In this episode of the CCL podcast, we get to know one of the students on our CCL team—a young woman named Brooke Hazelgrove. In some ways, Brooke’s path to ministry and Moore College was quite typical of many of our students: she was raised in a Christian home, she attended a Christian school and she decided to answer the call to ministry around the time she graduated from university. But in other very key ways, Brooke’s journey is far from typical and she doesn’t fit neatly into the cookie cutter idea of what many people think a Moore College student is.
It is our hope and prayer that as you hear Brooke’s story, you’ll come away encouraged and eager to pray for and support not only her and her future in ministry, but also the college as it carries out its vision of seeing God glorified by men and women living for and proclaiming Jesus Christ, growing healthy churches and reaching the lost.
Links referred to:
- Our 2022 events: “Commanding the heart”
- Our first 2022 event on “Anger” (Wednesday 9 March)
- Moore College Student Support Fund
- Support the work of the Centre
Runtime: 35:20 min.
Karen Beilharz: The Centre for Christian Living is a centre of Moore Theological College, and one of the things about being a centre of Moore College is that we have our very own team comprised of various members of the student body—from first years right up to fourth years.
It’s a privilege to have them serve alongside us, helping us to promote and run each of our live events, as well as promoting our various activities. But I have also found it is an enormous privilege for us to get to know them as people, and to discover how God has been working and is working in their lives.
In this episode of the CCL podcast, we get to know one of the students on our team—a young woman named Brooke Hazelgrove. In some ways, Brooke’s path to ministry and Moore College was quite typical of many of our students: she was raised in a Christian home, she attended a Christian school and she decided to answer the call to ministry around the time she graduated from university. But in other very key ways, as you’ll soon hear, Brooke’s journey is far from typical and she doesn’t fit neatly into the cookie cutter idea of what many people think a Moore College student is.
It is my hope and prayer that as you hear Brooke’s story, you’ll come away encouraged and eager to pray for and support not only her and her future in ministry, but also the college as it carries out its vision of seeing God glorified by men and women living for and proclaiming Jesus Christ, growing healthy churches and reaching the lost.
Just a quick note before we get stuck into the interview: I want to apologise for the poor quality of the audio on my end. I’m not sure what happened on the day we recorded, and I’ve tried to fix some of the problems in post, but there was only so much I could do. I hope it’s not too irritating for you.
KB: Hello and welcome to the Centre for Christian Living podcast, where we seek to apply biblical ethics to everyday issues. My name is Karen Beilharz and I’m the Executive Assistant to CCL Director Chase Kuhn. I’m coming to you from Sydney, Australia, and I’m joined today by a member of our student team: Brooke Hazelgrove, who has just completed her second year at Moore Theological College.
Brooke Hazelgrove: Cheers!
KB: Now, you weren’t always a Moore College student. Let’s hear a little bit about your life before you came to college. I know that you grew up on the north coast of New South Wales. Who is in your family and were they a Christian family?
BH: Sure. I grew up on the mid-north coast just south of Port Macquarie, somewhere between the Manning Valley and the Hastings. And I’m the eldest of four kids. My mum and dad still live in the area, as do my brother and his family, and my youngest sister. My other sister lives in the Southern Tablelands in NSW with her husband. Mum and dad are Christians, and they taught us about Jesus as we grew up.
KB: You said also that your parents were involved with the Salvation Army. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
BH: Yeah sure. Dad was third generation Salvos. Mum became a Christian because the point in time when she was growing up, taking your kids to Sunday School was a done thing so that they’d become productive members of society. Which meant that, initially, her mum’s friends took her and her sister to Sunday school. Or Sunbeams. And then when they moved up to the mid-north coast, grandma had to start taking mum and Aunty Shaz, and so that’s how mum got to know Jesus.
Mum and dad met back in Sydney when mum came to Sydney for Uni—through a youth group with the Salvos.
KB: Oh wow. But your family didn’t stay with the Salvos. So what happened there?
BH: It’s a long story and with family stories, you’re always kind of missing the small details. But mum did a lot of reading and thinking about the Reformation and how it’s the gospel that matters most. And they had concerns about how their local church was prioritising gospel ministry versus doing good things, and how they thought of Christians who didn’t wear the uniform, because if you’re part of the Salvation Army, then you wear your uniform to church.
