My name is Lara Bhasin. I live in the Lower Hudson Valley, less than an hour north of New York City. I am a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Manhattan, a North American Lutheran Church congregation. I am married with two sons, ages seven and nine. I am currently a high school English teacher and I attend the North American Lutheran Seminary online, part-time, but very soon (things are up in the air because of the pandemic!) I will be a full-time student and finish my M.Div. I can’t wait!
I started thinking about seminary and the ministry back in college, more than twenty years ago, but I never felt a strong sense of call. Then life happened and I forgot all about it. Three years ago, a short while after my congregation joined the NALC, I suddenly felt a strong, even urgent, sense of call and began to go through the discernment process with people dear to me and with the NALC candidacy committee. I never considered any seminary other than the NALS; the thought never even crossed my mind! I knew that I wanted a strong confessional, Lutheran education, but I also was awed and delighted by the ecumenical nature of the school, which is part of the Anglican Trinity School for Ministry (TSM).
I visited the campus and felt like I had found my “people.” I came back another time to give a presentation in a class I was taking, and because I just wanted to visit again anyway, and that time, it felt like home. I cannot wait to get back to campus.
Online education was a new world for me, and I am amazed at how well it has worked out. I don’t feel isolated; I feel part of the community. I find the quality of the online classes as high or higher than classes I have taken as part of other advanced degree programs. And it has really helped that I have been able to start my M.Div. while keeping my teaching position; this has given me more time to discern and make sure I am on the right path. (And I believe I am!)
I don’t know how it compares to other seminaries, but I find TSM and the NALS both intellectually rigorous and faithful to the apostolic tradition. People at TSM love Jesus, they love to talk about Him, and they aren’t afraid to be counter-cultural. At the same time, the quality of the classes and class discussion is very high. I really appreciate having to take a year each of Hebrew and Greek. It’s hard to do (especially when you’re getting older and haven’t been in school for a while), but it shows how serious the seminary is about biblical scholarship.
I have loved every single class without fail, but as a Lutheran, I have especially appreciated the two-year long sequence on creeds and catechisms and Lutheran theology taught by Dr. David Yeago, a theologian whose work I already admired prior to even thinking about seminary. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to study with him. My absolute favorite class so far has actually been a Master of Sacred Theology (STM) level course taught by Dr. Yeago on the Christology of the early Greek Fathers. It involved intensive close reading of the primary texts, and I believe that class helped orient me theologically in a very important way.
I am slightly more than halfway through the class credits I need to graduate. I do not do any full-time ministry work at the moment, nor have I started any internships, but I guest preach on occasion, and have led Bible classes in my own congregation. I could not have done either without what I have learned from my NALS classes.
I would just about fall over myself to recommend the NALS to others who are seeking and discerning. The classes are top-notch, the professors are accomplished scholars and warm, faithful Christian men and women, the students are delightful, and the tech support for the online division is amazing. Ambridge is a charming little town, and the campus itself is small but lovely. The NALS is serious about the Lutheran tradition in its best sense — as a gift to the church catholic. Being situated on an Anglican campus with students from other denominations, provides a unique opportunity for dialogue and mutual learning. The NALS is also serious about Christian formation. I have never before experienced the kind of fellowship I have been blessed to find being a student here.
I give thanks to God every day for the North American Lutheran Seminary and Trinity School for Ministry!