Angel Clark describes herself as a Southern Belle. “I wear pearls almost every day,” she says. “I spent my summers on the family farmland my mother was raised on.”
Yet Clark has always felt a higher calling for a different kind of harvest. Since her youth, she knew she was going to be a minister. Her pastor at Emmanuel AME Church in Columbia, S.C., treated her like one of his daughters. He had no sons, and he told Clark that she was the one who would follow in his footsteps.
Today, Clark is a second-year Duke Divinity student and the co-president of the Divinity Student Council. Despite her long certainty about God’s call, her path to the ministry has taken twists and turns.
Clark earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from the esteemed Spelman College, where she changed denominations from African Methodist Episcopal to the United Methodist Church. While at Spelman, she became involved in Wednesday Night Live, hosted by Cascade UMC, where church members worked on their individual spiritual relationships. The associate pastor of Cascade went on to start Impact Church, a nontraditional United Methodist church, and Clark followed to assist with the new congregation.
Clark was then working full-time in the software development industry, developing, coding and testing software in Atlanta, Ga. She was also wrestling with God. “I didn’t want to give up my career,” she says. “I loved my house, I loved my car. But I heard the Lord say, You are not going to be happy until you do what I have called you to do. I have called you to ministry.”
She listened, and found her way to Duke Divinity School, which she thought would be a good fit for her theological convictions. “I consider myself half liberal and half conservative,” she says. “I believe that there’s room for both here.”
Clark finds strength in prayer life at the school. She enjoys the chapel services offered three times a week. She also loves roaming the main hallway of the divinity school and having access to the Office of Black Church Studies, financial aid, field education, the library and even the dean. “I can stop in anyone’s office in the hallway and be encouraged,” she says.
Supporting others is also important to Clark. She became a part of the student leadership to improve the school environment and to make sure it continues to be inclusive and diverse.
Once she graduates, Clark plans to become an elder in the United Methodist Church and a church planter helping to plant churches in communities. “Church planting is imperative for church growth and sustainability in an increasing world of nons,” she says, referring to growing numbers of young people who say that they don’t have any religious affiliation.
Clark admires the work of Impact Church, which has grown into a multicultural gathering of people who are committed to sharing the love of Christ and doing church differently. Impact Church canvassed the community to see what they needed to thrive. It now provides job and computer training as well as tutoring for children.
But for now, she’s leveraging all the resources Duke offers to prepare her for the world she wants to change. “There’s not another seminary quite like ours. I like the access to professors and to articles and journals in the library. We have the community, the location, spiritual formation. It’s so much more than just academics.”