Young seminarians struggle with stereotypes, build network
June 6, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown
Kim Montenegro (left), Jeremy D. Smith and Chad Johns (right) discuss issues common to young adults in seminaries.
A UMNS Feature
By Vicki Brown*
young adult seminarians look around their classroom, most of their
fellow students are old enough to be their parents or grandparents. So
the chance to simply talk with others who have also been told they
looked cute in the pulpit, or had everyone assume they will be the youth
minister, is one of the biggest benefits of the Young Adult Seminarian
Missy Meyers, a student at United Theological Seminary in
Dayton, Ohio, said her fellow young seminarians feel strongly that the
group, formed last year, must be about more than the members' own
"We want it to be something that's vital to the church," said Meyers, the group's facilitator.
that in mind, some 40 young seminarians have agreed to an AIDS
initiative, modeled after the United Methodist Bishops' Initiative on
Children and Poverty, that will begin with AIDS awareness programs and
volunteer work in October (dates will vary from campus to campus). The
group plans prayer vigils on each campus on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.
increasing urgency, we hear the voice of God calling us to respond to
the cries of these violated and vulnerable people," the network said. In
its statement, the group called for prayer, education and awareness,
and fund raising.
Paula Cripps, a Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology student, said the
initiative developed out of a desire to do justice ministry. While
meeting recently in Jackson, Miss., seminarians volunteered at Grace
House, a local AIDS ministry.
|A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown
LaSheena Simmons (left) and Paula Cripps chat during a meeting of young seminarians.
Next spring, the network is
planning fund-raisers, with proceeds divided among a local AIDS ministry
near each campus, Grace House in Jackson, Miss., and the United
Methodist Global AIDS Fund.
The Rev. Luther Felder, director of
the campus ministry section of the United Methodist Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, believes young seminarians have a crucial role
to play in the United Methodist Church.
"I think we absolutely
need more young people entering seminary," Felder said. A balance is
needed between young adults and older seminarians who have answered the
call to ministry as a second career, he added.
The Young Adult
Seminarian Network, formed in 2004 for seminarians 35 and younger, may
be able to encourage other young adults who are considering ministry as a
first-career choice, Felder said. And, he said, the network builds
connections and relationships the seminarians can build on for years as
they attend annual conferences and jurisdictional meetings.
role the group might play in encouraging other young adults considering a
call to ministry became evident during meetings the group held May
26-29 at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., in conjunction with Student
Forum 2005. One of the network's purposes is to provide advocacy,
resources, support and community for young seminarians. Goals include
planning a national gathering, developing a model for Sabbath retreats
and establishing an Internet presence.
"Several of the
undergraduate students attending Student Forum (held at the same time),
came to some of our discussions," Meyers said.
In addition to the
AIDS projects, the group plans a Sabbath retreat, both to talk about
ways to have Sabbath time and to "actually do it," Meyers said.
of the joke in seminary about Sabbath time was that you can read a book
about it," she said. But young adults entering ministry need to
understand spiritual discipline so they won't burn out, she said.
Jones, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at United
Methodist-related Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, said young
adults in seminary face unique issues.
"There's an assumption that
because they are young, they'll do youth ministry, whether or not they
feel called to youth ministry," said Jones, 35, an adviser to the
"If you go to seminary right out of college,
you get out at about 25, and you might go to a church with an average
age of 50," said Jones, who is a probationary member of the North Texas
Annual (regional) Conference. While some young seminarians said their
church "takes them under their wing," others have faced difficulties
when members of their congregation have concluded the pastor has too
little life experience for the job.
Michelle Blume, a seminarian
at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., who is transferring to
the Divinity School at Duke University in Durham, N.C. this fall, said
the group has made friends of seminarians with vastly different
theological perspectives. Blume cited her own friendship with Cripps
through their work on the AIDS project.
"Asbury and Claremont are
so different, but this network allowed us to work on the same thing, and
we're friends now," Blume said. "If we can bring seminarians from
across theological spectrums together, it's a start."
She said she
hopes those relationships will carry over to General Conference, the
denomination's top legislative body. "It's harder to shoot someone and
what they believe down if you know that person," she said.
not going to be pitted against each other because of moral issues or
different interpretations of (the) Scripture," she said. "How much
better we work if we know someone as a sister or brother in Christ."
is an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation at
the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.