Maddie Tallman, from Maryland, and Corey Bergman, from Minnesota, met on a CTA bus as their Orientation groups returned to campus from excursions showing students how to use public transit.
They had a lot of classes together and their core group grew closer, “especially as we navigated some pretty intense moments, like the 2016 election and Standing Rock,” Maddie said. “And Corey and I grew closer too.”
They officially started dating in October of 2016, and in the three years between dating and getting married, they shared life and seminary milestones they describe as “joyous moments and challenging times.”
“We were each growing into our own pastoral identities while still rooting for each other,” Corey said.
They got engaged right after coming home from Sarah and Ian Coen-Frei’s wedding. Corey had ordered a ring a few months prior, and it had arrived the weekend of their wedding. When they got back to Chicago after a 15-hour drive, Corey proposed.
One challenge was securing nearby internships, and when Maddie’s initial site fell through she also lost her housing. Their bishops said no to them living together. They decided to get married at the courthouse with just parents present, but kept the original wedding plans too.
“We had planned this whole thing, and I was not going to let church politics take it away from me,” Maddie said. “So even though we were legally married, we also got married surrounded by God and our community in August of 2019. And it was a huge blast. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Getting married during seminary was a hoot. And very visible.”
She and Corey compared it to what Bishop Yehiel Curry taught their Public Church 2 class—that everything for pastors is public. So was their relationship.
“It was a lot more public than we anticipated because both of us were seminarians, working in the church, and engaged in community organizing,” she said, adding that it wasn’t a bad thing, but different than a non-clergy/seminarian couple. It positioned them to support and challenge one another, and encourage each other to say difficult but necessary things. “And we had/have amazing seminary friends to encourage and support us as well,” Corey added.
Maddie credits LSTC with helping her become the church leader she is, and for introducing her to community organizing and not hiding behind privilege. The community also helped her during a critical time in her life.
“When I experienced a major health crisis while on internship, and was removed from the community by more than 700 miles, LSTC showed up for me in so many ways. Between organizing a GrubHub gift card to make sure we were fed, to countless prayers and messages and phone calls, the hardest few weeks of my life were not spent alone. I will be forever grateful to the community for helping me and Corey get through it, and continue to get through it.”
As they leave LSTC, they say they hope the seminary continues to proclaim the Gospel, defend the vulnerable, work against injustice, and form leaders in the church to do the same. "The church can't afford to create leaders who hide and are afraid to confront the realities of our world," Maddie said, as both were visiting in Minnesota and actively protesting George Floyd's death. "The church needs leaders who aren't afraid to preach on the sin of racism. By creating leaders with courage, LSTC also has a huge role in creating support systems for leaders as well. We all know we can't do this alone, we need each other. LSTC helped teach me that, and my dream is that it keeps up that goal and shows the world just how a seminary can in fact do and say the hard things without fear."
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