By James Thompson
Dr. Naomi Walters serves as chair of the Department of Bible and Ministry and is an associate professor of ministry. This semester, she is teaching Spiritual Formation, Theology of Worship and Ministry of the Word.
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
“The most rewarding part of my job (as a theology professor) is accompanying students through this stage of their journey with God. It’s a true gift to be present with people who are willing to explore who God is and what God is up to in God’s world, and to imagine their way of partnering in that. The assignments and grades and class sessions are just the way we make space for that gift to flourish!”
What do you do outside your job to stay sane, relieve stress, etc.? or What are your hobbies?
“One of the things that keeps me centered is going for a run. Running is one of the only times that I’m only doing one thing, rather than multitasking or feeling pulled multiple directions. I know a lot of people say that running gives them time to think, but for me, running is one of the only times I am not thinking.”
“Another habit of mine that helps me be a person of peace in the rest of my life is walking to the office. I am a more frantic person the rest of my day when I drive to work. I think this is half about getting outside (and being outside is another thing I love) and half about really giving myself space to transition from home to work and back again.”
“For fun, I play video games with my kids and board games with my spouse and friends. And cuddle with my hedgehog while watching TV.”
What is your most embarrassing moment?
“I don’t really get embarrassed by my own mistakes – though there are certainly plenty of those (athletic whiffs, slips in public speaking, etc.). I think I have a pretty good sense of humor about my imperfection and don’t really mind looking silly. When I think of being ‘embarrassed,’ I think of that feeling of ‘I wish everyone would just stop looking at me so I can crawl in a hole alone,’ and I most often have that feeling when being complimented in public. I’d really prefer to just do my work faithfully and not have attention drawn to it. I guess if I change the word to ‘ashamed’ instead of ‘embarrassed,’ then I could say that I do look back with regret or shame or embarrassment on the times that I dropped the figurative ball and didn’t get done when I should have gotten done.”
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
“When I think of obstacles, I think of things that are out of your control. So, although there are certainly things in my own personality and way of interacting with others that I’ve needed to work on, I wouldn’t call those obstacles. The ‘thing that is out of my control’ that has most often blocked my way forward is peoples’ reactions to my gender, as a woman called to ministry in a Christian tradition that does not typically or historically allow women to serve in leadership roles. There are places I simply cannot work or otherwise use my gifts because of their beliefs about what women can do. That said, I think my experience of that obstacle has shaped me to be more open to conversations about other kinds of exclusion, in a way that I may not have been if I hadn’t experienced it myself. So I can see how God used that obstacle to shape me into a path-clearer for others, so some good has come from this bad thing.”
What single piece of advice would you give to students today?
“ ‘Every yes includes a no.’ That is, since we are finite beings — with only so much time and energy — we cannot say ‘yes’ to everything, even when all the things are good. And often, the ‘no’ that is included with every ‘yes’ is invisible; we don’t realize we said ‘no’ to sleep or to an A or to time with friends/family until we’re already committed to all the yeses. It is an ongoing struggle of mine to discern when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no,’ but getting started on that learning early in life is important.”