I’ve been enjoying John Krasinski’s SGN (Some Good News) videos on YouTube, which feature uplifting and inspirational stories in the midst of all of the bad news of the pandemic. Krasinski hosted a virtual prom two weeks ago for all those missing their high school prom, and it had me reflecting on some good news involving young leaders that I’ve been able to witness this spring.
So here’s some good news: Six college students will participate in an internship this summer through The ELI Project, and six churches have received a NEXT grant to create a high school internship opportunity this summer.
The ELI Project is now in its sixth year. Through it, college students are placed in host churches for 10 weeks. Over that period, the host congregation invites the intern to gain hands-on experience by preaching and/or leading a Bible study, planning worship, becoming involved in a social justice or community outreach ministry, observing leadership development/discipleship ministry at the host site, and providing pastoral care. Five first-time interns who will begin their internships in June are:
· Briley Fenner, who attends the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is pending a placement soon to be announced.
· Kristen Hansen, who attends Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, will be hosted by Christ UMC in Rochester and mentored by Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay.
· Emily Hilderbrand, who attends Hamline University in St. Paul, will be hosted by Champlin UMC and mentored by Rev. Max Richter.
· Grace Olson, who attends the University of Minnesota will be hosted by White Bear Lake UMC and mentored by Rev. Bill Eaves and Next Generation Minister Missie Aberle.
· Kelby Werner, who attends the University of Minnesota, will be hosted by First UMC in Duluth (the Coppertop) and mentored by Rev. Jeanine Alexander.
Thanks be to God for these young leaders exploring vocational ministry!
One of The ELI Project interns is an “ELI 2.0,” now in its second year. Whereas regular ELI interns take a deep dive within a single host congregation, ELI 2.0 interns gain a conference-wide perspective of ministry, visit a variety of churches, and help mentor the first-time interns. Ruthie Olson will be our Eli 2.0 intern, and I recently asked her some questions. Her responses are both inspiring and give me hope for the future of the church:
Why The United Methodist Church and why now?
Over the course of the past year, I have come to realize that I want to fight for the future of the denomination, and I am unwilling to give up on it. The UMC is concerned with areas of social and racial justice, and it will put itself in the trenches over what it believes is important. That’s why I choose the UMC, and why I will always choose the UMC despite our challenges.
What continues to have an impact on your life from your 2017 ELI Project experience?
The ELI Project sparked in me an interest in working with and for people. Before doing The ELI Project, I was convinced that a career in mathematics was my future, and there was little that was going to shake that confidence. The ELI Project did just that. To be frank, The ELI Project changed my entire life path, and I am very pleased to be in a position now where I am living into the unknown and taking it step by step.
What are your current career plans?
I will be attending Boston University’s School of Theology in the master of divinity program and pursuing a master of social work alongside the master of divinity in a cooperative degree program. I would like to be ordained as a deacon in the UMC and look forward to what is to come in all of that!
Thanks be to God for this young leader embracing her call to ministry!
Additionally, NEXT grants for new high school internships in local congregations have been awarded to:
· Advent UMC in Eagan
· Asbury UMC in Duluth
· Hamline Church in St. Paul
· Northwood UMC in Esko
· White Bear Lake UMC
· The Communities of Faith United Methodist Parish in Clarissa, Clotho, and Eagle Bend.
Thanks be to God for these congregations that are committed to raising up young leaders!
While it’s important to hear what’s broken, what’s unjust, and what’s unhealed in our world, the way I can stay engaged is to balance that with seeing and sharing the good news. I shared the good news I’m celebrating. What’s the good news that you are witnessing?
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