Eight Lexington Theological Seminary students have received scholarships from Beargrass Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, Ky.

The Beargrass Scholars program began in 1966 as a commitment from the congregation to invest in future pastors, preachers, and leaders for the church. Beargrass has made it a priority to continue to offer these scholarship gifts each year as part of its annual budget and overall outreach/mission giving.

“Beargrass is honored to continue our proud tradition of supporting outstanding students at Lexington Theological Seminary,” said Senior Minister Rev. Dr. Trey Flowers. “Since 1966, more than 70 Beargrass Scholars have gone on to serve the church and wider world as thriving leaders and critical thinkers. Our congregation celebrates this year’s outstanding class of Beargrass Scholars and the hope they bring to Disciples everywhere.”

We are delighted to share our students’ stories here.


Lisa Caldwell-Reiss serves First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Berea, KY, as co-pastor with her husband, Mark. She lives in Berea with Mark, their godson, Tyler, two cats, and a dog. In addition to worship and pastoral care, Lisa teaches two Bible studies and leads the Berea Disciples College Fellowship, a weekly supper attended by students from Berea College next door to FCC Berea. Lisa is a graduate of Berea College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education. She earned her Master of Divinity degree from Lexington Theological Seminary and is currently working on her Doctor of Ministry degree. Lisa’s action research dissertation project will focus on developing an inclusive approach to biblical interpretation to nurture effective Bible readers in community. An avid knitter, Lisa is currently contemplating what skill to learn next, cabling or brioche knitting. She has recently begun a series of ink drawings based on her years of studying the Book of Revelation.

JESSICA DAGER, Champaign, Ill. 

My name is Jessica Dager and I currently serve University Place Christian Church (DOC) in Champaign, Ill., as our Community Connector. It is my privilege to connect my congregation to needs in our community through service and activism. Before returning to school, I worked in campus ministry for 20 years alongside my husband. A few years ago, I sensed God leading me towards a new career in hospital chaplaincy and I began my seminary journey. I am so grateful to be a recipient of the Beargrass Christian Church Scholarship. Your support of me and your investment in my education is an immeasurable gift. I stand with you in our shared calling to be a movement of wholeness in this fractured world and thank you for extending your support and love to a sister in Christ you have never met! May God bless your generosity!

MARY GODFREY, Hayneville, Ala. 

I live in Hayneville, Ala., with my husband of 40-plus years. We have three children and four granddaughters. We are a retired naval family and returned to Alabama after being away for 37 years. I am an associate minister at Snow Hill Christian Church in the Mt. Willing community of Ft. Deposit, Ala. I serve under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Dale Braxton and have been a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for several years. I am the Outreach Director for Snow Hill Christian Church and minister of the Young Adult Ministry. I assist with the Quilting Ministry, preach, and volunteer in a third-grade class at Central Elementary School in Hayneville. I am also a member of the Nurturing Committee for the Alabama/Northwest Florida region. My education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Christian leadership from Tidewater Bible College in Virginia Beach, Va.; an Associate’s degree in applied science from Jefferson State Junior College; and a Physical Therapist Assistant certification from the University of Alabama Birmingham. Prior to attending Lexington Theological Seminary, I attended Birmingham Theological Seminary where I received a certification as an Evangelist. I have been a student for several years and it is important to me to matriculate through college successfully and not have debt when I am finished. Receiving the Beargrass Scholarship assist me in reaching that goal. Thank you!

LYN OAKLEY, Knoxville, Tenn. 

