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Just months after she become the first graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary’s new online M.A. program in New Church Development, Sheila Murphy is putting her education to work.

Murphy, a resident of Ottawa, graduated from CTS in May 2006. She’s now working as an outreach ministry developer for Classis Eastern Ontario in partnership with Christian Reformed Home Missions.

“I am working with the churches to increase their harvest potential and to raise the awareness of church planting,” says Murphy. “I am also working with Home Missions in assessing participants’ interest in a Leadership Development Network east of Toronto.”

Getting to this point was definitely a journey. A former member of the Roman Catholic Church, Murphy joined the Christian Reformed Church when she got married. After slowly drifting away, she was inspired by an elder’s visit and started attending Kanata Community CRC, a church plant near her home.

“I felt called. I had a sense that I needed to be involved in evangelism,” she says.

After taking several courses at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto in 1999, Murphy learned about Calvin Seminary’s online program.

“One of the things that impressed me about it was that it wasn’t just an information dump,” she says. “It’s about interacting with the information and applying it to life situations. It also takes into account the wisdom and life experience that adults have.”

The program, which also includes a B.A. component through Kuyper College (formerly Reformed Bible College), was much more intensive than Murphy imagined. “We took Systematic Theology, Foundations in Ministry, New and Old Testament Theology, and church history courses,” she says.

“We also took courses in world religions, cults, crosscultural ministry, worship, pastoral care, education, missions, church planting, ethics, and apologetics. It gave me a solid theological grounding and exposure to a wide range of subjects related to ministry and missions.”

It also fueled her desire to go further. “At some point, I would like to work in a church plant or a mission-focused church.”

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