Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Coming Full Circle

Written by: on August 28, 2023

Oxford will always be a symbol to me of my husband’s incredible faith in me and support for me. It is the reason I am in the Doctor of Leadership Program at Portland Seminary. In 2013, when I was in graduate school, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Oxford for a class. I remember seeing the announcement for the Oxford Experience, wanting to go, but not thinking it would happen.

There were many roadblocks to overcome. The cost of going seemed prohibitive. Plus, I was a stay at home mom, and it was the middle of summer. My children were thirteen and eleven at the time, still in need of supervision. The program had an option to go for one or two weeks. The first week, I was directing Vacation Bible School at my church. Adding to an already busy week, my daughter was in a musical theater camp with shows Tuesday through Friday evening that week. Did I even want to think about going, knowing it would be following such a busy week?

Oh, and because of course I could not just leave it as crazy as that, We had a family vacation planned with friends at Disneyland the week after the Oxford Experience. Then my husband would be gone for a week and a half for a work conference just as my kids started at new schools, entering middle school and high school. Everything seemed against me going.


God knew I needed to be there.  My husband wholeheartedly and enthusiastically encouraged me to go. I managed to work out all the details for my kids while I was away and was able to schedule my flights to not interfere with VBS or our family trip. I left for the airport straight from the end of VBS, after a whipped cream facial! I was grateful for a canceled flight which enabled me to take a shower before getting on an eleven hour flight!

I spent an incredible week in Oxford learning from Bishop Kenneth Ulmer and Dr. Leonard Sweet. We toured historical sites in London, and I have a picture of me standing at John Wesley’s pulpit. This proved to be prophetic as I received my pastoral license the next year.

We stayed in the dorms at St. Anne’s College. I love what Paul Sullivan said about this college in The Secret History of Oxford:

“The concept that eventually became the collage was founded by a radical-minded group who believed that women should be given the opportunity to study in Oxford without having to belong to one of the old patriarchal colleges.”[1]

This trip was the start of me believing in myself. I began to see what others, especially my husband, saw in me. I started to believe that I am intelligent. After I submitted my coursework for this class, I had written six book critiques, three sermons, and a research paper, totaling 81 pages. We read over 2000 pages, and I had 67 pages of class notes. Despite my computer crashing on me in the middle of trying to complete my assignments, I finished them and mailed them in on time. When I received my grade for this class, I was in shock. I did not understand. “C+” the grade report said. I went to talk to the administration, thinking that maybe they missed some of my work. I had sent in two packets because all my papers did not fit in one envelope. (Remember the days of submitting a hard copy?)

Martha looked up at me and said, “I expected to see you about this.” She went on to tell me that she could not believe the grade herself, that it was too low for me. I spoke with several close friends about my grade, convinced that it somehow validated my own belief that I was stupid. Every single person I talked to had the same reaction, shock that I would receive such a low grade.

It turned out that I was not the only one surprised by a lower-than-expected grade. Dr. Ulmer had a grader who did not understand the assignments. He ended up regrading everyone. When my final grade came through, it was an A-. I realized that if I had simply received the A- from the start, it would not have impacted me the same way. The shock of my friends and the vote of confidence in my abilities helped me to see that I was in the right place. I began to believe in myself, to see myself as an intelligent woman.

In 2020, when I began to think about returning to a doctoral program, I thought of that week in Oxford. A friend of mine had once asked me under whom would I want to study? Was there someone who inspired me, challenged me, engaged me? I thought about what I learned from Dr. Sweet. He changed my perception of the Bible and of my ministry context. One of the phrases he said that stuck with me was, “know your zip code.” I love how he refers to the two parts of the Bible as the First and Second Testament rather than the Old and New Testament. I knew I would love to learn more from him.

Obviously, I did not end up in the Semiotics, Church, and Culture track with Dr. Sweet, but it was in researching that program that I ended up here. Returning to Oxford for my final Advance feels like I am coming full circle. I look forward to what God will do during this experience.

[1] Paul Sullivan, The Secret History of Oxford. (Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, The History Press, 2013), pg. 82.

About the Author


Becca Hald

Becca is an ordained Foursquare minister, serving as the Online Community Pastor at Shepherd's House Church. She has over twenty-five years of leadership experience both inside and outside the church. Becca has served her community in many capacities ranging from Administrative Assistant and Children’s Ministry Director to Secretary and President of multiple school organizations. She and her husband, Andrew have been married for over 25 years. They have two adult children, Drew and Evelyn. Her great passion is to equip others, to raise awareness about mental health, and to help reduce the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues. In her free time, she loves going to Disneyland, reading, sewing, and making cards.

14 responses to “Coming Full Circle”

  1. Michael O'Neill says:

    Great post, Becca. I enjoyed the journey and I can feel your joy come out in your writing. I am confident that you will experience something very telling on this next trip to Oxford. I pray that it will be beneficial to your family, education, and ministry.

    I’m also glad to hear that you have personal experience in this town. I’m sure that will be a big help for all of us. See you soon.

  2. Becca,
    Thank you for sharing, I am looking forward and hoping for great experience in London. My spiritual father was in Dr. Leonard Sweet’s program and mentored by Dr. Sweet. I look forward to seeing you in London, traveling mercies.

  3. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Becca you know how to paint a picture of your experiences oh so well. I know that a grade was important to you while you were in the program, but ultimately what God has ordained for you will prevail. You are an awesome woman of God and deserving of the blessing to be able to experience Oxford once again.

    • mm Becca Hald says:

      Shonell, thank you so much! I appreciate you and am going to miss you in Oxford. God has taught me so much about myself and helped me to at least begin to understand my intrinsic value. I am so grateful to return to Oxford and see what more He will do!

  4. mm David Beavis says:

    Wow, I am grateful for your story of being in Oxford and how your husband helped make it happen! I am glad you are the point person for our I Am Here Day since this will not be your first time in Oxford!

    What are some things you’re hoping to see or experiences you’re hoping for this second time around? Are there any places you are eager to see again?

    • mm Becca Hald says:

      Thank you David! My top two things to do/see in Oxford would be punting and going to the Lamb and Child. Jason said we are going punting with him on Friday, so that is taken care of and it will be awesome. Unfortunately, the Lamb and Child is closed, so we will not be able to go inside, but we can walk by and get some pictures. I am also looking forward to new experiences. I love that we are staying at Christ Church.

  5. Tonette Kellett says:


    I enjoyed reading your personal story and the connection to Dr. Sweet and to Oxford. You truly have come full circle. What a blessing to be able to see God’s goodness and steadfast love working out in your life.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  6. Kristy Newport says:


    Thank you for highlighting this quote:

    “The concept that eventually became the collage was founded by a radical-minded group who believed that women should be given the opportunity to study in Oxford without having to
    belong to one of the old patriarchal colleges.”[1]

    Please point out St. Annes while we are in Oxford. I look forward to seeing where you once stayed.

  7. Alana Hayes says:

    Its fun to see how much God is in the details… he had that trip mapped out before you even knew it.

    It was fun to see how much you knew about Oxford. Full Circle.

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