For many students, college provides a rich experience which can lead to a deeper purpose and meaning for life. Some even find a life partner. For LR Master of Divinity students, Ethan and Cassandra (Cassie) Overcash, the journey through higher education led to both.
The Overcash's met for the first time on LR's main campus in Hickory, North Carolina, and began dating while pursuing undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies. During their time as students, both felt a calling from God to continue in ministry after graduation and married in July of 2014 before moving to Columbia to attend LR's Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
"My undergraduate experience is exactly what motivated me to pursue a master's degree at Lenoir-Rhyne," Cassie said. "Throughout my coursework in the Religious Studies program I felt like God was telling me I could lead a church one day. When the University merged with Southern it was a big draw for me because I knew I would want to attend a seminary affiliated with the University."
Ethan and Cassie will graduate with divinity degrees this May, before becoming ordained pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. They have supported each other throughout the program while finding time to grow together in their relationship and in faith.
"My wife has been my greatest supporter as well as the person that pushes me the most to do better," Ethan said. "It's been a blessing to be able to try out our sermons together and provide feedback for each other."
Cassie also felt an enhanced learning experience throughout her time at LTSS because of her husband.
"We learn a lot from each other because we approach things from different perspectives," she said. "Being in seminary together has been a great gift to both of us."
The Overcash's make spending time together a priority as they work to manage busy schedules which include, graduate school, work, and everyday life. While Cassie was completing an internship at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Prosperity, South Carolina, Ethan was working part time as a youth minister at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Columbia.
"Working at two different church locations required us to worship separately each Sunday," Ethan said. "There are a lot of unique realities that come with being in ministry, so we really strive to find time to be together outside of our work and studies."
Some of the couple's hobbies include working to build and restore furniture, shopping at local thrift stores, and playing outside with their dogs, Sunflower and R2-D2. They have embraced living in Columbia where they attend minor league baseball games, view theater productions, and eat at local restaurants.
The Overcash's have also integrated themselves on campus at LTSS where Cassie serves as student body president and Ethan plays in a band with other peers. During their senior year, the couple worked to implement a resource center in Beam Hall where other seminarians can have access to items such as clergy wear, a food pantry, and books.
"Part of our degree requires special resources which can be costly," Cassie said. "I wanted to help other students on campus and worked with Ethan to create a space in Beam Hall where they have access to these essential items."
Ethan is a member of Southern Morning Prayer, a band that plays historic Christian songs using modern day music. The band often performs during worship service in Christ Chapel which students attend Monday through Thursday each week.
"At LTSS we are encouraged to think outside of the box and try new things in worship," he said. "We are an ecumenical community of Lutherans and Baptist and many other denominations which provides a great environment to try and experience many different worship styles."
After graduating this May, the Overcash's will move to North Carolina where Ethan will complete his internship experience at Grace Lutheran Church in Boone, North Carolina.
For Cassie, the internship experience she completed at St. Lukes provided an invaluable training opportunity as she prepares for becoming a parish pastor. "My ultimate goal is to be a pastor in a rural community, and so I felt blessed to have received an opportunity to gain hands-on experience at St. Lukes."
According to the Overcash's their best advice for anyone interested in becoming a seminarian is to come and visit LTSS.
"We have a great community here, and great professors that build relationships with their students," Cassie said. "LTSS has a historic identity and it has a great reputation for forming leaders of ministry."
Q & A with the Overcashes
Favorite restaurant in Columbia?
Cassie: Cafe Strudel
Ethan: Anywhere with chicken wings
Most influential person during your experience at LTSS?
Cassie: Dr. Dreier because she encourages us to evaluate what we are called to be and to do and to do and examine what God is up to in any situation.
Ethan: Dr. Driggers because he always challenges us to make God the subject of our sentences.
Favorite Bible verse?
Cassie: 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Ethan: Exodus 4: 12
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.
Unique or interesting fact?
Cassie: I took a pottery class at Lenoir-Rhyne, and now I do pottery all the time for fun. It has become one of my favorite hobbies.
Ethan: I'm a triplet
Best memory at LTSS?
Cassie: Once, on a Thursday night, the power went out and we all gathered around the fire pit on campus. We were having such a great time that the neighbors across the street also without power came to join us and we all made a lot of new friends that night.
Ethan: My best memories involve time spent playing with the Southern Morning Prayer band.