No Graduation Day
Posted by cservaes on June 19, 2012 in Alumni, "American Baptist Churches", "American Baptist Home Mission Societies", Seminary, "The College"
“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.” – Vernon Howard
Rev. Soozi (Whitten) Ford ’78 offers a hearty “Amen!” to Howard’s admonition. Throughout her career as a professor, pastor and American Baptist Churches regional staff minister, Ford has embraced the opportunity to learn as well as to teach. “We always have to be learning and observing. We are always students.”
Learning is exciting to Ford, who describes herself as inquisitive and energetic. As she neared the end of high school, a visit with friend Dr. Kathy (Stultz) Claflin ’77 at The College had an immediate and lasting impact. “I knew as soon as I set foot on the campus—this was where I belonged. It was an immediate fit.” She enrolled the following fall. Ford had planned to study psychology, but soon sensed a calling to full-time ministry. “Women in ministry was a new idea in the 70s, and I was stretched in both my academic and my spiritual life as I learned what it would mean to pursue this calling.” As she embarked on her journey, she received vital encouragement from Chaplain Cliff Burke and Dr. Charles Anderson. “Individual relationships with professors were key in my learning and growth. They believed in what I was doing and took personal interest in investing themselves in me.” She designed and completed a bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Central Baptist Theological Seminary. In the following years of ministry, Ford served as a church pastor and as a college professor. In every environment she nurtured a culture of learning and led by example. In 2005, she took a sabbatical study leave to pursue ministry and technology courses at Dubuque Theological Seminary. She was excited by the opportunities to use technology to communicate God’s love to others, many of whom may never be part of a traditional church experience. “Each one of us is called and gifted by God to serve in a particular time and a particular place. It is important for us to use all the tools available to us in order to more fully share with those around us.” Ford continues to share her passion for learning in her new role as Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. As a “pastor among pastors,” she serves alongside a gifted and collegial staff. Together they work with congregations who seek to understand what God is calling them to be and do during these challenging times. In addition, she serves as stewardship facilitator for American Baptist Churches USA, encouraging generous disciples to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. She has also enjoyed challenging people to encounter God in new ways while leading them on international mission experiences. She is passionate about encouraging churches and individuals to serve their local communities and is pleased that her region is part of the Missional Church Learning Experience (MCLE) through the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. “I’m often juggling multiple projects at once,” she confesses. Ford is not waiting for a graduation day; as she continuously explores fresh ways to share the love of Christ, she looks forward to being a student for the rest of her life. “There is always something new to learn. In everything we do, we seek to discern how God is calling us to serve. God’s call will come as we are aware of the needs around us and as we begin to respond with the resources available to us and our community.” Note: Rev. Ford’s daughter, Ashley Ford, earned a biology degree from OU in 2008 and is currently completing a doctorate in physical therapy from Des Moines University.