RTS NYC Is Training Women to Serve the Urban Church

By Jay Harvey

Since 2015, Reformed Theological Seminary has partnered with Redeemer City to City to raise up leaders for ministry in New York City. Approximately 40% of those leaders are women whose lives and communities are being influenced by their theological education.

Part of the vision of RTS New York City was to keep New Yorkers in New York for their theological training. This vision is being realized in Heidi Wong, a full time management consultant who serves as the College Ministry Director for Exilic Church in Midtown, with 100 students in her ministry. “I wanted to stay in New York City, since I was already committed to a local church here,” recalls Heidi. “Additionally, the part-time track was appealing because I also wanted to continue to grow professionally in my career in business. The RTS NYC program seemed well-suited for working professionals, providing flexibility without sacrificing quality.”

That quality is not just academic, however. Heidi says that the first word that comes to mind when she thinks of RTS New York City is “pastoral.” “My study at RTS New York City has increased my sense of overall wonder and brought me closer to the Lord.” This sense of wonder is impacting the students she serves.

I interact with university students who come from a variety of faith backgrounds. Seminary has developed my ‘pastoral’ side to care for these students. My hope is that students in our ministry not only learn theology, but see that theology lived out in me in ways that challenge and encourage them.

Melissa Gaitan was born and reared in the Bronx. She teaches middle school math in the Bronx and lives in Washington Heights. “I wanted to attend a seminary in the city where I currently live and work so that my learning would be connected to my ministry context,” recalls Gaitan. “RTS NYC provides just that through its partnership with Redeemer City To City.” RTS is transforming Melissa’s ministry. “It has provided me with a much clearer gospel lens, so that when I teach the Scripture to the youth or my peers, I teach within the context of the history of God’s redemptive plan. Teaching in a broader context has demonstrated the relevancy of the person of Christ and his work to every part of the Bible, to our personal lives, and the lives of others.”

Melissa is also being changed personally through her study at RTS NYC. “All the professors constantly remind the students about WHO we are in seminary for, Jesus. For me, seminary has served as a path of God’s grace through which I further encounter and demonstrate the glory of God. I’ve become more prayerful, dependent on God and his leading in all areas of my life, even my studies.”

Diana Yu is a part-time attorney in Manhattan and full-time Missions Director. She worships with Melissa at Grace Community Chapel (CRC) in Teaneck, NJ. The two entered as classmates in the same cohort. “The practical theology coursework at RTS NYC provides much care into students’ spiritual lives. I am constantly reminded that my personal relationship with Christ is of utmost importance.” Serving in the local church full-time herself, Diana appreciates that her professors are not only excellent academically, but also pastorally engaged. “The professors work in a variety of contexts and are able to speak practically on how to apply what we are learning.”

Jenni Bounds is the Children and Family Ministries Director at Redeemer Lincoln Square. Unlike Heidi, Melissa, and Diana, she didn’t apply for the full M.A. program. Instead, she is a “special student” on track to receive a certificate. The proximity of the program made it possible for Jenni to take courses. “Being a mom of three sons here in NYC as well as being full-time in my ministry role, I needed something that was close by (like literally just down the hall from my office!) and worked with my schedule.”

Even though she is in vocational ministry, the depth of the program has deeply affected her. “I didn’t realize how much I was craving a more in-depth study of what I believed. I’ve been a Christian most of my life and had never had the opportunity to study the Bible in the way that I have through seminary. It has not only enriched my life in ministry but has personally grown me in ways that I never expected.”

RTS NYC is affecting her ministry to others, too. “Living in NYC, I’ve had many opportunities to have conversations with a wide range of diverse people of all faiths and beliefs. Having the knowledge and foundational base of RTS has been incredibly helpful, even with my own three sons.”

I’ve become more prayerful, dependent on God and his leading.

A long-time member of Redeemer West Side and licensed counselor, Sandi Taylor wanted more training to equip her to speak to women. “My goal originally was to get better equipped for teaching and speaking to women. I was observing the impact women were having on women through podcasting, social media and other venues, but much of what I was seeing and hearing was theologically shallow at best and unbiblical at worst. My hope is that solid theological training will help me to disciple women well in the local church context and help equip other women theologically and to grow in biblical literacy.”

Part of the fruit of Sandi’s time at RTS NYC is planning the first women’s retreat for Redeemer Westside this spring. “Our vision is for women to know how to read, understand and apply Scripture. We want women to contribute to a church community that spurs one another on to love and good deeds.”

Sandi is already finding opportunities to take what she is learning at RTS NYC and invest in other women. “Redeemer Westside has launched a women’s mentoring and discipleship initiative. I have been able to teach and speak on how women can grow to know and love the Scriptures.” For Sandi, the hallmark of RTS NYC is the professors. “The professors are remarkable, godly scholars committed to the spiritual growth of each student. They want to help us become better lovers of God and his Word, that we might go out and love with the beauty of the gospel. The teaching is just amazing.”

Through the generosity of The New York Project, women who are called to a career in ministry in NYC are able to receive support toward the MA degree. Due to the increase in applicants from women who want further education, but are not sure that it will be their primary vocation, RTS NYC supporters were eager to establish an additional Women’s Scholarship Fund. This fund is positioned to support the education of women in ministry who are not likely to pursue the full Master of Arts degree, but desire and need further theological training. Even one seminary class can have a transformative impact.

Contribute to the Women’s Scholarship Fund

Contributions to the fund can be made online by clicking the button below, then selecting the NYC campus and designating it to the Women’s Scholarship. You can also send a check to Reformed Theological Seminary, ATTN: Women’s Scholarship, 1120 Avenue of the Americas, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

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