Alumni Stories

  • Lisa Lundeen, BCC

    Lead Chaplain, Moses Cone Cancer Center, M.Div., 2006

    "I jumped into the deep end," says Lisa Lundeen, looking back at her introduction to becoming a chaplain at Moses Cone Health System. "During my time at ESR I never saw myself as a chaplain. In fact, I pursued CPE after seminary to deepen my pastoral formation."

    Her two CPE residencies deepened her pastoral authority in ways she did not anticipate.   "Conflict resolution, family systems, group and individual spiritual direction – those ESR courses became the backbone of my ministry of spiritual accompaniment in times of high distress."

    The retirement of the Cone Health Women's Hospital chaplain caused Lisa to consider professional chaplaincy. "I believed that as a minister, a woman, a mom, and someone who had healed through significant grief, I could participate in helping patients and families heal."

    She joined Women's Hospital and over time, "chaplaincy became normal. The things that seemed so scary before I began became everyday occurrences to me."

    Today, Lisa is Lead Chaplain at Cone Health Cancer Center, where she serves patients and caregivers in an outpatient setting. "I'm challenged to build trust and relationships with people who face tremendous challenges, but who aren't in a typical hospital environment." Lisa brings creative solutions to her ministry, and has a keen interest in healing arts, both for support groups and patient classes.

    Lisa recently became a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) through the Association of Professional Chaplains, and was systemwide division Employee of the Year at Cone Health in 2015.

  • Deborah Suess

    M.Div., 1991

    Deborah Suess takes time out of her busy schedule to look back at her time at ESR. Recently retired as pastor of First Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC, she's enjoying travel and time with her husband Tim while she considers her future in ministry.

    "When I entered ESR I had been a Friend for four years, and had a strong ecumenical background," says Deborah. "Immersion in Quaker community and practice was important to me."

    Deborah's first formal pastoral work was as an assistant campus minister at Earlham College. "I spent two years in that role, and that time helped me claim the words 'minister of the gospel.' It was a powerful experience, and I assumed that when I graduated I would find a job as a college chaplain."

    Instead, way opened for Deborah to join West Branch Friends Meeting in Iowa, as their pastor. "I felt empowered to join West Branch. Several faculty members had identified gifts that fit that role, and encouraged me. It wasn't what I expected, but it was the beginning of three great experiences serving three wonderful Quaker meetings."

    Along the way, she maintained several strong connections with peers from her time at ESR, through a Quaker Pastors Covenant Group that she founded with fellow alums Scott Wagoner and Judith Dancy, and through close friendships that developed during her time in Richmond.

    While she is busy enjoying semi-retirement, she has an eye on the future. "I’m excited to see where my theological education and experiences take me next."

  • Jessica Easter

    The Night Ministry

    Jessica is a Quaker minister who is endorsed by her home Meeting (Lake Forest Friends Meeting) to provide a ministry of presence to folks of a variety of life circumstances. A large part of her ministry involves demonstrating that Quakers still exist, are relevant to today’s concerns, and can look like her.

    At ESR Jessica learned that G-d can be present and active in the most complicated and difficult circumstances. As a result, she has been able to highlight the presence of G-d in some of the most heartbreaking and challenging of situations (e.g. the deaths of children, spirituality and sexual minorities, and the growing tension between police and youth of color).

    During her final year of seminary, Jessica was certified as an HIV pre- and post-testing counselor and health educator. Upon graduating ESR, she embarked upon a yearlong internship as a chaplain at the University of California San Francisco’s three main clinical sites. She currently works as a Youth Outreach Professional at The Night Ministry in Chicago, IL. Taking seriously George Fox’s encouragement to “[answer] that of G-d in everyone”, Jessica has ministered to and been blessed by everyone from pediatric cancer patients in San Francisco to homeless LGBTQ youth on the streets of Chicago.

  • John Fitch

    Renaissance House

    An ESR MDiv graduate, John launched Renaissance House 2003 as an ESR student. This is “an intentional Christian community…located in an impoverished area of Richmond, Indiana [serving the poor and those who have] physical or mental disabilities.” As former resident and ESR graduate Micah Bales puts it, “We had an open door policy, inviting folks from the neighborhood to stop by and visit with us. Three nights a week, we hosted community meals, inviting folks from the neighborhood, and our friends from around town, to come and have dinner together. These dinners were an amazing demonstration of what Christ’s table looks like.”

  • Abbey Pratt-Harrington

    The Laundry Project

    Abbey has always had a heart for social justice. For the last year the most noticeable way she lives this out is with her work on Richmond Indiana’s Laundry Day Project. Three to four times a month she goes to the local laundry mat with others from the community to provide soap, dryer sheets, and most importantly quarters to local residents so they can clean their laundry for free. It’s a need that is often overlooked in the community but an important one for dignity. The Laundry Project has recently passed its 3,000th load and continues to grow.

  • Vivian Wyatt

    Minister of Care and Business Administration, M.Div. 2011

    "After ESR, God became bigger and more inclusive to me."

    After growing up in a conservative denomination, Vivian Wyatt was certain of one thing: Church should be inclusive. That quest for an open faith community eventually led her to ESR. "I had never met a Quaker until I went to ESR,” says Vivian. “But the qualities I found there gave me the courage to open up my thinking about faith."

    "My goal was to be a hospice chaplain. But a clearness committee of people I trusted steered me toward preaching, and supervised ministry in an MCC church. I loved the experience, and they loved me, and after graduating I stayed."

    "I’ve always been 'an only'–today, I’m the only black women, the only straight person, on the pastoral staff. At ESR I wrestled with my beliefs, and now I’m in a comfortable place.