Malinda Berry

Visiting Scholar in Religion & Women’s Studies

B.A. English & History, Goshen College
M.A., Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Th.D. candidate, Union Theological Seminary

WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP

Of course it varied from day to day, but generally I wanted to be either a librarian or a teacher. I think what appealed to me most about those jobs was the idea of working around books and people.

WHY OR HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I chose theology as my area of academic expertise because I appreciate the challenge of helping people—as individuals, small groups, and even large communities—articulate and explore what they believe. It’s not just the “why” of belief that I study and contemplate, but also the “what” and “how” of Christian faith, ritual, and devotion.

WHAT’S EXCITING ABOUT YOUR JOB OR THIS FIELD?

It’s exciting to me that people have so many ways of living with the certainty and doubt that accompanies faith. I also love finding ways to connect the cosmic questions of human existence on the planet with the small things: How is recycling a piece of plastic instead of tossing it in the trash a sign of hope?

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?

I guess the advice I’ve been given and finally understand how to receive relates to nurturing wisdom and patience. Just because a thought pops into my head doesn’t mean I have to say it in that same moment. To use a cooking analogy, there is real value in letting things simmer. But on the flip side, there are times when the worst thing I can do is remain silent; some things are better uncooked. So an important part of character development is discerning when wisdom requires us to be patient and when wisdom requires us to act.

WHAT ARE YOU REALLY PROUD OF? (IN A MENNONITE, HUMBLE SORT OF WAY, OF COURSE)

I’m proud of the education I’ve received from the many schools I’ve attended.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

Looking back over my academic experience so far, which has been mostly as a student, I wish I had taken more time to learn at least one other language well enough to read and write. I have conversational Spanish, know some simple phrases in French, have an elementary understanding of German grammar, and know the Koine Greek alphabet—all of which allows me to dabble with but not delve into non-English texts.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG PERSON JUST STARTING OUT?

Pay attention to the world around you by asking yourself this question: What experiences help me mark the passages of time in my life from childhood to adolescence to adulthood? If you can answer those questions, then you can be sure you’re heading in the right direction!