Pastor's story: Gifts to student fund provide 'huge blessing'

Pastor's story: Gifts to student fund provide 'huge blessing'

Rev. Shannon Marie Berry: United Methodist Church is a "breath of fresh air."

By Shannon Marie Berry

The last few weeks have been busy for all of us, so it's easy to understand how United Methodist Student Sunday could have slipped by without much thought.

But here’s why I hope you’ll consider giving to this initiative anyway.

I did not grow up United Methodist. I was not introduced to the United Methodist Church until 2001 when I was married and had a child on the way. The UMC offered something my non-denominational church could not: an explanation of history, beliefs, even rules and regulations. It was a breath of fresh air to discover a church that could answer my faith questions.

In 2007 at the age of 30, I began walking a path to answer my call to ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church. The following year, my husband, our two children, and I sold our home (months before the collapse of the economy) and moved to Delaware, Ohio, where I began my seminary work at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

The school was a perfect fit for my family and me. Because we recognized this education was the most important of my life, my husband and I decided that I would not have a full-time job and would only work on-campus jobs. Our focus was on completion of my Master of Divinity. 

Needless to say, we were taking a huge financial leap. I no longer owned my own business, and my husband had to start all over again in banking. Through the United Methodist Scholarship Fund and Ministerial Educational Fund, I was able to graduate this year -- still in debt, mind you, but not to the extent that many of my seminary friends have experienced. While attending school, I still had time to be a mother and care for my family, even though seminary was some of the hardest work I have ever done, emotionally, spiritually, and educationally. It was all a huge blessing because now I have a job as pastor of three churches in Bland, Va.

I pray you will give to the United Methodist Scholarship Fund so that another family can receive the blessing of answering the call to ministry, just like mine.

The Rev. Berry is pastor of the Bland Circuit, which includes Bland UMC, Central UMC, and Trinity UMC in the Tazewell District. Write a check to your local church with "UM Student Sunday" on the memo line or give online.