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How a Pianist Discovered Church History

June 13, 2018

Female student standing outdoors and smilingThis blog features stories about the Wheaton College Graduate School. This week's story is about Raluca Bojor, M.A. '18, a recent graduate of the History of Christianity program.

 

Raluca's 500-Year JourneyA graduate student sitting at the piano

It was the Summer of 2015. It seemed like a typical Sunday morning. Raluca Bojor (M.A. '18 in History of Christianity), a native of Brasov in the Transylvania region of Romania, sat at the piano to accompany the worship service at her church in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. She had just completed her bachelor's degree in Music with Elective Studies in Business at Wheaton College, and her career as a freelance musician was really starting to take off.  

So, how did she end up in the M.A. program in History of Christianity a year later?

"During my senior year, my Christian Thought Seminar with Dr. Lance Peeler had first sparked my interest in Church History. In fact, I actually started an application to the M.A. in History of Christianity program at that time, but I forgot about it as I threw myself into my music career. But that summer, I got an email from graduate admissions, asking if I was interested in completing my application." 

That email came on Saturday night, the night before church. 

"For fun, I googled the program and started reading more about Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, the director. Then I realized why her name seemed so familiar to me: she was scheduled as the visiting preacher the following day at the church where I was the pianist!" 

What would have been a typical Sunday turned into a life-changing meeting between preacher and pianist. 

"Of course, I introduced myself to Dr. McNutt! We hit it off that very day, and she made time to personally connect with me and help me to find out whether it was the right program for me." 

Raluca returned to Wheaton College in Fall of 2016 and began the M.A. of History of Christianity program. She shares how she was led to specialize early on in her degree program.

"I remember when it all clicked. It was during my first semester, in Dr. McNutt's Reformation class. After reading the name 'Johannes Honterus' in the tiny paragraph about the Eastern European Reformation in my textbook, I went to Dr. McNutt and told her that the school in my hometown was named after Honterus, but until reading about him I had no idea that he was connected to the Transylvanian Reformation—few people back home knew his full impact." 

The multilingual region of Transylvania presents challenges to church historians.

Those seeking to study church history in Transylvania must have the ability to read in German, Romanian, Hungarian, Latin, and Slavonic. Raluca, a native of Transylvania, was already blessed with two of the modern language skills unique to the region: German and Romanian. As Dr. McNutt and Raluca discussed this little-known European Reformer, they realized that much of the story of the Transylvanian Reformation was simply waiting to be told, and that Raluca was the perfect person to do it. 

A Professor and Graduate Student at commencement"Dr. McNutt and I looked at each other: 'That's your dissertation, Raluca,' she said. Since then, I've been researching and writing about the Transylvanian Reformation, and am pleased to say that I have been offered a fully funded place in a top Ph.D. program in Church History. It really is going to be my dissertation now!" 

While at Wheaton, Raluca would work to hone her Latin and old Slavonic skills. The History of Christianity faculty worked with her to make sure she was presenting her research at scholarly conferences and getting important feedback. And, the best part was that her work as a music teacher and church musician allowed her to both maintain skills and benefit financially from her first degree. 

"Funny fact: if you read my journals from childhood, I actually wrote about how much I hated history! I only cared for music, and that's why I originally came to Wheaton. But God had more in store for me. It took a trip across the world to discover that it is my vocation and calling to study the history of my own country in the context of the larger European Reformations."  

The journey continues.

A journey back to Wheaton College has started this scholar on another journey: a Ph.D. and a five-hundred-year trek back to her unique, Evangelical, Transylvanian roots.

Where will an M.A. from the Wheaton College Graduate School take you?