For those of you who have read my “Interning With The ARUMC” blog/category (click here if you haven’t, it’s a really good read, or so I’ve been told), you know that this summer was a very influential one for me: I had the opportunity to discover how I could use my passion for technology in a way that both served God and served the world. However, it went much deeper than that for me, which is why I write for you all today.
As I continued to wrestle with the experiences I had and how they could translate into a career path for myself, I kept coming back to the other passions that I have come to consciously realize in college, including a passion for advocacy and empowering groups of people that are slighted or pushed to the margins by society. I began to realize this as I began to hear not only about the diverse experiences of my classmates, experiences that were shaped by their race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and other characteristics that were used against them, but also as I began to hear about the experiences of others shaped by those same characteristics and same negative usage against them. I will also admit to being shaped by the current social and political landscape, as it has grown to be more visibly chaotic and toxic towards those that are perceived as “different” by society. It is for this reason, among many others, that I (in part) feel called to do my part to assist in repairing, fixing, and healing these divisions that are ever present.
However, with that being said, I feel called to this for a different, much stronger reason: my faith. Ever since I was offered the chance to be the Worship Technician for the First United Methodist Church of Sheridan, Arkansas in my high school years, I have felt called to do more with the church. And as I grew in that position, and in church leadership both locally and at a state level, I grew in my understanding of the United Methodist Church and how it has always been a church promoting social causes and justice for all in their mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I felt more and more inspired by the actions of a body of believers that did not simply have faith, but used their faith and the teachings of Jesus to inspire change in the world, whether that be in the form of running one of the largest faith-based humanitarian aid organizations (UMCOR), or in the form of advocating for issues of breaking the poverty cycle, economic inequality, gun violence, and other issues that are prevalent in both American society and globally. This is what God calls us to do, to “love our neighbor”, regardless of who our neighbor is, and it is in this body that I find inspiration to do more to help in the world.
That’s not to say that the Church is perfect, far from it. I will note that I very much disagree with some of the positions that the United Methodist Church takes, and I have seen anger and hurt brought on by the very public disagreements being had right now, and the negative reactions people my age have towards the Church right now. However, I believe that those issues are ones that we need to vocalize and bring attention to resolving and healing from so that we as a whole Church can stand more unified as we tackle the issues that face our world.
It is with all of that being said that I make this announcement: I will be switching my major/minor from Computer Science/Film Studies to Religious Studies/Computer Science, and making plans to attend seminary after my graduation from Hendrix College, as I work to declare my candidacy and become an ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church.
I have not made this decision lightly. Those of you who know me, even only slightly, know that I have always had my heart set on working with computers all my life. However, I have come to recognize and discern that my true calling is in service to the world as an ordained minister of God. Technology is a great tool, and I feel that I need the skills provided in a Computer Science minor to effectively use those tools in today’s society, but I now understand the importance of serving in the world, and serving people who are hurting, because of what the world is right now.
This is why I chose to become a Deacon. Deacons in the United Methodist Church are called to “Word, Service, Compassion and Justice”, as they serve as workers in the world and a bridge between the Church and the world. It is for those reasons that I feel led to being ordained as a Deacon, as it allows me to pursue a ministry that both benefits the people and serves God. I would be assigned to a church like any other pastor, but it would be secondary to my career in whatever ministry I may find myself in.
In addition, I am currently in the process of working on developing a summer internship with Rev. J.J. Whitney that will explore both my technological gifts and other forms of mission and ministry in this world. What or where that internship will take me, I’m not sure, but I know that it will take me to where I need to be and teach me what I need to know.
Finally, I must thank everyone that has assisted me in coming to this decision: my co-workers in the Arkansas Conference Office, who were the best to work with and truly helped me get started on this whole journey with the internship opportunity that they provided to me; Rev. John Fleming and Rev. John Embrey, who were not just my childhood pastors but also gave me opportunities to serve in the church in ways that got me truly interested in serving the church well beyond my years at Sheridan First United Methodist Church; Rev. J.J. Whitney, who has helped me with all of my spiritual questions from the very beginning of my collegiate career and is helping me with the United Methodist candidacy process; Dr. Robert Williamson, who has been helping me with the requirements for the Religious Studies major; my parents, who have from the very beginning said that I would be in ministry someday, even when I didn’t believe them; and countless others who have talked to me about this and helped me in the whole discernment process.
With this change, I feel more at ease and excited for the future that involves this shift in both focus and purpose. I invite those that have questions to please feel free to ask me, either by phone (if you have my number), by email, or by Facebook. To those who do not, I ask for your prayers and thoughts as I embark on this new journey.
Thank you all,