Where are your spiritual and geographic roots? How did those experiences bring you to Candler?

michael-yorke-story2.jpgMy geographic roots are in south Florida and the Caribbean. I was born in south Florida, but my parents moved the whole family back to their home island of Dominica, West Indies when I was about 10 months old. We spent six years there before moving back to south Florida where I grew up. And prior to moving to Atlanta, I spent about 10 very formative years in Chicago.

My spiritual roots are also kind of tangled. My parents are Pentecostal, but I was born into a Presbyterian church. After returning to the U.S. from Dominica, my family attended a Baptist church before my father planted a non-denominational Pentecostal church. When I moved to Chicago, I got involved in more reformed church movements, and I’m currently in an Anglican church.

This geographical and spiritual journey has given me a unique perspective on the intersections of race, place, history, politics, and theology. My questions at the intersections of these topics are what brought me to Candler. 

You came to Candler with a young family. What has that experience been like? What would you say to others coming into seminary with young families of their own?

michael-yorke-story3.jpgComing to Candler with a very young family was very much a leap of faith. It's a bit surreal to experience all of the “firsts” of being a young couple and raising a young child without the stability of a familiar environment or the relational support of (geographically) close family and longtime friends. Not gonna front—it’s tough.

BUT! Our families and friends have been very supportive from a distance, and we have begun to develop new friendships and rhythms that make this thing doable. Not to mention, going through these kinds of challenging experiences together sometimes works to strengthen the bonds between families. Thankfully that has been our experience so far.

As far as advice: Many who come to seminary come with burning questions or a strong sense of calling. These sometimes distract us from our most immediate callings, namely our communities. My advice is an encouragement to observe how your communities (in this case, families) are not tangential but crucial to the questions and callings that you’re pursuing in seminary.

What class or experience at Candler has been core to your growth in seminary so far?

Oof…this is like picking a favorite song; it depends on the day or my mood.

So far, I’ve taken classes with Drs. Musa Dube, Kwok Pui Lan, Alison Collis Greene, Joel Kemp, Helen Jin Kim, and others that have been paradigm-shifting. And I’m looking forward to classes with Drs. Marla Frederick, Walter Fluker and others that I expect to be similarly impactful.

Today the course that sticks out in my mind as being core to my growth so far is the directed study on the theologies of Karl Barth and James Cone that I did with Dr. Ian McFarland. I think it’s really helpful to read deeply in a thinker or two as a kind of home base. This directed study allowed me to do that, and I think it helped a lot of the intellectual history and concepts to click into place for me! 

Wmichael-yorke-story4.jpghat’s your favorite Candler or Atlanta memory from the last year?

Watching my son take his first steps!

What advice would you give yourself a year ago, as a student at orientation?

Cliché, but honestly: Trust the process.