The pursuit of advanced education: a full-time pastor’s perspective

By Rev. Dr. Clay L. Barrow

Since earning my Master of Divinity, my calling and vocation have taken me into Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE); police chaplaincy in the Atlanta Police Department; Biblical Studies instructor of both Old and New Testament at the Westminster Schools (Atlanta); counseling in a mental health center (Sumter, SC); and to full-time pastorates in South Carolina, Virginia and presently, North Carolina.

Over the course of my career in ministry, I felt the need and desire to re-tool and re-equip myself for service in the present age. 

I first heard of Hood Theological Seminary (HTS) and the quality of its Doctor of Ministry program from Dr. J. C. Evans, a dear friend and retired AME pastor, and one in the first class of the D.Min. Program in 2003. Two years later, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Albert Aymer, president of HTS, and to learn more about the school and the program. Though my interest was stoked, I felt I needed more experience in the pastorate before I could fully engage in a D.Min. program.

My interest in pursuing the D.Min. experience in the field of ministry, and the opportunity to enroll, finally culminated in 2014 when I had the chance to meet Dr. Vergel Lattimore, HTS President Elect. Based on our conversation, I was certain that Hood was the ideal seminary for me and that now was the time. My concerns were addressed and resolved:

1) I found the cost of each semester to be the most reasonable and affordable option in comparison to other programs in North Carolina and beyond.

2) The classes were taught by a denominationally diverse faculty who had graduated from some of the leading and most prestigious doctoral programs in the fields of philosophy and theology.

3) Hood has a diverse student population, representing not only those of the Wesleyan traditions, but also the congregational churches and denominations. It is in this type of environment that I learn the most.

4) The schedule for the D.Min. Program was the most pragmatic and appropriate for my schedule as a full-time pastor, husband and father. After having this dialogue with President Lattimore, I turned in my application within one week, and enthusiastically read my acceptance letter when it arrived.

In “Core I: Re-visioning Ministry,” taught by Bishop Staccato Powell of the AME Zion Church, I was further convinced that now was the right time and Hood was the

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right place for me as he challenged the cohort to re-vision the Church and its missio Dei. I began reading materials and books that pushed my notions of ministry. The resources, the class interaction, and the feedback from the cohort confirmed the angst that I felt regarding my desire to re-tool myself for ministerial service, and validated some of the ideas I had relating to the move of the Church.

“All three classes and instructors stretched my vision, my mind, my heart and my soul.”

In my first Winter Intensive, I was challenged by Dr. Dora Mbuwayesango to sharpen my exegetical skills in the class, “The Nature of God in the Old Testament.” These two classes impacted and altered my preaching where the exegesis of the text is “cleaner,” and my challenge to the congregation has greater depth of vision and sustainable energy to capture the idea.

In the Spring Semester, I took “Core II: Personal Transformation for Effective Ministry,” taught by Dr. Vergel Lattimore, where he invited us to engage ourselves. These three courses in the first year in the program had the greatest impact on my journey at Hood. Bishop Powell taught me how to capture the vision for something new, while Dr. Mbuwayesango challenged me to drill down in my exegetical work instead of basing my writings and reflections on inductive or deductive rationales and assumptions. Dr. Lattimore forced me to look within my soul and psyche to see myself, and to see myself in my work.

All three classes and instructors stretched my vision, my mind, my heart and my soul. As a result, I opened to new and great possibilities as I prepared for Core III.

I have seen significant changes in my pastoral counseling and pastoral services as a direct result of the D.Min. Program and my professional project, Implementing a Pragmatic Model for Teaching Pastoral Care and Crisis Counseling to Candidates in the Western North Carolina Board of Examiners of the AME Church — a project which completed my specialization in Pastoral Theology and Care. This specialization in the D.Min. program is designed to provide educational opportunities for caregivers and clinical practitioners who seek advanced theoretical and theological reflection on the contemporary practices of pastoral care and counseling.

My pastoral care has changed in that I have found that I am more present with my parishioners during their crises and in fellowship. The D.Min. program at Hood Theological Seminary has brought out the best in me, for which I am thankful and more useful in Kingdom building.


Rev. Dr. Clay L. Barrow is pastor of Clapp’s Chapel AME Church, Whitsett, NC and an Itinerant Elder in the Western NC Conference of the 2nd Episcopal District of the AME Church. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1993), a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University (1996), and a Doctor of Ministry from Hood Theological Seminary (2017). Hood Seminary is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

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