Navigating spiritual and personal growth, pastoral roles, early mornings, late nights, and much more, four Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) students are spending 11 weeks this summer exploring the ministry profession through the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP).
Of the four churches where Perry Blosser, Caleb Schrock-Hurst, Hannah Shultz, and Elizabeth Witmer are serving, one congregation is Spanish speaking and another is bilingual, two are located in urban areas, and one is a more traditional heartland congregation, said Carmen Schrock-Hurst, MIP director and instructor of Bible and religion at EMU.
This summer, MIP participants have stretched their talents and learned new skills in a diverse range of experiences. Students “have preached in English and Spanish, led worship, helped design a Taize-inspired prayer service, led music for a peace camp, choreographed worship dance with church youth, worked in church gardens, visited patients in their last days of life, led a joint congregational choir, killed a chicken, visited senators on Capitol Hill, attended a protest around the Philando Castille verdict, led workshops on immigration and incarceration issues, and gotten up at 4 a.m. for prayer meetings with congregational leaders,” according to Schrock-Hurst.
More than 300 EMU students have participated in MIP, a partnership that includes the student’s respective Mennonite college, local congregations and conferences, and Mennonite Church USA.
At the end of the program, each student receives a scholarship of up to $2,000 toward tuition costs at a Mennonite college or seminary for the next academic year, along with a $500 stipend for living expenses from the host congregation.
A student’s placement depends on “his or her own interests in size and type of congregation, the availability of a congregation and pastoral mentor, and a fit between the intern and the host congregation,” said Schrock-Hurst.
Perry Blosser: Salford Mennonite Church
Senior Perry Blosser, from Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania, and Harrisonburg, is at Salford Mennonite Church in Harleysville, Pennsylvania. A music and Bible and religion major, he has been preaching, leading music and working with other projects such as a summer choir, getting to know members and families over dinners in their homes, and balancing the responsibilities of a full schedule.
“I have been learning that there is no definitive pastoral style,” he said. “It’s exciting to encounter the living spirit within the story of scripture, and to guide people to insight through creative worship and meditation.”
Caleb Schrock-Hurst: New Hope Fellowship/Nueva Esperanza
Caleb Schrock-Hurst, a senior English major from Harrisonburg, is at New Hope Fellowship/Nueva Esperanza of Alexandria (Virginia). In addition to making pastoral visits, playing guitar in the church’s worship band, preaching, attending a young adult Bible study, “reading a lot more scripture and theology than I do on a regular basis,” and working on a variety of projects, Schrock-Hurst has traveled with pastor and supervisor Kirk Hanger to visit member congregations from Mexico to Philadelphia.
“Seeing the faith communities of small rural villages puts my traditional worship experiences into much-needed global context,” Schrock-Hurst said. “Trying to speak and write in Spanish in the context of ministry is much harder than simply getting by conversationally. Still, I’m overall pretty happy with how I’ve done with it so far and am happy to be learning new vocabulary on a regular basis.”
Hannah Shultz: Manatial de Vida
At Harrisonburg’s Manantial de Vida, Hannah Shultz, a senior music education major from Harrisonburg, said she is learning “so much” this summer, including “daring” to “step out in faith.”
“Listening to God is similar to a muscle in that it has to be exercised,” she said. “It is fun to witness God using me to further His purposes.”
Shultz’s responsibilities include sharing her testimony, praying, helping children learn about gardening and Earth care, leading children’s worship, translating documents from Spanish to English, choreographing worship songs for a dance ministry and preparing Sunday school activities for three classes.
She said she is also learning about fasting, deliverance, spiritual warfare, speaking in tongues and prophecy.
Elizabeth Witmer: Faith Mennonite Church
And at Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis, junior social work major Elizabeth Witmer, from Newville, Pennsylvania, who said she is “very much an introvert,” is building her comfort level with being around lots of people.
“I’m learning how to be myself in a place with no one I know,” she said.
In addition to leading worship, visiting a terminally ill church member, preaching, planning and attending actions and workshops with a local immigrant-led organization, attending protests, and various other activities, Witmer said that she is enjoying being within walking distance of “anything I want do” and being “well connected to causes and actions I’m passionate about.”
Maddie List: summer service with Coalition for Christian Outreach
Also gaining experience in ministry this summer is senior Maddie List, a Bible and religion major from Arlington, Virginia, who plans to become a campus minister. She is in a summer service program called Ocean City Beach Project in Ocean City, New Jersey.
As part of the program, run by the Coalition for Christian Outreach for students who want to develop further as campus leaders, List and 30 other participants live in a two-bedroom house (the bedrooms are “giant,” she said) and attend classes, participate in Bible studies, lead worship, and engage in faith-based discussions in small groups. They each also have jobs in Ocean City, where they practice discussing faith with coworkers.
List is serving as co-director of the program’s Bible study program and in that capacity guides small-group leaders in creating and leading their studies. “It has been fun to learn about my own gifts in this area,” she said, “and I have enjoyed helping others to grow in their leadership abilities, as well.”