The ELI Project: Orientation week

June 29, 2017
The ELI Project interns with their clergy mentors.

At the very end of May, I was waiting for them in the foyer of Drew Hall at Hamline University in St. Paul with room keys in hand and an eagerness to meet these seven young people who were joining us through The ELI Project as summer interns. Seven wonderful, curious young people discerning their calls soon were settled in dorm rooms and headed across campus to our day-time space in Anderson Hall. There was Erin Blackford, Grace Corbin, Hannah Lundberg, Jon Mehlhaus, Joseph (Joe) Meinholz, Ruth (Ruthie) Olson, and Elizabeth (Lizzy) Schmidt. 

What did our week look like?

Tuesday: Orientation week began with some introductions and time spent in spiritual practice.  We started with lectio divina (a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation, and prayer) and watercolor painting. We explored our strengths and our values and were joined by Rev. Erica Koser, who shared about being a deacon in The United Methodist Church.
Wednesday: Rev. Rachael Warner joined us and asked the ELI interns, “What do you love about Jesus?” We talked about faith, the aspects of their internships that they were excited about, and the things that they were anxious about.  Dr. Alan Padgett then joined us for a conversation to explore the question “What is a Methodist?” In the afternoon, Rev. Shawn Moore worked with us to explore racial reconciliation. It was a full day of thinking and re-thinking about what we believe and how we live.

Thursday: On the road! We headed off campus and into some of our churches. We began the day at Uptown Church with Rev. Jeremiah Lideen, then we went to the Minnesota Church Center for lunch with the Cabinet, then over to Hennepin Avenue UMC for a tour by Rev. Nate Melcher that included everything from the basement to the steeple top—what a view! Then we went over to New City Church, where seminary intern Steven Coles helped us ask great questions, learn about exegeting a neighborhood, and led us in a prayer walk through the community. As if that wasn’t enough, we then headed over to Grand Avenue for dinner with Bishop Ough, where we talked about our concerns and our hopes for the future of the church.

Friday: We enthusiastically welcomed the clergy mentors who will be working with the interns: Bill Eaves and Laura Hannah from UMC of Anoka, Sarah Lawton from Northeast Minneapolis UMC, Dan Wetterstrom from Woodbury-Peaceful Grove UMC, Kelly McCuaig from Hilltop UMC in Mankato, Nate Melcher from Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis, Bethany Nelson from Homestead UMC in Rochester, and Clay Oglesbee from First UMC in Red Wing. The interns and mentors spent time on their learning plans, then we worshipped together sharing Eucharist, blessed our interns, and gifted them with chalices. It was a beautiful day of relationship-building and celebration! After lunch, we said goodbye to our interns and the mentors spent a bit more time sharing best practices and ideas for learning.
In the end, we formed a tight-knit group of young people who were launched into a summer of discernment with incredible clergy mentors and eager host congregations. We had hope, excitement, even more curiosity, and new friends. Here’s to summer!

Jody Thone is director of leadership development for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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