A DOUBLE BLESSING
Journey student, Tiffanie Lyon (’20), began the investigative search for a hybrid or online seminary before she discovered Iliff. While she had her eye out for other educational opportunities, she had Iliff in the back of her mind. Tiffanie knew two things: she wanted a UMC school, and the only way she would able to complete a Masters in Divinity would be online. Iliff was one of two options for Tiffanie.
After comparing her two program choices, Iliff’s core values, diversity, mission, and belief systems stood out. Tiffanie recalls knowing that Iliff was the place for her. Iliff’s commitment to diversity in thinking and religious beliefs among students, mirrored Tiffanie’s own values. She felt that it was very important to be part of a school that would not only expand but also challenge her own viewpoints. Her lifelong commitment to the UMC church and Christian faith only called her deeper to the Iliff community—full of rich and diverse ways of knowing, religious beliefs, and systems of thought.
While Journey is primarily online, with a few campus visits per academic year, there is a deep sense of community and communal engagement that happens online. The students form communities from their online presence. Tiffanie recalls that, like many of our Iliff students past and present, the care and compassion she feels from her peers and professors encourages her on this journey. Her peers, her professors, all the way to our Iliff president, Tom Wolfe, she says amaze her with the way that they engage in authentic and respectful conversations even when there is difference among them.
Tiffanie’s Iliff Journey has challenged and enriched her own Christian perspective—a “double blessing,” she says. The things she thought would surprise her, she considers, are the things she wanted in a seminary all along. Perhaps, she thinks, “it’s most surprising that [Iliff] not only met my expectations, but exceeded [them].”
Iliff’s Journey fits Tiffanie’s lifestyle and schedule better than any other setting. She currently holds a full-time, non-pastoral position, and a part-time position as a pastor. As someone who has continued to learn new technology patterns, the Journey format comes easier to Tiffanie than she originally anticipated. While many online degree programs seem distant and non-individualistic, Journey helps form relationships. Tiffanie has relationships with fellow students from across the country—“many of whom,” she says, “I might not have been friends with in my circles at home.” The diverse thinking and unique perspectives offered at Iliff and by Iliff students and faculty are rewarding. When asked if she’s had any challenges, Tiffanie kindly remarked, “Well, ‘time’ is always an issue although not specific to Iliff.”
Tiffanie’s busy schedule not only allows her to hold a full-time job, a part-time job, and go to school, but she started a ministry out of her home church called, “Living Hope Ministries.” Journey has allowed Tiffanie the flexibility to pursue her calling to ministry and grow her ministry for mental illness. Tiffanie is currently in her 7th years as a Licensed Local Pastor in the UMC. She serves part time as an associate pastor, and is involved in several outreach ministries both in the church and in the community.
However, Tiffanie’s biggest passion is to help individuals and their families with mental illness. Two years ago, “Living Hope Ministries” was born. The ministry has taken off, and really been embraced by the church community. Many of the members have stepped up and taken initiative to be involved in this amazing ministry. The ministry hosts events related to mental health, monthly ministry meetings to educate one another on resources, and they facilitate a “NAMI Family Support Group,” in which various church members have been trained by NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness).
As part of the Iliff internship requirement, Tiffanie looked no further than NAMI. She is currently serving as the Faith Community Liaison, reaching out to faith communities to educate pastors and congregations on mental illnesses, finding support, and offering help. Tiffanie hopes to change the stigma around mental illness, and integrate support from Christian and non-Christians.
Tiffanie has welcomed the Journey, and is currently enjoying and exploring being a student at Iliff. Visiting Denver three times per year feels like a home away from home. Iliff’s welcoming and open arms continue to support, challenge, and renew her Journey.