Incognito: Lost and Found at Harvard Divinity School
Andrea Raynor, a United Methodist minister, has been a hospice chaplain and spiritual counselor since 1997. She also received her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. This is her story.
Raynor shares the ups and downs of her internal struggle to figure out where God wanted her to serve and how He chose to make that path known to her. INCOGNITO is the perfect title for this autobiographical story about a midwestern girl who wasn’t really sure what to do with herself once she got accepted to Harvard Divinity School. One understanding advisor told her that most students don’t know what their future will hold either. Raynor’s book is told in consecutive order of her arrival at Harvard. She even backtracks a bit at the beginning by sharing how she wasn’t sure her parents would understand her choice to drop her dream of being a doctor and change majors.
"[R]eaders will feel like they’ve been transported back in time to Harvard right along with Raynor and will experience her trials and triumphs just as she did."
Raynor enlightens readers with colorful tales about her fellow students, two of whom were undergoing sex change operations while at Harvard. Her experiences working in the homeless shelter were especially moving as she learned to navigate the rooms full of men whose lives had seen better times. Not quite sure how much help she would be in such a scenario, over time, Raynor found her legs and began ministering one guest at a time and grew to love these homeless folks deeply.
INCOGNITO also details Raynor’s love life. From her on/off boyfriend Andy, who hung in there with her despite the distance between them, to more recent affairs of the heart, Raynor opens up about her struggles to decide amongst these fine young men (in the same way she was exploring what to do with her life and calling after Harvard). She also describes her female friendships and the diversity she experienced through each of these women, which adds to the complexity of her time there.
Raynor ruminates about her college classes, professors, part-time jobs, sparse eating habits, and the delightful town itself. Throughout, readers will feel like they’ve been transported back in time to Harvard right along with Raynor and will experience her trials and triumphs just as she did. Though her years at Harvard were long ago, Raynor has excellent recall, which is obvious from the clarity with which she remembers the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of those long-ago times.
Like most folks, the 20s are life-shaping years, and for Raynor this held true as well. Even though her faith took a somewhat circuitous route at times, she consistently held true to God. By the time she graduated, Raynor knew that God had directed her to become a minister, albeit, in her own words, a rather unconventional one. Her text is helpful because it highlights those seasons when the search is on for career and faith direction. It is also a more lighthearted and oftentimes hilarious backstory to Raynor’s calling.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on April 20, 2014