by Brian Hayes, Staff Writer

This past week, I had a chance to catch up with Vivian Jones-Johnson about her time here at Wake Div. We spoke about the transforming process of divinity school and how she has developed personally during the past three years. I would like to offer some of what Vivian shared so that you can get to know her better and support her as she approaches graduation.

I started by asking Vivian which professors at Wake Div. have been particularly influential to her. She responded by sating that Dr. Moyer and Dr. Shaner have played major roles in her growth. During her first semester, Vivian had Hebrew with Dr. Moyer and struggled initially. She talks about how encouraging Dr. Moyer was during this time, always offering a kind word and being available to help. Vivian credits him with giving her the courage to stick with being here in divinity school after a challenging start. Concerning Dr. Shaner, Vivian speaks highly of her role as her advisor. She says that Dr. Shaner has helped her through every step of the way in her divinity school journey. Vivian also mentioned Dr. Shaner’s ability to help her think differently theologically in such a way that has led her to become the person God wants her to be.

When asked about which classes have been particularly beneficial to her, Vivian pointed to her courses in Hebrew, Greek, Old Testament, and New Testament. Vivian states, “I came to divinity school with a traditional, closed mind about scripture, and these classes helped me learn to open up my thinking.” She says that these courses allowed her to look at the Bible through different lenses, which has been very important in her development.

Through this difficult academic and spiritual journey, Vivian says that she has managed her stress by setting aside intentional time to dwell in quietness and experience God’s presence. In these moments, Vivian states she has felt God’s reassurance of her calling and her ability to succeed in this program. During these special times of connection with God, Vivian has felt God declaring to her: “You can make it.”

Vivian has also maintained a number of hobbies that have helped her thrive throughout her time in divinity school. Vivian enjoys reading, walking, and listening to music. She listens particularly to gospel, jazz, blues, and rap music with social justice components. Recently, Vivian has cultivated an interest in writing poetry, which has creatively revealed a voice she didn’t realize she had. The main hobby Vivian says has sustained her in these three years is spending time with her grandson. The smile on her face as she shared this with me assures me that this brings her great joy.

Thinking on her overall divinity school experience, Vivian says that she now feels like “a completely different person.” Reflecting on this journey, she sums up her transformation beautifully in this statement: “I feel like I came here to expand how I thought about God so I can expand how I think about God’s people.” Vivian speaks about how Wake Div. has offered her a broader vision of who God is, which has in turn opened her up considerably to others. Moving forward, Vivian describes her vocation in the world in this way: “God has called me to find the people who don’t know God cares for them and who feel like they have no hope to show them that whatever they’ve done and wherever they are, God loves them.”

Vivian’s post-graduation plans include applying for PhD programs in New Testament Biblical Studies. I feel confident that she will continue to live out her vocation in this venture and in all that she does. Let’s all continue to support Vivian as she progresses in God’s calling for her life and keeps on growing.