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What Do Academia, Pop Culture and Television Production Have in Common?

February 19, 2018

Whether it’s teaching Christian Ministry courses at New York Theological Seminary, creating children's creative movement dance curriculum, preaching on Sundays at her local church or in her full-time position as the Sales Promotion and Marketing Producer for Fox 5 news in New York, recent Talbot alumna Malachy Williams (Ph.D. in Educational Studies, ‘17) didn’t want to stop her very full life to pursue doctoral studies.

“I really was persuaded (to attend Talbot School of Theology) after reading a Christian Education textbook whose contributors were all from Talbot, and then after learning about the cohort model,” says Malachy. For those who cannot locally access a doctoral program in education with Christian perspectives, Talbot offers two doctoral programs in a special format. The use of blended distance learning and residential coursework makes it possible for students to continue ministering with their current organizations while completing their Ph.D. in Educational Studies. The staff at Talbot told Malachy “If you are already teaching, there’s no sense quitting your job to do studies — we’ll work with you.” She adds, “My life was able to continue on.”

New groups of students begin the Ph.D. program every year in the fall semester. Students work through the core courses together, with some choice of elective options to fit their study interests. “What I gained from the program is a group of great friends. Part of the academic experience is building a community with people to call friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. We struggled together — it was a struggle to do the coursework, maintain my work schedule, go back and forth (from New York to Biola in Southern California for the summer residency), to do life and do school - but that’s everyone’s schedule. And we were in it with a wonderful group of faculty.”

After finishing her Th.M. degree in 2004 from Dallas Theological Seminary and starting to teach at New York Theological Seminary, she realized that she wanted to develop coursework for people to pursue ministry. Talbot’s Ph.D. program combines educational ministry leadership and teaching with a strong emphasis in developing a competency in research and the contribution of theory to the practice of educational ministry. Also as a professional writer/producer with an interest in children’s education programming and as an assistant pastor, ministry leadership and teaching are her competencies, so whether it’s in academia, pop culture or in the local church, Malachy is using her gifts to the fullest.

“Everything is about story and messaging for me,” explains Malachy. “To be a television producer you have to tell a story. A preacher uses story to give a good sermon. As a dancer/choreographer one uses movement, timing, flow to tell a story. And to draw in students a good professor has to have a good story. So story is key.”

When asked about working in television and balancing her Christian education, she explains “How you do it is when you know who you are, by being the person I’ve been raised to be and trying to love on people. That’s what Jesus did.”

Her dissertation, "Perceptions of Adult Christian Creative Arts Practitioners in Leadership from NY, NJ and PA about the Practice of Music, Art, and Dance in Cultivating Christian Spiritual Formation,” offered her a way to make an exploratory contribution to the life of Christians who are artists. As a dancer for the Lord since 1987, the arts are pretty much embedded into her life. “As a liturgical artist, the key aspect is worship...worship of the triune God is primary and then the particular artistic gift is a vehicle that helps us to worship God in spirit and in truth. In my study I spoke to leaders in particular because whenever I am invited to a church to conduct a workshop on dance ministry I always want to know where are the leaders. They are the ones who have to make sure what I teach continues…because they are the ones that have to communicate the teaching and help to facilitate the learning, on an ongoing basis. I believe I’m equipping leaders so that ‘we’ can equip the rest of the saints, as the Bible instructs.”

Malachy also explained how she negotiates between conservative and liberal dichotomies, particularly when it comes to seminary education. “I’ve been involved in ministry for a long time. Now I try to help my seminary students see that we are more alike than different and at some point we have to come to the table and say the common denominator is that we love Jesus, and keep that at the center.”

After seven years in Talbot’s Ph.D. in Christian Education program, Malachy graduated in December 2017. At the request of the New York affiliate, the local Southern California Fox affiliate even surprised her by filming her baccalaureate.

Her hard work paid off in a few surprising ways as well. “People I work with didn’t even know that I was in a doctoral program,” she says. Her boss praised her by noting that she never let anything fall through the cracks while she was in the program. “The week I graduated my boss called in all of the assistants into the sales meeting and presented me with money they pooled together to purchase me a customized doctoral preaching robe. Christians and non-Christians. They are so proud. I wear it on Sundays now.”

“I see that God sent me [to Talbot] and walked me through the whole thing. It has been God keeping me through the process — with great ideas coming out of it.” She will continue to teach this semester, serve her local congregation and work full-time as a television producer as her story continues.

Talbot School of Theology is a theologically conservative, evangelical seminary in Southern California near Los Angeles. With over a 60-year heritage of biblical fidelity, the seminary couples solid evangelical scholarship with intentional character development to prepare students for a lifetime of relevant, effective ministry. The seminary's six master's degree programs and three doctoral degree programs are led by a faculty of nationally renowned, widely-published and actively engaged ministry leaders