Brittany Fiscus of Columbia Theological Seminary was awarded $500 for her essay, “The ‘Sum of the Gospel’ as Good News on the Streets.”
What inspired you to pursue an advanced degree in theology? What do you hope to do with your degree?
As long as I can remember, I have felt called to work in the church; it was my childhood dream. As early as High School I remember investigating seminaries, and planning to attend one day. I hope to use my degree to continue doing the work of God in a variety of ways. I would love to continue my education further and never stop writing and teaching, but I also feel called to be in communion with those on the margins and desire to be a pastor to those often overlooked.
Where do you see connections between your personal faith, your intellectual work and the other aspects of your life?
Throughout the week I intern with a grassroots community church. Most of the members live on the streets, and our study of scripture often has a recovery lens. Inevitably, I have found myself thinking of what this community has taught me as I read and write theology. In turn, I cannot help but share with this community what I am studying in seminary, as I lead lessons and moderate discussions. It has all become intertwined. My personal faithfulness comes out of witnessing and pointing to God in this community. It is alongside them that I worship and work, and because of them that I keep coming back to continue my studies.
How would you summarize your paper for someone without a theological background?
Whether or not one is familiar with election and predestination, the thought that some people could be somehow destined for eternal damnation is terribly problematic. Theologian Karl Barth offers a helpful alternative to this potentially harmful dogma, wherein election is actually God’s decision before humans were even created to love and have value for us all. This idea is particularly important from the perspective of our brothers and sisters who live on the street. Too often those of us out of housing are overlooked and not seen for our value. Those living on the streets are not a ‘tool’ to help others feel better about themselves, nor should they be judged as not worthy of receiving God’s love and blessings. Barth’s interpretation of God’s choice to love and be for all of us, can remind us that each and every person has value and is chosen to do God’s work. We are all elected to live into our own calls to be in relationship with God and with one another in a mutual way that honors the value of each person.
How might this award make a difference in your life?
I love thinking and writing theologically, but to be acknowledged for my passion is truly the affirmation I needed to pursue my education and my work even further. Moreover, because this award came with a monetary prize, I plan to gift it to the community where I am currently serving. As a student, I do not have extra ‘unbudgeted’ money. To receive this free gift, and to be able to in turn give it to the community that inspired my writing in the first place is a joyous experience.
How do you spend your time when you are not studying?
When I am not in class or studying I can often be found worshiping with my brothers and sisters at Mercy Community Church. Otherwise, I like reading Japanese comic books and drinking red wine, snuggling with my cat, hiking Buddhist pilgrimages, practicing yoga, and escaping to fantasy worlds playing Dungeons and Dragons with my husband, Cooper.
Through the three annual Goodwin Prizes we recognize and reward the most promising graduate theology students in the world. The Louise and Richard Goodwin Writing Prizes for Excellence in Theological Writing are given to graduate students in recognition of essays that demonstrate: creative theological thinking, excellence in scholarship, faithful witness to the Christian tradition, and engagement with the community of faith.