Dear Dyersburg FUMC Family, 

As promised, I want to use this space to tell you a little bit more about myself and my call. 

I did not grow up in the Methodist church. In fact, I grew up in a series of non- denominational churches in Nashville, churches that believed it unbiblical for women to be church leaders. Fortunately, I also grew up with an aunt, my mother’s sister, who is a pastor in the United Methodist Church. So while I was spending all of my time in a church that unequivocally opposed women in church leadership, I also had a very close relationship with my aunt, an ordained United Methodist pastor.

I don’t think I ever actually formed an “opinion” about the issue of women in church leadership. I just knew that my church was opposed to it and my aunt was a pastor and that’s just the way things were. 

It was in my senior year of college that I began to experience a distinct call to pastoral ministry. I was a peer counselor in my sorority, and in that role discovered the sacred value of listening to and advocating for the women that I lived with. I also felt my heart break with the stories of brokenness that I heard from other peer counselors. The two university counselors that we worked with were strong women, and they gave me courage to explore that first inkling of call that God was putting in my heart. 

I knew as I became more and more aware of this call that I would need to find a new church home, that I would have to detach from the church that raised me and find a place in another denomination. From a very practical standpoint, the United Methodist Church made the most sense. It was the only other denomination I knew, and it welcomed women in church leadership. In January 1996 I was baptized and became a member of Henderson First United Methodist Church in Henderson, KY, where my aunt was serving as Associate Pastor. It was not quite my church home as I didn’t live in Kentucky, but it was my first beautiful experience of a church welcoming all of who I was, call to ministry and all. Even God’s prompting to join the UMC was an act of God’s grace. I needed a place to belong as I stepped out into the great unknown. 

During the spring semester of my senior year, I began to explore seminary options. Jay and I were already in a serious relationship and knew that we would get married—eventually. My two seminary choices were in cities that had Air Force bases. Jay had been in ROTC and would take a duty station after we graduated from college. Jay grew up in New York with a precious grandmother who lived in Maine, and as a result had driven through Boston more than once. It was his first choice of a duty station. I had never been to Boston and wasn’t sure I really wanted to leave friendly confines of the south and Midwest, but as soon as I visited Boston University School of Theology I knew it was going to be my home. 

Was I uncomfortable? Absolutely! But did God transform me in my time there? More than I could have ever imagined! 

May this week be an uncomfortable one for you in all the best ways!
With great affection, 

Mary Beth