So my brother and I were dedicated into the Salvation Army. They don’t baptise their kids. So we were part of a small home church with some other local families for a while. And then they joined the Anglican church that was down the road, which was a loose gaggle of people from different denominations, and I think when we first arrived, we were still in, like, a very traditional sort of building. But Camden Haven Anglican was a lovely church for us to land in. It taught the gospel and they treated the Bible like it was God’s words. And it was a massive blessing for all of us.
KB: That’s a wonderful thing when you find a church like that, and they can take care of you with God’s word. Now, you said that you were home schooled during your primary school years, ’cause your mother used to work as a teacher and it was easier, in a sense, for her to just home school you and your siblings at home. What was it like, being home schooled?
BH: Being home schooled is a great opportunity if you live in an area where there aren’t a whole stack of options, or if you want to build your own options. It meant that we were able to work at a pace that I was comfortable with. And the thing is that in regular school classes, you lose a lot of time to wrangling the entire class. So that means that if there’s only one class member and they understand the exercise right from the start, you can get all of the work that you need done done in a couple of hours, and then you get the spend rest of the afternoon understanding practical things. There’s a whole bunch of different hands-on opportunities that you get, because school excursions can happen at any time. The area that we were in had a reasonably good home schooling networking base. So the other families that lived in the local area who home schooled would all meet together every couple of weeks to do activities together and make sure that we were still being socialised. So that’s important.
But it meant that I got to investigate hobbies that I simply wouldn’t have been able to if I had been in a regular schooling arrangement.
KB: Wonderful! And one of those hobbies ended up being sewing. How did that happen—how did you learn to sew? And also, what made you persist with it, because you still do it, even now?
BH: So there was a group of maybe six of us girls who were in one of these home schooling groups. And I’m not entirely sure exactly how it came about, but we started going for sewing lessons together and that was in the back room of a local fabric shop in Port Macquarie. And these older ladies from the community—I think some of them worked in the shop and some of them may have just volunteered their time—and they sat down with us on Monday afternoons and taught us how to read commercial patterns and make our own clothes. And so, that was kind of like the start of learning how to build things. Which is something that I really enjoy. I have a problem-solving mind, and so, if you give me a puzzle, I’ll sit down and I’ll figure out how to put it together. And sewing is a lot like that.
It was the hobby that continued for a few years and then dropped off a little bit, and then during the early 2000s, The Lord of the Rings movies arrived. And by this time, I’m a kid who’s thoroughly into reading fantasy and just chewing through every book that you can give me. And so, I sit down at school at some point in time to watch the behind-the-scenes documentaries of how these costumes were built, and it’s just a singular mind-blowing moment of going, “I want to do that. They’re so cool!”
KB: Totally understand. Those costumes were amazing, and I can’t remember who was the designer on that movie, but she was also amazing. I remember watching those documentaries as well and just hearing her talk about the different elements of this gown and that gown and whatever. It’s amazing.
BH: There were so many little incidental details.
KB: Yes! Like, things that you wouldn’t necessarily see on camera, like some kind of embroidery that they’d put somewhere. I think there was something like [that] on the inside of the garment, which doesn’t even show up on camera, but the actor or the actress would see it and that would help them with their character.
BH: Yeah, it gives it a weight.
KB: Exactly. You did talk about school and you weren’t home schooled for high school, but instead, your mother went back to her teaching job, which was at a Christian school, and you ended up attending that school as well, and so did your siblings. So what was it like, to switch from home schooling to learning in a classroom environment with other kids?
BH: Deeply jarring. Imagine standing next to a treadmill that’s running quite fast and then trying to hop onto it and just—how to put it—mum really enjoyed teaching Years 1 and 2, because in her own words, “Those are the years where you begin to understand social dynamics”. That’s the point in time where you start understanding how people interaction works. I’d gotten some of it, but I’d missed out on some of it too, and so I arrived into Year 7 having learned at my own speed, now needing to learn at everyone else’s—having been able to investigate things that I was interested in to an nth degree—so in some areas, I was quite ahead of the curve, but the social stuff was a little bit lacking! [Laughter]
KB: Yeah. Sure, sure. Must be quite difficult when you’re in that larger group environment and having all those different personalities as well—kids who have grown up with each other as well—it must have been tricky.
