Rev. Nickie Moreno Howard was able to graduate from seminary and begin her ministry career thanks in part to the financial aid and mentoring she received from United Methodists who give generously each year on World Communion Sunday.
Moreno Howard received the Journey Toward Ordained Ministry (JTOM) scholarship from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). The scholarship is one of many racial-ethnic scholarships supported by World Communion offering.
World Communion Sunday, one of the six churchwide Special Sundays of The United Methodist Church (UMC), is celebrated the first Sunday in October in many congregations. GBHEM and the General Board of Global Ministries each receive half of the offering to support scholarship programs.
Your gifts on World Communion Sunday, enables The United Methodist Church to you equip gifted, qualified students from around the globe to become the world changers God created them to be.
Moreno Howard, now an associate pastor at St. Matthew's UMC in Annandale, Virginia, said her scholarship meant she could afford living in Washington, D.C., while attending Wesley Theological Seminary without going into debt from student loans.
In addition to up to $5,000 per year in scholarship funds, JTOM recipients receive mentor support, including an annual weekend retreat at GBHEM to learn more about the ordination process, build self-awareness and develop interview skills.
"The other thing that I loved (about JTOM) were the retreats where I would meet with other students who were experiencing the same struggles that I was experiencing. We were removed from our communities and in a school setting that was different from where we grew up," said Moreno Howard, a Texas native where the population was 95 percent Mexican-American.
"We did not necessarily know how to relate or even always be successful in class settings. The retreats were a place where you could talk about things you were struggling with, like how to work situations out and what it is like to be a person of color in a setting where you're a minority," she said.
Following her graduation in 2014, Moreno Howard became a JTOM mentor and is now helping one of the 12 students in the 2018-2019 group of scholars. She is a licensed local pastor and has been approved for her provisional application to go before the Board of Ordained Ministry in the Virginia Annual Conference.
Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of Loans and Scholarships at GBHEM, said the JTOM scholarship program is geared toward racial-ethnic minority students under age 30.
"JTOM scholarship recipients can be undergraduates or seminarians, but they need to have identified that they have a calling for ordained ministry as a deacon or elder," Collinsworth said. "Recipients can receive up to $5,000 per year and are mentored into their calling the entire time they receive the scholarship. Every year they come together and are mentored with the other scholars by leaders from GBHEM and other areas in the denomination."
"GBHEM assists the scholars through their process of candidacy, including identifying candidates for ministry and working with their Boards of Ordained Ministry through that process," Collinsworth said.
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry website
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, World Communion Sunday calls the church to reach out to all people and model diversity among God's children. The special offering provides World Communion Scholarships, the Ethnic Scholarship Program and the Ethnic In-Service Training Program.