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June 10, 2008
UDTS Student Named 2008 Lydia Scholar


University of Dubuque Theological Seminary (UDTS) Master of Divinity (MDiv) candidate Heidi Smith has been named the 2008 Lydia Scholar by The Network of Presbyterian Women in Leadership (NPWL).

The Lydia Fund is a scholarship program for women who have experienced God's call to become ordained pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and who have a vision of spiritual renewal within the denomination. Administered by the Network of Presbyterian Women in Leadership, The Lydia Fund seeks to equip evangelical women for leadership in the PC(USA). Scholarship recipients are selected nationally each year and may be given the opportunity to attend a General Assembly as part of the Presbyterians For Renewal Team at some point in their seminary career.

Upon receiving the scholarship, Smith said "It is really an honor to receive this scholarship. I am a fairly "new" Presbyterian, but one of the things that brought me into the PC(USA) was the prospect of reform and renewal within the denomination. We are poised at a time of changing worldviews that is as ripe for reformation and renewal as John Calvin's time was-and perhaps God will choose to use me as a part of that process. The financial reality of going to school while serving a small congregation is sobering, so this scholarship is a huge help on that front; however, I think that an even bigger encouragement is the awarding of the scholarship to a distance student, which helps to promote needed change and reform in how we educate pastors to serve in an ever-changing world. Not only does online education fit into the pattern of ever-increasing e-communication in our society, it also enables seminary students to actually be out in the world in ministry as they learn. There is no classroom quite as effective as the real world! It is a privilege to be on the cutting edge of this "reformation" in education, and nice to see that NPWL and Presbyterians for Renewal will reach out to a student in this process."

A member of the Seminary's first cohort of distance MDiv candidates, Heidi is an Inquirer (a person in the process of answering God's call to ordained ministry) with the Kendall Presbytery and a Commissioned Lay Pastor serving Salmon First Presbyterian Church in Salmon, Idaho. Heidi, following in the footsteps of her father-who served in Salmon as a Methodist minister, said she "grew up with both a strong faith example and a strong tie to the land and to the rural and small town people who live close to the land." Heidi represents a new type of person entering ministry; a person who is actively responding to God's call, while intentionally staying in their place of service. Her goal is to serve in rural, small church ministry.

"I am thrilled to see all the ways God is working through our distance students as they continue to serve local congregations while attending seminary," said Melinda Thompson, director of distance education. "This award recognizes Heidi's calling and gifts for ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and provides good encouragement as she balances her current ministry with full-time seminary studies. In the book of Acts, Lydia became one of the first believers in the city of Philippi. It's only fitting that one of the first "believers" in our Distance MDiv program receives this honor named after her example."

In 2007, UDTS was accredited by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) to provide a MDiv degree with courses offered primarily via the Internet. They had been providing a sampling of online MDiv courses since the summer of 2004. UDTS has a strong track record for successful distance learning programs. In the past eight years, more than 1400 students from across the nation have participated in the innovative Commissioned Lay Pastor program, which offers eight non-credit online courses required by the Presbyterian Church (USA) for non-ordained pastors.