The school was a Christian school. What impact did it have on your faith during this time, if any?
BH:It encouraged me to keep thinking about Jesus. I think there were some moments of active input, and there was a lot of moments of passive input, which is still input, and it’s still a good thing. It’s interesting to look back on different teaching moments and different points in time when teachers spoke about God’s word, and they still live in my head, and that’s great. It’s hard to tell sometimes what impact stuff has had, because you don’t know what it would have looked like otherwise. But it was a good thing, and I’m glad that it happened.
KB: Did you have friends who were Christian as well?
BH: Yeah. I think at that point in time, there’s plenty of people who are happy to say that they’re Christian. But when you’re a teenager, you don’t always understanding what that means. And I had a number of friends who were pretty solid as well.
I think when you grow up in Christian circles, you do have distinctive memories of this was the size of the group at this age, and it’s a different size to what it looks like when you’re an adult. And that’s a part of life. That’s okay.
What’s also pretty cool is that the group of people that I hung out with in my youth group in my later years of high school were all really solid. So they all still love Jesus and they’ve all gotten married and a number of them have kids, and it’s really cool to see them continuing to grow and to shape their kids too.
KB: Oh, that’s lovely! Passing the faith on to the next generation. So you finish high school. What were you hoping to do after you finished, and what did you end up doing?
BH: The dream was costume design for film or theatre. Like I said, Lord of the Rings. Chronicles of Narnia. We had a whole bunch of creative input and I was really into The Wheel of Time series—the books—as a teenager, and they’re now a thing on the TV. So that’s neat!
Anyway, the dream was costume design for film or theatre. And so I had applied for a bunch of Unis to go to. And then I choked during my HSC exams, and that meant that I was accepted to go to Uni at Uni of Newcastle to do a Bachelor of Fine Art. And that wasn’t the dream. And so, that meant that I deferred for a year and then went and did a Certificate IV in Applied Fashion at TAFE. And so, that turbo-charged thinking about how to make clothes, because suddenly I was able to design patterns myself.
KB: Wow! That’s really cool. So then eventually you move to Newcastle and attend University of Newcastle. And you said it had a significant impact on your faith. What happened?
BH: What happened is I joined the Unichurch, which is part of Hunter Bible Church. And so, I went from being at a church where my congregation size was thirty people and there were maybe two or three people the same age as me, because, at the point of time when I finished high school and the size of the town I was in, if you wanted to do tertiary education once you finished high school, you pretty much had to leave town. I mean, you could stay if you were happy to do one of three different options. But if you wanted to do something else, then you needed to leave town.
And suddenly in Newcastle, here is where everyone is. We’ve got a congregation of 150 people and all of them are the same age as me, and someone brought a smoke machine …? Smoke machine didn’t last for long. [Laughter] But being part of Unichurch and drinking in the way that they taught the Bible helped me to take my faith seriously. You grow up as a teenager and for a while, the faith that you have really just mirrors what’s going on with your parents. And that’s not a bad thing. But at some point, it either needs to take shape for yourself or it ends up petering out. And I think it was providence that I ended up going to Newcastle, because it meant that I landed in a church that taught the Bible really well and taught me how to be an adult in my faith.
KB: That’s a wonderful thing, though. Then your faith becomes your own and it’s not just something that you are doing because your family did it—your parents did it.
So the dream, as you say, was to go into costume design for film and television. Were you still thinking that in your final year? And when you finished, what did you end up doing?
BH: In the middle of the year, Hunter Bible Church runs a conference for its Uni students called Mid-year Conference. And in my third year, we spent Mid-year Conference—five days of hardcore looking at the cross. The goal of Mid-year Conference is to help students have what we refer to as the Copernican Revolution, where you suddenly realise that, actually, your entire life revolves around Jesus. So that happened halfway through third year and I rolled into my last semester of Uni and went, “If I seriously want to be good in Fine Art Land, then art needs to be my god. I kind of already have one of those.” And so, a course of thinking about things started to change. There were a couple of very small opportunities for moving forward with costume design, and I didn’t take them. I stayed in Newcastle and started working at a Chinese restaurant as a waitstaff, because that was the first job I could find, because I went, “I want to stick around Hunter Bible Church and see what’s happening here, and think a bit more about what’s going on”.
