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LWC hosts school for emerging United Methodist pastors
Pastoral Ministry School at Lindsey Wilson College draws new ministers who come from diverse walks of life. For one couple, who came to the independent realization that they had been called to the ministry, attending the school helped them realize dream, and become co-pastors of a small UMC congregation in Laurel Co., KY. Others have equally fascinating stories. Many are helping fill the deep need for leadership in the denominations' smaller churches
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By Duane Bonifer
COLUMBIA, KY - Stanley and Virginia Baker had both thought about serving as pastors in The United Methodist Church. But it was not until almost three dozen years of marriage that they told one another directly of the desire.
This week, the Bakers were among two dozen individuals who attended the United Methodist License for Pastoral Ministry School, held on the A.P. White Campus of Lindsey Wilson College.
The annual weeklong school - sponsored by the Kentucky Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church - certifies laypersons to serve as pastors and present sacraments in their assigned United Methodist churches. This was the 11th time in the last 12 years LWC has hosted the school for aspiring ministers.
The Bakers have been certified laypersons in the church for almost two years. They had both talked about hearing God's call to do more. But it was not until recently that the Bakers - who have been married for 36 years - talked about attending the school together so they could pastor a church.
Attending the school allowed them to be co-pastors of East Bernstadt United Methodist Church in Laurel County, KY.
"We arrived at the decision independently, although we had both talked a lot about it," said Virginia Baker, who is from London, KY.
During the week at LWC, the school's participants heard from speakers on church doctrine and theology, they learned about church procedure, and they also meet with leaders in The United Methodist Church. When they finish the six-day school, the students will have accumulated 80 hours of study.
"It becomes a crash course in everything you need to know to serve a church," said Mary Lou Stephens of Richmond, Ky., one of four church leaders who ran the school.
Some of the school's students will eventually go on to seminary, but almost all of them will immediately serve many of the church's smaller congregations, where there is an acute need.
"The Kentucky Annual Conference could not exist without these folks," Stephens said. "Smaller churches rely on them, but so do larger churches, who come to see them as a de facto associate pastor."
Rachel S. Wirrig of Highland Heights, KY, is one of those individuals who will serve one of those larger churches.
After majoring in public relations and serving an internship in New York City's fashion industry, Wirrig heard the call to serve the church. She spent two years in the seminary before leading the 300-member Asbury United Methodist Church in Northern Kentucky.
"Because I'm new to the Kentucky Annual Conference, this has been a great way to network with other people who serve the church and extend my reach to more contacts and resources," she said.
Carol Weddle, who used the school to secure her position as LWC assistant chaplain, said the school "has been one of the most exciting experiences of my life."
"The personal reflection, the fellowship and the opportunity to contemplate things have just been wonderful," she said.
Weddle's enthusiasm for the school is one reason Stephens said she enjoys leading it.
"I love people who are being called into ministry and being able to help them," she said. "I love to be where people are learning where God is calling them and they are responding. ... I also learn from them because they have things they want to share."
This story was posted on 2011-06-05 06:39:37
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