The Nashville Episcopal Area was well represented at the 2017 Exploration gathering sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. This event took place in Portland, Oregon. Twenty-three young adults from the Memphis and Tennessee Conference attended this bi-annual gathering focused on discerning God’s call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. Brad Fiscus, TN Director of Next Gen Discipleship, Rev. Amanda Crice, Memphis Young People’s Ministry Coordinator and Campus Minister at UT-Martin, Rev. David Hollis, Campus Minister at Belmont Wesley Fellowship, and Rev. Michele Morton, Campus Minister at Tennessee State Wesley Foundation attended the weekend as adult sponsors.
Seven young adults from the Memphis Conference and seven young adults from the Tennessee Conference will engage in a year-long cohort focused on vocational ministry discernment. This cohort will be facilitated by Rev. Crice and Brad Fiscus. It will provide opportunities for the participants to discuss their calling as well as utilize selected readings to generate discussion during this experience together. The purpose of the cohort, funded generously by the Boards of Ordained Ministry in both conferences as well as funds from a Young Clergy Initiative grant in the TN Conference, is to provide young adults a space to nurture, explore, and deepen their calling into professional ministry in the church and community.
Students from Belmont, Bethel, Lipscomb, Martin Methodist, MTSU, Murray State, Rhodes, Tennessee State, UT-Chattanooga, and UT-Martin attended as part of the Nashville Area delegation. Two of those who attended were asked to provide reflections on their experiences.
TayLavor Fugate is a Senior at Middle Tennessee State University. Tayla currently serves as the President of the Leadership Council for the MTSU Wesley Foundation. Tayla has served as a key staff member at Cedar Crest Camp during the summer.
Tayla was asked to provide a reflection on her time in Portland:
As a first-timer at Exploration , it changed my life. Between connecting with ministry-oriented people from across the country, to having time and space to reflect on how God is working in our lives, Exploration 2017 came at a crucial time in discerning my calling as a young person in the United Methodist Church.
This trip was a trip of many firsts for me. My first time to Portland. Some of the firsts include traveling out west and being in Portland, Oregon. It was also my first time communing with so many of my peers, who like me are actively praying about, thinking through, and pursuing a call to be an active part of the body of Christ.
The weekend-long event consisted of four main sessions, three workshop sessions, and multiple small group sessions. The main sessions were lively, each having a different speaker who presented unique perspectives and life experiences. These sessions were meaningful for me as a servant leader granted the opportunity to just sit at the feet of Jesus. We had three opportunities to attend workshops. One workshop I attended was on the gifts of women in ministry. Three speakers, each in different vocations within the United Methodist Church, shared insightful words of wisdom which expanded my understanding of women in ministry. They shared ways in which they found support through their friends, families, and churches. Their stories were empowering and taught me that ministry is not supposed to be glamorous, but it is glorious.
Being a part of a discernment cohort from the Nashville Episcopal Area will be a key part of my Exploration experience. Participation in this cohort enables me to extend my Exploration experience beyond Portland. It means I have a community to lean on in Nashville Episcopal Area as I continue to discern my call.
My experience at this event was incredible. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can get hectic. Exploration was a time for me to clear my head and re-center myself as I continue discern my calling. It allowed me to glean from the perspectives of those who have traveled the path before me and those who are journeying alongside me. I am especially grateful for those who worked tirelessly to put this event together and to the Tennessee Conference for awarding scholarships for young adults to attend.
Becky Miller is a Junior at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She currently serves as a Youth Ministry intern for the Ebenezer Hispanic Methodista Fellowship in Nashville traveling home each weekend to serve the young people there. During the summer, Becky served as the intern at Ebenezer fulling a desire that she expressed to be immersed in a ministry setting that would require her to speak Spanish on a regular basis.
Becky was asked to provide a reflection on her experience:
Exploration 2017 was an amazing experience to say the least. I have felt called to ordained ministry since I was 14 years old. I have always known that was the end goal, but figuring out how to get there has been overwhelming. I am a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Being at a secular university, there are not many people around me who feel called to ministry. The few that I do know are members of other denominations. So I felt especially alone as I face the daunting certification and ordination process. It was so comforting and inspiring to spend a weekend with people my age from all over the country who are experiencing the same emotions as me. Knowing that other people are just as overwhelmed by the certification process and meeting people who had already completed or in the process of certification really eased a lot of my preoccupations.
The speakers at Exploration were truly inspiring. They urged us to be the generation that changes the United Methodist Church, to reconnect the church with the world and refocus our denomination on justice. It was inspiring to see so many young people who wanted to make changes in the church. The speakers also reassured us that just because you are called to ministry does not mean that you will be perfect. There will be times when you doubt your call or when you straight up do not want to follow your call, but that’s normal. It happens to everyone, but God will always work on your heart in perfect time. The speakers and small group leaders also reminded us that being in ministry means you have to set your boundaries and you will not be able to help everyone with everything. Exploration allowed me to meet other inspirational people who are on the same path as me and ease a lot of my worries about my future. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.
I am excited to be a part of the new discernment cohort that is forming with the Memphis and Tennessee Conference. We will be gathering together several times throughout the upcoming year. I am so grateful that this weekend will not just be a weekend. Being able to maintain the relationships I formed over the weekend and go through this crazy ordination process together will make the future seem more manageable. I am very grateful to the Tennessee Conference to have given me such a great opportunity to discern and navigate my calling.
We ask that you pray for Becky and Tayla as well as the rest of the young adults who attended Exploration. If you know of a young person who has expressed a call to ministry, please encourage them. If you would like to connect them to the Next Gen Discernment Team, please contact Brad Fiscus at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more resources on helping people of all ages discern a call to ministry, please visit www.explorecalling.org.