KB: Wow, that’s quite a dramatic change in direction. And you eventually decided instead of going into costume design and pursuing it further, you ended up doing a ministry apprenticeship or “MTS”, as we call it in this part of the world. What led you to want to do that?
BH: It was an extension on the question that forced me to think about my faith becomes my own, rather than just my parents’: “Where do you plan on spending eternity?” And the idea of leaving a legacy. And [I] kind of realised that whatever I build during my life—however great I become—I can try build a name for myself. But no one will remember anything I do 80 years after I die. I will be forgotten. And that’s okay; that’s how things work. But if I can use my life for Jesus’ kingdom, I can build something that matters and lasts, and I can maybe—hopefully—impact where other people spend eternity. I think that’s more important.
So I jumped on board and did an MTS apprenticeship with Hunter Bible Church in the hopes that I would be able to grow and skill up in helping people take Jesus seriously and see him as their King.
KB: That’s great! And during the apprenticeship, what sorts of things were you doing?
BH: I got to do a bunch of things that I hadn’t before, ’cause that’s the way that ministry apprenticeships work at Hunter Bible Church is that you get given more responsibility than you’ve had before, and you get given responsibilities that you haven’t tried out before, ’cause it helps you grow. So I co-led our international student ministry with another MTS apprentice. And so, that became a huge project, because I’m not just helping people think about running small groups for mid-week study, but also helping people meet Jesus for the first time and helping people think about how they join church and being part of their church.
I also taught a Scripture class, and I sat in on and then I led a women’s growth group. I helped to look after—Hunter Bible Church runs on the “M” model—the “purposes” model—for making your church run. So I helped look after the membership division at Unichurch—helping people to join and belong to church—and I helped our church think about and staying in contact with our link missionaries. So caring about growing the kingdom outside of our backyards.
I also read the Bible one-on-one with a lot of women—some I was training, some I was encouraging. One-to-one Bible reading is really the bread and butter of an apprenticeship, and it’s peppered through the whole week, so there isn’t one block of it in the schedule, really.
KB: As we take a break from our program, I want to draw your attention to our live events for 2022. This year, the theme for all our events is “Commanding the heart”—considering different laws that Jesus expounded in Matthew chapter 5, and exploring how these commands reveal the heart and point us towards a righteousness that is more than superficial.
The first of our events is coming up on Wednesday 9 March and it’s on the very prickly subject of anger. Violence is not only a physical activity, it’s also something that lurks in our hearts. The Lord Jesus cautions us that refraining from physical violence is only half of the equation. We are also liable for our thoughts towards one another.
As he says in Matthew chapter 5 verses 21 and 22, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (ESV).
Kingdom righteousness demands that Christians pursue reconciliation with one another, rather than harbouring a grudge. But that sort of activity can be hard to put into practice.
Plan to join us for our first event of 2022 via livestream or, God-willing, in person, as CCL Director Chase Kuhn and Anglican Diocese of Sydney Archdeacon for Women Kara Hartley consider how the command to not murder exposes the anger in our hearts. You can register online and find out more at ccl.moore.edu.au.
The other thing I want to draw your attention to is the Moore College Student Support Fund , which helps to provide our students with additional support—particularly for living expenses during their time at college. Gifts $2 and over towards this purpose are tax deductible, and all funds raised are pooled and distributed to selected students based on budgeted needs in accordance with relevant guidelines determined by the college.
To find out more and to make a donation towards the Student Support Fund, visit moore.edu.au/donate/.
Now let’s get back to our interview with Brooke Hazelgrove.
KB: That sounds like a lot of different things, and, as you say, you were trying new things as well, ’cause that’s part of what MTS is about. What did you learn about ministry and what did you learn about yourself as you were doing the apprenticeship?
BH: I learned good things and I learned hard things. I learned that sometimes people don’t actually want you to fix their problems; they just want you to listen. I learned that God gives better advice than I do. I learned that God is in control of everything and I am a weak person, and it’s important to rely on God’s strength at all moments, but you’re especially reminded of it when you are very, very tired and very, very weary.
