February 4, 2016

I Am Starr King: Interview with Mandy Goheen

Mandy GoheenMandy Goheen

3rd Year M.Div. Student


What inspired you to become a religious leader?

I was as a volunteer with an interfaith community-organizing group around economic justice in the (Washington) DC metro area. The work in my county was specifically around foreclosure caused by predatory lending. By taking on GE, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase. VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) was able to secure $30 million dollars in Prince William County to begin restoring the community.

After that I was sort of on the fence about my masters work, whether to become a social worker, counselor or study political science. Then one day I got a very specific call to ministry that was connected to living in Montgomery, Alabama. I was here to help build bridges; help people talk about some of the racial issues that just aren’t talked about still in the South. There’s still this kind of residual trauma from slavery, the civil rights era, and the continuation of systemic racism/classism. My minister at the time was Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, who is a graduate of this school, and ghe (gender neutral pronoun) pointed me in the direction of Starr King, I applied, and here I am.

Why did you decide to study at Starr King?

Well, I really would define myself as kind of a relational-liberation-theologian. Building relationships is how we do the reparation work that we need to do in the world. When I called the school and talked to Becky she said something about relational theology and I instantly knew this was the school for me. Starr King’s commitments to counter oppression work and focus on the environment were also something I highly valued as part of my education as a religious leader.  Another plus was my life experience and previous work was taken into consideration as I made my education plan. I could come in the door and move on from there, not start over again from scratch and no one was telling me what classes I should take. That really, really appealed to me.

Also, I don’t know that I could have pulled off seminary without Starr King’s low residency model of education. I have six children and I’m a military spouse, so I don’t know that I could have done it without the flexibility and self-direction that the school has given me.

What’s been your most memorable or meaningful experience at Starr King?

I have been to every threshold crossing since I started school. (As a low-res student) I just come for intensives and Starr King feels like church for me — I just love welcoming new students. I remember what it was like crossing the threshold and love re-experiencing the hope that it builds within the community. The second most memorable thing about Starr King is the friendships I have made and the colleagues I have gotten close to.

What do you plan to do with your Starr King education moving forward?

I’m the Director of Prison Ministry for the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and that has happened during my journey at Starr King. It started as field work and it evolved into the position which now the MFC has graciously agreed to count as my internship. So, I’m already working. Now, I don’t know if that’s what I want to do when I grow up, because it’s really community ministry, and some day I would love to do parish ministry. Specifically working in churches that have had clergy sexual misconduct in their history and help them heal and reform. I think that part of how we move toward justice is having strong congregations, and until we get our act together internally it’s hard to do justice work that spreads out into the community effectively. But, I’m just really open to what’s next considering I had no idea when I stepped in the door that I would already have a job in my 3rd year.


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