Kimberly Williams (left) and Linda Jefferson

Commencement will be a family affair for Linda Jefferson and her daughter, Kimberly Williams, who will both receive Master of Theological Studies degrees from Drew.

Linda Jefferson and her daughter, Kimberly Williams, had the feeling they needed to further their theological education. That’s not surprising, on its face. Jefferson is a preacher’s wife, and Williams the preacher’s daughter. They’re close. Both play integral roles in the life of their husband and father’s church, Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark.

But the amazing thing is that it happened at the same time, and that each decided—without telling the other—to apply to the Master of Theological Studies program at Drew. In fall 2007 Jefferson and Williams began working their way through the 48-credit program. Now both are about to receive a Master of Theological Studies degree. On May 14 family members, spanning four generations, will cheer them on, including husband and father Dr. David Jefferson, Sr., a Drew graduate himself.

“The journey’s been a blessing from God,” says Jefferson, a 1971 graduate of Grambling State University who set a career aside years ago to raise four children. She decided to go back to school for the sake of her women’s ministry. “There were women with painful issues, women with situations needing answers. I wanted to make certain I was giving them the proper direction,” she says.

Williams had similar reasons. “I began teaching youth Bible study in 1998. Then I taught adult women. As the questions became greater, and the curiosity around answering theological questions increased, I felt a need to further my education,” she says. Williams, a 1998 graduate of Clark Atlanta University, is married with two young children and a full-time job.

On the first day of class, they arrived in separate cars. They’d agreed to be fellow students, not mother and daughter. Because they look alike, people often asked if they were sisters. Sometimes they studied together, sometimes alone. Despite demanding schedules, both found time for family, work and community.

On the day after graduation there’s likely to be a big celebration when the family gathers, as usual, for Sunday dinner. Both women plan to take a break, but not for long. Jefferson plans to write a book. Williams wants to develop a Sunday School curriculum for the African-American community. “Maybe one day I’ll write a book about being a preacher’s kid,” she says. “Or even one about this journey.”—Mary Jo Patterson