Scholarship recipients journey toward ordained ministry
Mar. 18, 2008
NOTE: Photographs and logo are available at http://umns.umc.org.
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)--When Christopher Deluise opened the doors to the library at Candler School of Theology, his first thought was that "there is a lot of God in here."
The second largest theological library in North America, Pitts Theological Library at Candler is among the reasons that Deluise chose to attend the seminary at United Methodist-related Emory University in Atlanta.
Now completing his first year at Candler, Deluise recounted his journey toward ordained ministry during a March 5 appreciation dinner sponsored by the Office of Loans and Scholarships, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
He is among more than 3,000 United Methodist students who received $6.3 million in aid from the Office of Loans and Scholarships for the 2007-2008 academic year. The dinner honored nearly 50 people for their service in enabling students to receive university and theological education over the past four years.
"It does make one feel proud of what this board can do," said Angella Current-Felder, executive director of the Loans and Scholarships office. "We are blessed that we can continue to provide opportunities for students."
Deluise received a special seminary scholarship which is awarded to students under age 30 pursuing ordained ministry as a vocation and enrolled at a United Methodist-related seminary or theological school in pursuit of a master of divinity degree. He thanked those at the dinner and others with the church's higher education and ministry agency for "their commitment, their passion and their time."
"The support that we receive allows us the opportunity to focus on our mission of serving God (and) also provides us fortitude in the face of financial pressures that accompany attending an institution of higher education," said Deluise, a former wellness director at a YMCA in Orlando, Fla.
Deluise also talked about the Rev. Bill Barnes, pastor of Hopespring United Methodist Church, Winter Garden, Fla., and St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Orlando, "who was integral in my call to ministry."
"For two years, we worked together in discerning my call. ... In a world where faith, theology and religion is such a complex issue, he makes it so simple," Deluise said.
Juan Silva of the Rio Grande Annual (regional) Conference spoke about the Journey Toward Ordained Ministry Program, which provides $50,000 per year in scholarship money, as well as retreats and mentoring, to 10 racial-ethnic students pursuing ordination as an deacon or elder. That amount will increase to $60,000 annually in 2009. Funding comes from gifts received in United Methodist churches on World Communion Sunday(http://www.umcgiving.org/content/sundays/WCS_nav/communion.asp), scheduled this year for Oct. 5.
A student at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Silva said the program's retreats and mentoring has helped him to get acquainted with fellow recipients "who will help me on the journey and even beyond.
"I feel so blessed to know all of my colleagues in the program," he said. "I have been so enriched by the mentors, the other students in the program and by God through this program, affecting me and affecting others through the ministry." He placed emphasis on the retreats because they help "equip us for ordained ministry."
Current-Felder introduced dinner participants to the late Evelyn Steinmeyer Ozga, who received an $80 Methodist student loan in 1929 to remain in college and later received two additional loans. She developed a relationship with Current-Felder in the 1990s and shared that she wanted other United Methodist students to receive the same level of church support in college that she did. Upon her death in 2000, Ozga bequeathed $75,000 to the Office of Loans and Scholarships which established a loan fund in her name.
"Support from the Methodist Church is a lifetime relationship," Current-Felder said. "We are in ministry in the way that we try to help those who are members of our congregations and in support of our denomination to be able to have access to higher education. We can't pay the tuition, but that little bit of money helps and it always goes a long way."
Women of Color Scholars
The Rev. Rosetta Ross, convener and graduate of the Women of Color Scholars Program, talked about how opportunities have opened for ethnic women in the United States since the days of her great-great grandfather, a former slave who helped to found St. Daniel Methodist Episcopal Church in Dorchester, S.C. When the church was founded, historically black Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., was only a few decades old.
"It is very unlikely that Pink Ross would have envisioned that one of his female descendants would have completed Candler School of Theology, would have been ordained an elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference and would have obtained a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University," she said of her own education.
Ross affirmed The United Methodist Church for working to change the face of theological education through its Women of Color Scholars Program. The program is designed to increase the number of women of color serving as teachers and researchers on seminary faculties. "We managed to see God's call and hear God's call clearly and to open the table as God's calls us to whosoever will," she said.
Since the program's 1989 launch, 22 women have graduated with doctorate degrees, 17 are in process and others have been assisted along the way. The first Native American woman will graduate from the program in 2008.
"In this work, The United Methodist Church has been and continues to be a singular leader. No other denomination has been so intentional in saying that the history of our nations past does not have the power to stop us from being God's church in the world," Ross said.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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