I am often asked to tell the story of how I came to be in ministry. In seminary, and among church-y friends, we talked about our “call” stories, remembering how we heard God’s call to pursue more knowledge, more training, and possibly more responsibility and work among God’s people. And my story always started like this, “So, I used to be an accountant.” This was the point when I smiled and looked for the confused looks and started the laughter with my own.
It’s true. I was an accountant. I went to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and earned a B.S. in Accounting with a minor in Math. A kid from the western suburbs of Minneapolis, with two parents who worked in finance, I was well on my way to fulfilling their dreams of becoming a big-shot CEO, or at least some solidly corporate-suit-wearing-success in a concrete building of the urban jungle someday.
And, I was volunteering as a leader with my church’s youth group.
There is something magical about middle-schoolers and pizza and Sardines in church basements.
That’s where God called.
There wasn’t a bedazzled telephone in the backroom that rang with angelic harp ringtones, but there was a stirring in my heart and soul. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. I just knew that I really loved those kids and I loved being one of the adults in their lives that taught them how much they were loved by God. I didn’t know that’s what a “call” from God would be like, but I had friends who did. I had leaders and mentors and friends who asked if I’d ever thought of being a minister or going to seminary.
Eventually, their questions and encouragements kept stirring my heart and soul. I did think it would be interesting to learn more about church-y and God-ly things. So, to the joy of my mentor and friends who had been doing the nudging and stirring, off I went to seminary, and the rest is, as they say, history.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I went to seminary (although longer than I would like to admit). But at the time, it was about the only option for theological education. Earning a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary was one of the pieces of the ordination path, and was the only acceptable educational path at the time. And it was a wonderful and magical time of growth, learning, and faith development for me. I highly recommend it, for those whom it makes sense to pursue.
However, I am THRILLED that there are now more options for EVERYONE to deepen their knowledge, skills, and faith, and respond to God’s call, the stirring of their hearts and souls, today! One of those options, a really great option, we host here in the Iowa Conference UCC. It is the PATHWAYS program!
PATHWAYS is theological education for a changing world (and that’s not just a slogan, it’s the truth)! An online format that is accessible to everyone with a computer, internet access, and a desire to learn. There are classes for exploring and wondering, and there are classes for following God’s invitation to pursue authorized ministry. Small groups of adult learners work together along the journey, connected through the wonders of the world wide web, and faith and spirit and mind are nurtured and developed.
Who do you know that should be enrolled in PATHWAYS? Who is the youth group leader/accountant in your church whose soul needs a little stirring up and nudging? What about the Bible study teacher or Parish Nurse who people look to for spiritual and physical well-being? Or the mom or dad who can’t leave their day job and after-school schedules for graduate school, but could tap in to the flexibility of a “virtual” school? Is it you??
PATHWAYS is now accepting applications for new cohorts in Level 1 and Level 2 programs this fall and winter.
Level 1 applications due: Sept. 1, 2014
Level 2 applications due: Dec. 10, 2014.
Please visit the website to find the online application link or for more info: http://tasc21.net!
If your heart has been stirred today…click on the link above! If someone you know needs their hear stirred a bit, send them that link!
Let’s see what God is calling us all to learn and do and be today!
BONUS: PATHWAYS IS RUNNING A SPECIAL DISCOUNTED RATE ON TWO CLASSES, JUST FOR FUN! TRY THEM OUT AND SEE HOW THEY STIR YOUR HEART! SEE THE FLYER FOR DETAILS!!
—Rev. Brigit F. Stevens, Associate Conference Minister