February 15, 2019
Laurel Schone is a first-year M.A. student in the Clinical and Mental Health Counseling program. She’s lived all over the United States, as well as spending years in Nepal in a ministry context. As she stepped into the role of Graduate Student Chaplain, Laurel took the time to answer a few questions about her approach to this position of spiritual leadership in the Wheaton College Graduate School.
Laurel Schone, Graduate Student Chaplain (Spring 2019-Fall 2020)
Laurel, you’re a first-year student in the Clinical and Mental Health Counseling Program. How do you see your work as Grad Student Chaplain complementing your studies, work, and future in that field?
Since I’m in my first year of the program, most of what we’re doing is theoretical, and although I’m not in a clinical counseling role as a student chaplain, I think there are elements of what I’ve been learning that have opportunity to be played out in more concrete, practical ways through various aspects of being a student chaplain, which excites me.
Much of my heart in coming to Wheaton was born out of my role in Member Care with an overseas ministry – I spent five years supporting and caring for the spiritual and emotional needs of overseas workers serving in difficult, isolated places, and I love walking alongside people as they navigate the grief and delight of the unique contexts of ministry. I think students often fit a similar demographic, as we’ve all left something in order to study, and I’m excited to see how the time I get to serve as grad student chaplain will dovetail with what God has for me in the future!
What is something you really hope to learn/something you are learning through your chaplaincy?
I am excited to learn and experience more of what and who make up the unique body of grad students at Wheaton – I don’t have tons of opportunity to interact with people outside the 28 others in my program cohort, and look forward to knowing more of the rest of the grad school! I also hope to be someone that cares well for people, and see this role as an opportunity to practice that in the context of the church as it manifests in our student body.
What do you see as a “spiritual need” for today’s graduate student community?
I think a huge need for today’s grad student community is just that: to be IN community – with each other, with the Lord, with the Word, etc. The relentless demands of academia, life, ministry, etc. can be exhausting and distracting – they often pull at our focus, but we are needy people who need to be in relationship with the Lord and each other, so that we can minister and learn from a healthy place. However, there are unique challenges for grad students, particularly in the realm of time and relational capacity. So much of our energy is spent just trying to get everything done, that it often doesn’t seem possible to fit in the fellowship that we long for. In addition, it’s often easier to rely on the ease of virtual community that social media can offer, but for as good as this can be, it can also contribute to our isolation. I think the stress of that tension is part of what can make grad school feel so lonely, and why it makes it that much more important to wrestle with – how can I, with my time constraints and while being obedient to what God has for me, know and be known by others around me in an genuine, life-giving way?
Any unique background experiences/journey highlights you are bringing to the table?
I guess it’s pretty unique that the majority of the last eight years of my life have been spent either living or traveling internationally. I lived in Nepal for two years and both loved and hated it in various seasons, and have been pouring into overseas workers since then, which has involved a ton of international travel. I’ve learned much in the last eight years about grief, transition, loss, the quirkiness of America, the difficulty and joy of living in international community, the gospel, and how the Lord meets his children faithfully, and I'm a profoundly different person now because of it. These experiences have deeply colored how I interact with people, and I hope that I am a more faithful, authentic human being as a result!
To conclude, what spiritual practice would you recommend for new graduate students as they are embarking on this new phase of their spiritual journey, and why?
I think a highly important aspect in this season of study is engaging in the discipline of spending time in the Word for the sake of relationship with our Creator. We feel the nature of this being a discipline, right? Although hermeneutical/exegetical/philosophical/apologetic/academic study and preparation is very good (and is so much of what we’re here for!), we also need unhurried, unfettered time spent in relationship with the Lord. We need to drink deeply from the Well that is available to us for the sake of transformative relationship, in addition to and alongside the other ways that we engage with the Word. If you need a place to start afresh, I love the Psalms for the depth and breadth of human emotion and expression that the authors convey. I think the Psalms give us a great model for how to interact with God in authenticity and honesty, as well as reminding us that relationship with God is often messy and unpredictable!
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