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A Ministry in Preparing Others for Ministry - Isaac K. Njuguna (MDiv ’75; DMin ’79)

by Louisville Seminary | May 25, 2010
Isaac K. Njuguna, Distinguished Alum 2010

By Toya Richards

The Rev. Dr. Isaac K. Njuguna (MDiv ’75; DMin ’79) has supervised students—including more than 75 Louisville Seminary students—in their units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) for so long that now he is supervising the children of former students. That’s quite a legacy for the Kenyan native who has spent more than 30 years working in pastoral care and counseling and just as many years serving as a CPE supervisor.

Njuguna, Director of Chaplaincy and Clinical Pastoral Services for University of Louisville Hospital, credits his experience at Louisville Seminary with helping him discern his own call to ministry.

Educated by Scottish Presbyterians in Kenya, Njuguna “felt a call to serve the Church.” He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and served as a pastor and teacher in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, prior to enrolling at Louisville Seminary in 1972.

“I came [to the United States] specifically to come to Louisville Seminary,” said Njuguna, who earned his Master of Divinity degree in 1975. “I wanted to pursue a degree, and my church in Kenya wanted me to pursue a degree.”

He received that degree and eventually another one, which led to a full career of ministry and service, and on April 27, Njuguna was honored with a Distinguished Alum Award from his alma mater. Four Louisville Seminary alums received the recognition at a luncheon during the annual Festival of Theology and Reunion. The awards honor graduates for their vision, accomplishments, and leadership in their respective callings.

“Their splendid example surely inspires us to participate eagerly in the nurturing and calling of future pastors, teachers, counselors, and leaders …” Rev. Dr. Dean K. Thompson, LPTS President, told luncheon attendees.

Njuguna said he always had an inclination toward pastoral care, “but I didn’t know what route it would take.” Yet, in the summer of 1973 when the seminarian did a unit of clinical pastoral education at Central State Hospital in Louisville, “I knew I had found my call,” said Njuguna, who also brought his wife, Margaret, with him to Seminary.

He said that CPE experience was extremely valuable, and he “fell in love with CPE, pursued my love vigorously, and it led to locating my specific call in ministry in CPE supervision.” Four years later, Njuguna earned his Doctor of Ministry Degree in pastoral care and counseling from Louisville Seminary. His dissertation was entitled, "A Dialogical Interpretation of Clinical Pastoral Education Supervision." In 1981, he was certified as a Full Supervisor by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), and since 1983, he has served as the Director of Chaplaincy Services at University of Louisville Hospital.

Through the years, he has worked to ensure the students he supervises have a similarly rewarding experience.

“As I now supervise CPE students, a majority of whom are from LPTS, I am deeply indebted to the ‘Communion of Saints’ at Louisville Seminary, who nurtured me personally and professionally.”

For Njuguna, those saints include Dr. David Steere, a fellow Distinguished Alum who taught for more than three decades and was instrumental in establishing the Pastoral Care and Counseling Program at the Seminary, and Dr. George Bennett, professor and administrator for two decades and the author of When They Ask for Bread: Or, Pastoral Care and Counseling in Everyday Places.

“Their presence in my life was both pastoral in their faith in and support for me, and prophetic in their calling forth my gifts in relational learning as espoused in CPE,” he said.

Njuguna also said his hope is to get the students to see the knowledge of self and God together. “They have to know who they are, including whatever blessings and curses are a part of their lives. We emphasize a lot of self-awareness …which helps you to serve clients better.”

Louisville Seminary Alumna Lisa Hermann, a 2009 graduate and one of Njuguna’s former students, called her colleague in ministry “legendary.”

“He is legendary, even if he does not know it,” Hermann, a chaplain at the Wake Forest North Carolina Baptist Medical Center, said during her introduction of Njuguna at the luncheon. He has helped students see the relationship between self-knowledge and compassionate care giving, she said.

Hermann recalled her own feelings of fear when she first walked into University of Louisville Hospital and her journey of self discovery under Njuguna’s guidance. “I don’t know is not a good enough answer to him,” she recalled of her mentor. Njuguna would respond with, “Suppose you did know?” Hermann said.

Njuguna said that same field education experience he tries to give students is the same one that was so beneficial to him.

The Seminary’s field education program and its “hands-on kind of education was very important to me,” he said. It allows one to “take academia to the clinic, to work with the human document.”

Njuguna said the honor of being named a “2010 Distinguished Alumnus” for doing something he so loves is overwhelming. “I share it with my wife, Margaret, for her faithfulness in our journey together, and with Dr. David Steere, and posthumorously with Dr. George Bennett, who both incarnated the care that is part of the teaching and nurturing of students that goes on at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.”

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Since the Distinguished Alum Awards were established in 1986, 93 Louisville Seminary alums have been honored for their vision, accomplishments and leadership in their respective callings. To learn more, or to nominate an alum for this award, visit Louisville Seminary Distinguished Alums.

There are more than 2,200 active alums. 80.0% have graduated with the Master of Divinity degree; 68.3% are in active ministry; 20.7% are retired; 7.9% are students or in an inactive ministry period; and only 1.9% are out of the ministry. Alums serve in more than 60 distinct vocational professions, with the majority in church-based ministries.

Additional images from the 2010 Festival of Theology and Alum Reunion are available at: LPTS Photo Gallery

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