By Gordon Govier

From Law to Grace

Elisabeth Kincaid found her dream job while looking for something else on InterVarsity’s website. Four years out of law school, with her job at a private equity firm coming to an end, she was checking to see if InterVarsity might be looking for someone to do legal work. Instead, she ended up on the webpage for InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries.

“I had told my friends that my dream job would be to get involved in campus ministry and study theology,” she said. As Elisabeth scanned the page, she realized that she had an opportunity to work with graduate students at Southern Methodist University (SMU), in her home town of Dallas.

Elisabeth had been involved in an InterVarsity Small Group Bible study during her undergraduate studies at Rice University and enjoyed it. “It was the intellectual engagement that I had experienced in that small group, the fact that people were willing to seriously engage in Scripture and allow that Scripture to change their lives,” she said.

Later, in Law School at the University of Texas, she took courses that focused on the First Amendment, and she began thinking about the role of Christians in society. She saw InterVarsity staff work with graduate students at SMU as an opportunity to continue to engage that topic with new generations of students.

Starting New at SMU

Elisabeth started her dream job at SMU in 2009, at the same time that Stephen Rankin arrived as the new Chaplain at SMU. Rankin brought a new evangelical vigor to the position, a change that meant her dream job became even better than she had expected.

“The faculty are saying that they feel much more free expressing their beliefs,” she observed. “He’s created so much space for dialogue with faith and work luncheons, which include a testimony from staff on how they integrate their faith and their life.”

Elisabeth works with three groups: Law students, Business students, and Graduate Christian Fellowship, which is made up of students from other disciplines. She has found that the Christian students often feel isolated in their departments.

“I’ve had some students who were hesitant to let it out that they were Christians when they first started coming to the group,” she said. “Interestingly enough, as they’ve become more open they’ve connected with other Christians in their department. It turns out that there were lots of Christians, and no one ever talked about it.”

It Keeps Getting Better

When Elisabeth started working with the graduate students, she was told that InterVarsity had not had a ministry on the SMU campus for 20 years or more. This past year she was joined by Erin Waller, who is planting an InterVarsity undergraduate chapter. The two share an office and try to meet regularly to pray for their campus.

The other part of Elisabeth’s dream was to study theology. When she signed up to take a few theology courses at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, she was asked to apply for a scholarship.

“I had to write an essay about how I contribute to diversity at SMU,” she said. “I wrote about being a campus minister and working for InterVarsity.” She won the scholarship and has been attending classes while doing her InterVarsity staff work. She will receive her MA in Theology at the end of this current school year.

Even a dream job is not perfect. Elisabeth says the most challenging part of her work is that she has ambitious plans, but there’s not enough time to do everything. Yet it’s clear that God is at work at SMU, and Elisabeth is thankful that God has a job for her to do there.


Photo: Elisabeth (left) and Erin on the SMU campus