I learned that while I love doing face-to-face ministry, it wears me out really fast, and so, by the time I got to the back end of my apprenticeship, the conversation that I had with my trainer was one where she expressed concern, saying that if I continued doing pastoral ministry, it was wearing me out at a rate that was faster than was wise for long-term ministry. So what that meant was that I started thinking about other ways to help build God’s kingdom.
KB: And during that time as well, you had been thinking something that kind of arose from the Bible study group that you were leading to do with writing and writing ministry. Can you talk a bit about your thoughts during that time and what you thought you might be doing?
BH: Yeah, sure. I have been writing for a very long time—different things at different times. So mostly blog posts, but I’m really good at summarising stuff. And we had one term with my women’s Bible study group where we walked through a series of studies on doctrines. The group of studies is called The Blueprint and it was really good. And working through it was really hard, because the way in which the study was written was hard to access if you were a sleep-deprived mum, and a number of the women in my small group were sleep-deprived mums. So the thought that started and continued was “Is there a way that I can use my gifts in writing to serve the kingdom and help people understand big gospel things, particularly if they don’t have the tools to interact with the material that already exists?”
KB: Wow, that sounds really, really interesting! And were you given opportunities to try and do that sort of thing during your apprenticeship?
BH: Sort of. I got given the opportunity to think about rewriting the Connect series. The Connect series was a series of small studies that we did with people who were joining church to help them think about what it means to join church and be part of church, and in particular, things that Hunter Bible Church really cares about—which is the gospel—and framing it in a way that helps people go, “Okay, this is what these guys are on about. I will be part of them” or just helping people make informed decisions about joining church and what we love, which is Jesus. And the series of studies that were written for this purpose were written in a way that was really accessible if you had English as your first language.
What we realised was that we needed something that was a little bit newer to help our international students. The way in which Aussies ask questions—Aussies love the double-barrelled question, which is when I ask you one question, then I ask you another one immediately on top. That’s a little bit hard to interact with if English is your first language and you’re just doing things one step at a time.
KB: Second language.
BH: Thank you. Sorry, I got that wrong. Yeah. I went through the study and adapted it so that it’d be a little bit easier if English wasn’t your first language to interact with it and talk about the things that were important.
KB: That sounds really cool. And it also sounds like it gave you a heart for people who, as you say, English isn’t their first language or, just thinking about those poor sleep-deprived mums, which I sympathise ’cause that wasn’t that long ago for me as well—having things that are clear and simple and able to be grasped even when you are sleep-deprived or distracted by kids.
So you finish your apprenticeship and you decided to still come to Moore College to study, even though you learned that people ministry really, really wears you out. What went into that decision? What was your thinking behind it?
BH: There was still wisdom in going and getting some theological education. Initially, the plan was come to Moore, do one year of study, and then see what jobs you can get in writing with one year of study. And I did one year of study. There was a pandemic that arrived about four weeks in, so … they will tell stories about our cohort in years to come. And what that meant was that I kind of got to see what big Bible ideas look like up close. I’m going to do a much better job of explaining big stuff if I understand the big stuff for myself. That’s important.
So I came to college to learn and then hopefully be able to use those gifts in a way that’s a little bit unusual, but still furthering Jesus’ kingdom.
KB: Yes, definitely! And obviously you continued beyond just the first year and the Diploma of—was it Bible and Mission, I think, that you were doing?
BH: Yeah, yeah.
KB: So what made you decide to go further with it and move beyond that first year?
BH: Coming to Moore meant that I suddenly had access to a lot of people with a lot more insight into what it means to write material for Christians. And so, over the course of the year, I chatted to a lot of people. I chatted to lecturers, I chatted to people who were already in the field—people were a couple of steps ahead—and I said, “This is kind of where I want to go. I feel like there’s a hole here. Is one year enough?” And a lot of them said, “You need to do more than one year”. And so I decided to stick around.
It feels like a little bit of a gamble, but they were not wrong; I have learned more things and more things deeply this year, so it’s a lot easier for me to explain complex things now.
KB: That’s wonderful. And it’s wonderful that college has helped sharpen those skills—sharpen that thinking. You mention the pandemic. [Laughter] I’m sure it’s been a crazy two years for studying at a theological college. How has the experience been so far for you?
