SIDNEY — When a person begins to discern a call to become a pastor, they will enter a time of prayer, conversation, listening. It usually is a life-changing time, committing yourself to the work of God and the work of the church Once a person answers the call there is a discernment process each candidate must go through.
In seminary, the student is working at a Master’s Degree level. One is not just focused on classes in theology, Bible, preaching and the other disciplines of seminary, there are also various opportunities for contextual experiences. This culminates in a two-year internship with a congregation. In that site, the student is given the opportunity to lead worship, preach, teach, visit, experience ministries such as evangelism and stewardship and so much more. The four years of education and training is a very intense period of time. Thus the need of support from family and good friends and a home congregation is essential.
Over the past 30 years, six members of St. John’s Lutheran Church have answered the call to the ministry of word and sacrament. During those years the congregation supported these six students spiritually, prayerfully and financially. Over those years the cost of seminary has increased and St. John’s invested in a significant financial level. What is unique about this story is that the last three students were at seminary at the same time.
On May 18, 2019, Cody Blust, Laura Ferree and Dan Gutman graduated with their Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. Blust and Ferree grew up in the congregation and Gutman married into the church (Mandy Blatchly) and served as the director of Youth Ministry a number of years. The previous students were the Rev. Charla Grieves serving St. Paul’s in Botkins, the Rev. Christine Stratton Valenti serving in Minnesota and the Rev. Aaron Holmgren also serving in Minnesota.
Blust is a graduate of Sidney Christian High School and MOunt Vernon Nazarene College. Ferree and Gutman are graduates of Sidney High School and both did their undergraduate work at Toledo University. Blust and Ferree were “pipeline” students – straight from college to seminary. Gutman worked in various fields before entering the seminary and was a second-career student.
All three had good internship experiences. Blust served in Muskegon, Michigan, LauraFerreewas in Seattle, Washington and Gutman was in Celina, Ohio.
Like in many denominations there is a tremendous shortfall of clergy. This is also evident in the seminaries. They were part of 19 graduates from Trinity, but only seven received their Master of Divinity Degree, the degree program to be a pastor.
Now the students will wait for paper work (profile) from a congregation hopefully followed by an interview(s). The congregation also receives a profile on the student. Once a congregation votes to call one of the students, and the student agrees, they will be ordained and authorized by the church to preach and preside over the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion and provide pastoral ministry to a congregation.
A congregation that supports one of their own for ministry comes to understand that they are preparing a gift for the whole church.