I come from a long line of strong, faithful women in my family that have shaped me as a faithful woman, wife, mother, sister, aunt, and friend. One of those faithful women and role models was my Aunt Anna Lou. She was a long-time member of First Christian Church of Dover, TN. She helped shape my faith and love for God and taught me to see the beauty in all of Christ’s churches. Getting this scholarship from a Christian church will continue the work God started in my life with my grandmother and aunts. My academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from Carson-Newman University; a Master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Lincoln-Memorial University; and a Certification in Theology and Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary. After 11 years of teaching in public schools, I felt God calling me to use my Master’s degree to serve in the church full time. During my service to Fountain City Presbyterian Church (FCPC), I have grown as a leader and developed many skills. Teaching was my first career calling out of college. The church has allowed me to expand my passion for learning and passing on that learning in different contexts. I am allowed, on a regular basis, to preach and plan worship services, teach Bible studies, lead mission trips both nationally and internationally, and plan and implement many local mission opportunities. My theology of a faith journey has been shaped over my experiences at FCPC. To fully experience the living Christ, you must both study who God is in scripture and experience God in the world around you. It is a balance of learning and serving that allows us to fully know and love the living Christ. I have been married for 29 years to my husband, Darrell Oakley. We have a beautiful daughter, Natalie.

SUSAN RINEHART, Williamsburg, Va.

The Lord called me to ministry at the ripe age of 68. I have been a registered nurse since 1983 and was ready to retire with my husband of 32 years. The Lord said, “No, Susan, I have more for you to do.” I got my Bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry with a minor in pastoral care, and now am at Lexington Theological Seminary for my MDiv degree. I am presently serving Olive Branch Christian Church as their parish nurse. I am honored and humbled for all the Lord has done for me.



TRACY SIEGMAN, Covington, Ky.

I grew up in a small town in Northeast Ohio. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in management from Walsh University in Canton, Ohio, in 2006. I earned my Master of Divinity from Lexington Theological Seminary in 2010. I was ordained to Christian ministry on June 19, 2010, in Akron, Ohio by High Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I have served churches in Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. My area of doctoral study is urban ministry, especially the church’s response to homelessness. I have served on a board for schools specializing in the education of students with ADHD and on the autism spectrum and the Board of Directors of a Community Action Agency. I coached elementary-aged girls for several seasons with Girls on the Run. I have done advocacy work with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, the Women’s March, and local groups in Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky. I have served on the Mental Health Initiative of the National Benevolent Association. I am a member of the Anti-Racism/Pro-Reconciliation Task Force of the Christian Church in Kentucky. I also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Love Must Win in the role of Director of Addiction Programs with GLAST (Gays and Lesbians Achieving Sobriety Together). Currently, I am a member of the Covington Business Council and the City of Covington Code Enforcement Hearing Board. I work compassionately with community members to remedy home compliance issues so people have safe homes and are good neighbors.

BETSY SPEIS, Wadesville, Ind.

Betsy Speis has recently answered a call to be the pastor of Wadesville Christian Church in Wadesville, IN. Last fall she earned a Certificate in Pastoral Ministries. Upon completion of her MDiv degree, Betsy will be looking forward to ordination. Though a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ, she has recently joined the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The theology behind this denomination and the example of how the Christian Church lives out that theology in their daily lives and worship led her to know God was truly leading her to make this change and join this denomination. Before accepting the position as pastor at Wadesville Christian Church, Betsy enjoyed traveling around Southern Indiana and filling the pulpit in many different church settings as a guest pulpit supply pastor. Betsy has been an active participant in many areas of the church and has enjoyed all that church life has to offer. She especially enjoys teaching and leading Bible study and working with the youth and helping them grow in their faith journeys. Betsy is currently holding a weekly women’s study in Evansville, IN. This study brings together women from different denominations and backgrounds for a time of studying God’s Word while supporting one another. In her personal time, Betsy enjoys being with friends, watching movies, reading, shopping, traveling, sightseeing (even if it’s just a day trip), and tap dancing.


Mary Heath Williams is from Tarboro, N.C. She is married to Jonah L. Williams. They have three adult children and six grandchildren. She is a commissioned minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is currently serving a non-Disciples congregation. Additionally, Mary works with several non-profit organizations that help youth and senior citizens foster and demonstrate social, athletic, and independent living skills. Mary is a Master of Divinity student. After graduation, she plans to pursue Intentional Interim Ministry where she can assist churches and pastors during provisional times. “I am very grateful to receive the Beargrass Christian Church Scholarship,” she said. “This gift means that some of my financial responsibility is reduced, which inspires me to work even more diligently to reach my educational goals.”