Appreciating gifts and graces

When the Rev. Michael Parker II preaches, people listen.

The 30-year-old pastor preached to 250 people on his first Sunday in his new appointment to Ames United Methodist Church in Bel Air, Md. Enthusiasm filled in the sanctuary.

Parker's road to the pulpit was a bit rocky. At age 16, he sensed a call from God but ignored it.

After graduating from high school, Parker enrolled at Coppin State University in Baltimore. Although he had grown up as a Baptist faith, he began attending Ames Memorial United Methodist Church in Baltimore.

After graduation, Parker continued to sense a strong connection to the ordained ministry, but he decided to teach middle school for four years.

But God didn't give up. When Parker prayed for an answer about his vocation, a guest pastor helped him confirm God's call. The future seminarian cried himself to sleep that night.

Parker enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. In May 2009, he became a youth pastor at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Baltimore. A certified candidate for ordained ministry and a licensed local preacher of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, Parker expects to graduate in May 2015.

The greatest challenge Parker finds is for the church to embrace diverse people regardless of age, gender, economic class, sexual orientation or physical limitations.

"We miss so many gifts and graces by placing limits on who can be in ministry within the life of the church," he says. Parker is happy that young clergy leaders are being recognized and appointed to churches. He believes the church benefits from mentoring programs that match young or new clergy with effective seasoned clergy.

Parker is a director of the General Board of Church and Society and a member of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Young Adult Council. In 2012, he was a delegate to General Conference and Northeastern jurisdictional conference..

"What I find most appealing about The United Methodist Church," Parker says, "is that we are a worldwide church, and we do ministry in diverse ways. No matter where I am in the world, I am connected to and with United Methodists in those places."

Christine Kumar, freelance writer, Baltimore Washington Annual Conference

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.