Adam and Elle Dowd: ‘Our work will always be collaborative’

Adam and Elle Dowd came to seminary together—Elle on the track for an MDiv since age 7, Adam with not nearly that destination history. 

They met as undergrads at Iowa State in an Old Testament class. Adam was an art and design major who had a background in the military and a non-denominational church. When Adam asked to study with Elle for that challenging class she was suspicious, wondering if he was a slacker just needing help. 

When he uncharacteristically missed the final for the class they were taking due to a mix up, she offered him her notes to study. He generously offered food and help moving into her sorority house. She mostly blew him off until visiting his apartment and seeing a python, a huge fish and a puggle. “This dude practically has a zoo in his apartment,” she recalls thinking.  

After going out on what may or may not have been “a date,” they talked all night, hung out nearly every day thereafter and within months got engaged. He was leaving for the military and they decided they were going to be “in it or not.” A long-distance relationship without marriage as the goal wasn’t going to happen.  

They did Bible studies together, and early on Adam recognized Elle’s call to ministry and gifts for leadership. He credits both Elle and their professor for his “conversion experience” that propelled them both toward ministry. 

They have two daughters, Alice and Jessica, both adopted from Sierra Leone. During their first year at seminary their energy was focused on getting Alice to the United States. Jessica came next and was baptized in the Augustana Chapel font by Dr. Linda Thomas, with classmate Maddie Tallman preaching and chosen as a godmother.   

Both said the LSTC community has been a huge support system.  

“We’ve been to, and in, each other’s weddings, godparents…” said Elle. “This community IS Jessica’s faith community. It’s all she has ever known. Alice, on the other hand, has lots of communities, including Seminarians for Justice, which she sometimes attends by herself.”  

As seminarians on the same track—Adam and Elle were always on the go to class, CPE, internships, often at the same time, which meant they had to rely on the LSTC community. Classmates walked the girls to camp, drove them to swim lessons, taught them guitar and piano. The Army and the Public Church Fellow program made it financially possible for them to attend seminary at the same time. “We’ve had a lot of support, from family and friends.” 

“It’s like a commune. We live and share stuff,” Elle said. “When we make soup, we make extra and offer it. We swap healthy meals.” Their annual Christmas party is also a piano recital for the girls, Adam said. 

“We could have done seminary online somewhere, but we wanted this residential experience,” Elle said, adding that one of the perks of living in LSTC housing was Creation Courtyard. “It’s gated but everyone who lives there shares our values, including so many people from all over the world so our girls weren’t the only ones from West Africa. We know all our neighbors. They’re seminary people.” 

Both Adam and Elle say that the fabric of LSTC is everyone doing and giving back and it all equals out. “We give, but then we don’t feel bad asking for help. It’s not perfect, and there can be drama and inequities, but our class is very close,” she said. “It is approaching an ideal way to be in community together.”  

They’ll likely serve separate congregations, but are open to serving together. 

“Wherever we land—our work will always be collaborative because we live together,” Adam said. “That’s just part of it.” 

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