Rev. Riva Tabelisma (’20), an alum and current student, reflects in her own words on what it meant to come to the United States and enroll in seminary at United.
Like most Filipinos, coming to the United States—to live in the land of “milk and honey,” the “greener pasture”—was my dream growing up there. My uncle, the first in our family to go to the United States, has told us many times that living in America should be a life goal.
I’ve also always loved to study and learn, and was interested in attending seminary. In 2013, thanks to my uncle’s connection with Dr. Subree Subramanian at the University of Minnesota, I found out about United. In a nutshell, factors that led me to United were, first, the opportunity to go back to school, and second, the chance to fulfill my American dream.
After graduating with an MDiv in 2020, I accepted appointments to three different churches through the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC). During that time, I also organized Bayanihan Fellowship, a community of Filipinos living in the Twin Cities, and created an adult curriculum (Living in the Kin-dom: Exploring the Lord’s Prayer as a Spiritual Practice for Social Transformation) for United Women in Faith. I am currently the pastor at Discovery UMC in Chanhassen.
In addition, I just started working on my DMin through United. Why did I decide to return to United? I was at United when my theological self was formed. Going back to United for a DMin is like coming home.
United provided the space for me to explore who I am as a Christian and a church leader. This gift included the space for me to embrace my authentic identity, which in turn allowed me to better integrate the pieces of myself into one whole entity. I am forever grateful.