to Iliff, I attended a conservative seminary and my educational experience there was vastly different. My education at Iliff has been very enlightening. Iliff has a curriculum that prepares you holistically for ministry and other vocations. Having professors of color also brought other perspectives to the classes. I have had some great professors whom I have developed great relationships with, learned a lot from, and admired. Several of them served as my mentors. Overall, the experience at Iliff has been amazing!
Upon graduation, I plan to become an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. As I am also pursuing my Masters of Social Work degree, I plan to start my own residential non-profit focused on working with youth of color from the ages 13-25, coming out of the criminal justice system, and reintegrating back into society using a “Holistic and Restorative Justice” model. This will also include a worship space as I am a firm believer that spirituality, no matter what that looks like for the individual, is critical for holistic healing.