BH: We’ve had one semester face-to-face. [Laughter] At the end of the year, we have a big all-in celebration. And this year, the student who spoke for us as our representative joked that we still don’t know what defines us as a collective year, because we haven’t spent that much time face-to-face together. And that’s hard.
KB: It’s especially because, with Moore College as well, they really do want you to learn in community, [Laughter] which is quite difficult!
BH: You hear that phrase a lot. But yeah, it’s a thing that Moore College really values. And I love that they value it. And it’s just really hard when you need to stay inside all of the time.
KB: ’Cause you’ve had—how much of the last couple of years has been spent in lockdown [Laughter] as opposed to being on campus?
BH: More than I thought? [Laughter]
KB: Yep. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. And even the lecturers talk about how teaching classes on Teams is very challenging. But many people who come to college, they come with the goal of going into pastoral ministry or campus ministry or overseas mission or some kind of track like that, and with those sorts of goals, it seems like the path there is very clear. But it’s not so much for you, with what you want to do in terms of writing ministry. What has it been like for you, not quite fitting into the so-called cookie cutter mould of a theological college student?
BH: It’s a little weird. I think something that’s a little bit funny is that nearly everybody turns up to college with some form of imposter syndrome, where you’re going, “They let me in. Everybody else is smarter and more learned and godlier than me. What’s going on? It’s only going to be a couple of weeks and [Laughter] someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and be like, ‘You can go home now.’” I mean, it was encouraging to find out that everybody goes through that. That was definitely a thing: you’d turn up, spend four weeks here and then the pandemic rolls in and I’m just left going, “Is this what I was supposed to do?”
It means being creative about how we solve the problems, and the thing is that God’s gifted me in that. So I think I’ve really leaned back into this idea of the body of Christ, which is expressed in passages like 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 as well—like, this idea that we function together and we have different functions and different roles. And my role looks weird. But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t work.
KB: Yeah. It doesn’t mean it’s not important—using double negatives. But it’s still important, even though it’s different, because we’re all different in the body of Christ.
KB: And we all have different roles. Yeah, yeah.
So, as we said, you’ve just finished second year. You’ve got at least another year to go—possibly two, if you decide to extend further and go on to fourth year. What are you hoping that college will equip you to do for when you eventually leave?
BH: I’m hoping that college will equip me to teach well and teach from the Scriptures, and teach big doctrine ideas in a way that will be accessible to a whole bunch of people. So non-conceptual thinkers. People who haven’t been to Uni. The sleep-deprived mum. The international student. The adult with intellectual disabilities who can’t quite keep up with what’s going on from the front, but really still needs something. I hope that in being faithful, God will use me in filling it. We’ll find out.
KB: Yeah, that’s wonderful. So just to wrap up, what advice would you give to people who are keen to serve God, but whose paths are not the standard clear-cut ones of, say, pastoring a church or going on the mission field or doing student ministry?
BH: God’s made us with different strengths and weaknesses. That’s part of the reflection of the body of Christ, and it’s actually a good thing. And it’s okay to be weak in some things. You don’t have to be the greatest at all of the things that matter. But we do want to be faithful. And we want to be faithful with what God has given us. And so, I think there’s room to consider our weaknesses honestly, and sometimes that hurts to think about that. But it’s important, because we go, “Well, where am I?”, “What’s my context?”, and “How will I serve God in that context?” You don’t have to do exactly the same thing as everybody else. You’ll just make life harder for yourself than it needs to be.
KB: That’s great. That’s so true as well—that God has made us different and God has given us different skills and abilities to serve his people and to build his church.
KB: Well, thanks for coming on the Centre for Christian Living podcast, Brooke! And thank you, as well, for all the work that you do, serving on our student team.
BH: Thanks Karen! It’s a pleasure being part of the Centre for Christian Living.
CK: To benefit from more resources from the Centre for Christian Living, please subscribe to our podcast. You also might like to visit ccl.moore.edu.au, where you’ll find a host of resources, including past podcast episodes, videos from our live events and articles published through the Centre.
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We always benefit from receiving questions and feedback from our listeners, so if you’d like to get in touch, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, I would like to thank Moore College for its support of the Centre for Christian Living, and to thank to my assistant, Karen Beilharz, for her work in editing and transcribing the episodes. The music for our podcast was generously provided by James West.