Following one's call to seminary often begins with accepting it. That was certainly the case for Samuel Mitchell and Olivia Gross, two new Master of Divinity students who began at Wesley Theological Seminary in fall 2017. Though their stories are unique, their calls have been confirmed as they journey through the first year of the program.
Wesley is one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries supported in part by the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment.
Samuel Mitchell, a new student from Seaford, Del., graduated in May 2017 from the University of Delaware with a degree in human development and an emphasis on social work and counseling. He started college planning to become an electrical engineer, but soon felt the need to shift his focus.
"I've felt a calling to some sort of ministry since middle school," Mitchell said. "But I didn't really take it seriously until high school and didn't finally accept it until my freshman year of college. I accepted the fact that God was trying to tell me something, but I didn't accept what he was trying to tell me."
"One of the biggest draws that Wesley had for me was the wide array of hands-on learning that I could have as a student," he said. "A lot of other schools had an emphasis on the academic, which Wesley does as well, but there is also an emphasis on the practical with the PM&M (Practice in Ministry and Mission) experience."
Like Mitchell, Olivia Gross recently accepted her call to ministry. While attending the annual conference meeting of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church last summer, Gross came forward during the ordination service in tears of joy. After 17 years working in administration for the conference she felt prepared to take the next step.
"I've always wanted to be a pastor but it wasn't something that I allowed myself to entertain," she said. "I never felt as if I was good enough because I'm surrounded by so many great pastors and great preachers. It was something I had thought about, but never really pursued."
Although Gross, who is 60 years old, received encouragement from her family and close friends, there were some detractors.
"I had some people say to me, 'don't you think you're too old?' Gross said. "It was very discouraging and there were times when I just felt like crying. But then I realized I wasn't doing this to please anyone, only to please God. It was a yearning in me that I had to respond to. The interesting thing is that once I said 'yes,' I felt a tremendous sense of peace."
As Gross completed Wesley's application process, the pieces fell into place. When she received a scholarship from the school, she knew she could proceed without fear of struggling financially, she said.
To anyone considering pursuing a degree at Wesley, especially older students, Gross suggests prayer and discernment.
Wesley Theological Seminary website, Washington, DC
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.