Evangeline Couchey is the Institutional Registrar for Nyack and Alliance Theological Seminary. She is also a Doctor of Ministry student in her fourth semester. The following interview was conducted at the Rockland County campus of Alliance Theological Seminary while student cohorts were gathered to take classes for the Doctor of Ministry degree.
What made you decide to pursue your Doctor of Ministry?
So I had started a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2005, and didn’t really like it. I thought I would probably come back to it, but I wanted to wait until I found something really worth pursuing and that I would be willing to invest this much time in. About two and a half years ago, I took a “Soul Care” class with Dr. Martin Sanders and Dr. Rob Reimer, and that was a very powerful class for me. At the end of it—I’m friends with Dr. Sanders, and he reached out and said, “Hey, just one sentence: Maybe it’s time to think about that Doctor of Ministry again.” And when he said that, something in me just went, yeah, I think it’s time.
What would you say you’ve noticed that you’re gaining? What are some of the more valuable things or changes in yourself you’ve noticed as a result being part of the Doctor of Ministry program here at Alliance Theological Seminary?
Well, I was really surprised when I started the program, because instead of starting with skills and techniques, we started with: How’s your heart? How’s your soul as a leader? And that if you’re not leading yourself well, if you’re not healthy, you don’t have much to give to others or you’re going to give out of that place and it’s not going to be good. So I think the first thing is that I felt built up in my ability to be healthy as a person and as a leader. And then the next semester we studied our leadership failures, and it was very helpful to see how the places that I’d failed before in leadership came out of the places that I had not been healthy as a human being. So it’s really built—it’s kind of built on itself. So I notice that in my leadership, because I’m a little more self-aware, I tend to relate to my staff differently. I notice myself being more gracious with them, more gracious with myself, and willing to relinquish some of the control or the power that I have in the relationship.
What do you think makes the Doctor of Ministry program at Alliance Theological Seminary special?
Wow, so after the first cohort we did several assessments. We did a personality assessment and a management assessment. We did a 360 assessment where, from all sectors of our life, people gave input on how we are as a leader. And then what made it so good for me is that the director of the program, our primary faculty member, Kevin Kriesel, met with our small group to go over our assessments and to help us frame them in a way that was encouraging and a way that was motivating of in regards to what we could do to keep growing. So I ended the first cohort feeling so loved and invested in. It wasn’t just about dumping knowledge; I felt like they were with me. And that’s continued through the whole program. And I think that’s really unique.
That’s wonderful! Looking forward, what are you still hoping to gain during your time as an Alliance Theological Seminary student?
Well, I’m hoping to finish my dissertation. I’ve started the research for my dissertation. I’m doing the theology of fun and how that relates to the goodness of God. And getting back into reading scripture, seeing the goodness of God in the scripture, has been phenomenal. I—until the last several years I approached God expecting Him to be angry or unhappy, disappointed, et cetera. And now, as I’m reengaging scripture, I don’t see that in God at all. I see Him as good, as wanting relationship. And that’s been invaluable. So I can’t wait to keep doing that. And I feel like I’m going to be able to keep doing that my whole life, but I’m excited to do my dissertation project where I’m walking other people through the theology of fun and the goodness of God and seeing how understanding God can help them feel close to Him and maybe overcome some of the same barriers I had to overcome.
If you could introduce Alliance Theological Seminary to people who have never heard about it, how would you introduce them to it? What would you tell them about it? What would you want them to know?
So I would want them to know that coming to Alliance Theological Seminary is like breathing fresh air. When I first came here years ago, I had planned to come for one year, and I immediately switched to a three-year degree because I said, I feel like I can breathe. Because, you know, people can get caught up in religion or performance, but to come someplace where you’re just accepted and you can just breathe and you can learn in a safe environment—that has been invaluable for me.