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Reflections from Rev. Scott Austin, the 2023 Distinguished Alum

The Northeastern Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2009 to recognize graduates who exemplify faithful service in ministry. Recipients demonstrate such characteristics as innovative approaches to ministry, engagement of their cultural context, perseverance in the face of challenges, excellence in biblical preaching, equipping others to serve, and transformation of self and others through spiritual formation.

During the 25th anniversary dinner, the Northeastern Seminary community honored this year's Distinguished Alumni, the Rev. Scott Austin.

Scott received a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary Ministries from Roberts Wesleyan in 1999 and a Master of Divinity from Northeastern Seminary in 2005. Scott has dedicated his life to serving the Church and world through pastoral and campus ministry. When he is not involved in preparing weekly sermons, leading worship, pastoral counseling, and visitation he can be found on the campus of Roberts working in the Wellness Center providing counseling to students in fulfillment of the requirements to earn a Master of Science in mental health counseling at SUNY Brockport.

Rev. Scott Austin writes...

As I accept this award and express my gratitude for it, I’d like to tell you some of the lessons I learned at Northeastern Seminary, and where those lessons have taken me in life and in ministry. 

The first lesson is one I couldn’t help but learn, because it was part of the rubric for every single assignment I completed as a student here: every topic had to be considered in light of what we know about the historic Christian church, and for every topic, we also had to make a 21st-century application. This lesson has led me to be constantly on the lookout for how to make things both timeless and relevant. It has led me to continue to read the church fathers and mothers, but also to read modern saints and sages like Fr. Richard Rohr and James Cone. This lesson led me, along with my co-founders of Artisan Church (three other Northeastern grads!) to establish among our five foundational values the value of Roots: “We are deeply rooted in the historic Christian faith as revealed in scripture and worked out in the life of God’s people through the ages.” The little word “and” is doing a lot of work in that statement. What I learned at Northeastern Seminary is that there is no scriptural revelation without the accompanying expression among God’s people. 

What I gained from my experience at Northeastern Seminary is the understanding that individuals in helping professions must prioritize self-care and spiritual formation, and that leisure activities are just as sacred as their professional duties.

What I gained from my experience at Northeastern Seminary is the understanding that individuals in helping professions must prioritize self-care and spiritual formation, and that leisure activities are just as sacred as their professional duties. And so for years, this has led me to play in a weekly volleyball league, to stay active in the local music scene, to play video games with my kids, to go on walks with my wife, and to protect my annual vacations. These decisions sometimes feel so self-indulgent as to be irresponsible—but I have watched with sadness as my colleagues and friends who did not learn this lesson have burned out and left the ministry. This lesson has also led me to pursue spiritual direction, which I receive monthly at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center from Sister Sheila Briody, who has gently and faithfully reminded me to seek out and expect the Fruit of the Spirit

A third lesson I learned at Northeastern Seminary is to respect the boundaries of my calling and to remember that I am a pastor, not a life coach, physician, or therapist. However, as my congregation grew, I found I was frequently coming up against the boundary between pastor and therapist. That, combined with the very short list of therapists I felt safe referring vulnerable parishioners to, led me to SUNY Brockport in 2021 to pursue a second master’s degree. I will graduate in December with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling, which will be the beginning of a new season for me, one in which I can expand the boundaries of my calling and my sense of identity—and hopefully, the ways in which I can administer and teach the love of God to all people. 

Lastly, the seminary taught me to listen to the diverse voices around me. This has led me to seek out the voices of women, people of color, the global church, and the marginalized— including and especially those who have been marginalized by the church itself. This lesson inspires me to cultivate Artisan Church as a safe haven for all kinds of religious misfits and wounded souls, a community where we make every effort to listen to each and every voice, and never to bar the table of the Lord. I want to express my gratitude to everyone involved at Northeastern Seminary, especially the founding faculty members, who worked so hard to impart a particular vision into the institutional identity of this seminar —and who eventually had to do the even more difficult work of entrusting that vision to those who would come after them. As a founder myself who is facing that same type of transition sometime in the next few years, I find myself grateful yet again for their witness and example, for their wisdom and humility, for their gentleness and faithfulness and kindness and goodness, and for their love. Above all else, they have embodied the life and love of Jesus for their students and for the Northeastern Seminary community. The seminary had an enormous impact on the type of pastor, counselor, and person I am today. And I am but one of hundreds of examples of the fruit of their labor. Congratulations on 25 years!