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Father, daughter graduate together

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Usually, when two people in a seminary class share the same last name, it’s either a case of coincidence or marriage. But not for David and Sarah Auda, a father and daughter tandem at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

“It was especially fun at the beginning of the semester when the professor would call the roll and our names came up together and people would look at us and slowly realize I’m his daughter and not his wife,” said Sarah, laughing. “It was really fun being in classes with my Dad.”

So the spring graduation ceremony at the seminary’s Southern California campus in Brea, Calif., was especially meaningful for the Auda family. Father and daughter both graduated with a master of arts in theological studies.

“It’s not that many people who have the opportunity to be a student with their kid,” said David, who serves on church staff at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. “But I highly recommend it.”

Sarah took her Golden Gate courses as part of a partnership — called the Protégé Program — between the seminary and Mosaic Church. In the program, emerging leaders from the church participate in an intensive hands-on ministry and mentoring program with Mosaic leaders, while simultaneously taking classes at Golden Gate and earning a master’s degree.

As a paid church staff member at Mosaic Church, David knew when the Protégé Program started that he would be one of the trainers on the Mosaic side, and so decided to pursue the Golden Gate degree partly for the first-hand experience and partly as encouragement and follow-through with the students in the program.

The Auda family is accustomed to this closeness: David and his wife Tamra home-schooled all four of their daughters, of whom Sarah is the oldest. And Sarah, for the last 18 months, has also served on the staff at Mosaic Church, doing production management for the church’s worship services, held weekly at four locations.

As Sarah was approaching her graduation from Biola University two and a half years ago, she considered her options of pursuing a master’s degree in theological studies or entering theater production.

“I kept thinking and praying during my last semester but no doors were opening and I thought God was kind of keeping me in the dark,” she said. “Then right before I graduated everything fell into place –- the job offer at Mosaic, the Protégé Program with Golden Gate. I had to double up on classes because I was one semester behind. I was working full-time and volunteering and doing school; it was a pretty intense 18 months, but I wouldn’t take it back.”

Once Sarah was in the program, father and daughter took all their classes together. They insist it was fun and not at all strange.

“We would remind each other about assignments, car pool together and talk in the car,” Sarah said. “We were learning the same things which was cool, a good connecting point for us, especially when it came to finals, staying up at 3 a.m. with coffee encouraging each other.”

David agreed, and added that “it was fun to be the token non-20-something in the group. It was a real energizing experience for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been an active student, and we had different perspectives to bring.”

“David often spoke a well-received word of consensus during spirited class conversations,” Golden Gate Professor Rick Durst said, “and his fellow students offered him genuine respect due to his life experience, long-term involvement at Mosaic, and his servant spirit,” Durst. “Sarah and David make a rare pair of committed learners – and they made it easy on their professor.”

Said fellow Mosaic staff member Eric Bryant, a professor in the program, “They’re both competitive …. I don’t think Dave would have wanted his daughter to make a better grade than him –- and I don’t think Sarah would have wanted her dad to make a better grade than her. They ended up with two of the higher grades in a lot of their classes.”

David, after 30 years in leadership at Mosaic Church, finally has a master’s degree in theology to complement his ministry.

“It’s a very valuable degree, and practical at the same time,” he said. “Golden Gate Seminary offers so much flexibility, a heart for practical ministry, and high academic standards. It’s great to be able to partner with a local congregation and seminary.”

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  • Amanda Phifer