VDS Feature: Jeani Cranford

The journey to divinity school has been a long, winding road spanning nearly twenty years. I first felt the call to ministry in 1995 through a class meditation in a required course on religion.

Through a series of choices and by learning to hear the Divine voice above all others (including family and friends), I finally reached a point when I could no longer run. I found myself faced with only my own attitude and rejection of what I knew deeply within my soul was Divine will.

Now for those who know me at all, it doesn’t take you long to see the rebel spirit I’ve been given, nor does it take long for you to see how I respond to circumstances I don’t really see as valuable. I tend to do my own thing – on my terms and in my time.

And if you know me, you also know that this is precisely where I find my greatest growth with the Divine, where my attentiveness is channeled to that voice that leads me to ministry in all that I do in this life.

Knowing I needed simply to apply, I decided to participate in a campus visit-day.

On the morning of that visit, I said aloud on my drive to Vanderbilt, “God, if this REALLY IS your will, let me know without a doubt.”

I want to convey that “knowing.”

Think about someone you love. It can be anyone—but someone whom you love so deeply, you would literally do crazy stuff for them. Right? And this person you love? This person completely “gets you.” This person knows your thoughts, knows your heart, and knows when you’re hurting even before you speak. This person whom you visit? This person is home.

We all have someone like that—someone with whom we can be exactly who we are, exactly where we are—and we will be loved.

I opened the doors to Room 122 on a fall October morning in 2011.

And I was home.

The gift of Vanderbilt Divinity School continues to shape me in ways I’d never exchange for the life I was leading previously. It’s difficult at times. The content alone will cause a soul-seeker to spend hours upon hours reflecting upon the foundation of faith and beliefs. It stretches me beyond the limits I believe I have. The volume of material to be read, studied, and written sometimes brings about weariness. And then I remember how blessed I am to be surrounded by such brilliant theologians and historians; so blessed to have them as professors! And I recognize it is through these experiences, within these walls, and by this exposure that I’m being molded into who I need to be for all that is before me.

Glory be to God.

I am happy to be home.

Jeani Cranford