A church first: United Methodist father, daughter ordained same day
“Those are all the Father’s Day presents for the rest of your life,” the Rev. Tiffany Nagel Monroe remembers joking with her dad following their ordinations. What a Father’s Day gift it was!
Tiffany and her dad, the Rev. Alan Nagel, were each ordained elders in the Oklahoma Annual Conference on June 1, 2016. It was the third step toward ordained ministry they had experienced together. They also received their commissioning for ministry and graduated together from the same seminary.
While they did it together, each had a separate journey toward that big day.
A dad’s journey
Alan’s call to ordained ministry began in the 1970s. Upon graduation from Dakota Wesleyan University, he and his wife Debra moved to Denver, Colorado, intending to enroll at Iliff School of Theology.
“We thought it would be a good idea if we had some money before starting seminary,” Alan says. Debra started working as a nurse and Alan as a claims adjuster.
“Then, suddenly, we had a daughter on the way and life just happened.”
“I derailed that plan for him,” Tiffany says with a smile.
As time went on, “I felt that door was closed,” Alan remembers.
When the family moved to Oklahoma City, they began attending Acts 2 United Methodist Church. One day, Alan shared his feelings of closure with his pastor, the Rev. Mark Foster. “Those doors are always open,” Alan remembers his pastor telling him.
In 2007, serving as a delegate to the Oklahoma Annual Conference, Alan learned that Saint Paul School of Theology was expanding their ministry by opening a campus at Oklahoma City University.
Alan thought, “Yes. I could make that happen,” and prepared to share his exciting news with his family.
A daughter’s journey
Tiffany first felt called to ministry at the age of 17, but says, “I didn’t know what to do with it.” After graduating from college, she pursued a career in communications, but the call to ministry was always there.
Becoming pregnant after a painful period of infertility, Tiffany had what she calls a Hannah moment (see 1 Samuel 1). “I promised I would give everything back to God,” she remembers. For Tiffany, that meant following her call to ordained ministry.
When she began to explore seminary, there were no options near her home. She considered moving to Denver as her mom and dad did years before, but it would be too expensive.
“God’s letting me out,” she thought.
Then she heard about a new seminary opening in her hometown. It was just a pilot program with one class offered in the fall, but she jumped right in and registered. She was on her way.
A father-daughter journey
When Alan joined Tiffany at the St. Paul School of Theology in 2008, he used to say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we graduated together?” When that happened, he began to ask, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we were to be commissioned together?” When that happened, the question changed again, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we were ordained together?”
Alan and Tiffany are believed to be the first father and daughter ordained together in The United Methodist Church.
Before sharing the process toward ordination, Alan and Tiffany had already shared their faith journeys. When Tiffany was a high school student, her dad was her youth leader at Parker (Colorado) United Methodist Church.
Having her dad in the youth group was not fully appreciated at the time, especially when the topics were difficult or there were cute boys around. Tiffany, however, saw her dad’s gifts for ministry first hand.
He was the one with the fun games and was good at leading group discussions. More than that though, “He was the guy everybody called,” she shares. “He would go in the middle of the night to be with someone.”
Alan remembers his daughter’s youth group years fondly. “She was very theologically attuned,” he recalls, “and a very good student.”
When he found out that Tiffany had registered for seminary, he was not completely surprised.
He remembered a conversation he had with one of the other youth leaders who told him Tiffany was feeling called to ordained ministry. “But that was not a conversation she had directly with me,” the dad/youth leader explains.
When Tiffany found out about her dad’s plans to join her in seminary, “I was surprised,” she reports, “not because it didn’t make sense… but because he was very successful in the public sector.”
She confesses that even as a young adult, she wondered if it would be “youth group all over again, with Dad right there.”
Going through seminary and the ordination process together turned out to be a blessing to both.
They enjoyed sharing the five-and-a-half hour car rides to Kansas City required for their degrees. They passed the time talking about professors they liked and classes they didn’t.
“There was also some good-natured bantering and challenging of one another,” Alan reports.
“We had some friendly competition over grades,” Tiffany remembers.
“She was the more scholastic,” Alan explains, “but if I had one point better, I would say to her, ‘You’re not ahead of Dad everywhere.’”
They also were able to lean on one another’s strengths. Tiffany learning from her dad’s business experience. Alan learning from his daughter’s creativity. Each cheering the other on in ministry.
Today, they continue to work together as much as they can. Though the churches they serve are approximately 90 miles apart, the congregations know one another and support one another.
“I’m just so proud of him,” Tiffany gushes about her dad; and Alan is very proud of his daughter.