December 2022 – Drew Theological School Master of Arts in Theology & Ministry (MATM) student Megan Hale T’23 wanted to document an oral and visual history of United Methodist Church (UMC) deaconess/home missioners to educate and inspire future generations.
Hale, an executive in the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner at United Women in Faith, works to build and train the deaconess/home missioner community.
Deaconess/home missioners are lay people who have responded to a call to ministry with a full-time vocation in justice and service, performing profound work in their communities.
As part of her apprenticeship at Drew, Hale has created a website containing dozens of interviews of retired and current deaconess/home missioners to archive their unique and inspirational stories.
“Drew Theological School utilizes creative approaches to enable students’ work in a variety of off-campus contexts to become part of their degree program by using vehicles like internships and apprenticeships,” said Associate Dean for Vocation and Formation Tanya Linn Bennett. “Students who encounter an opportunity can explore the possibility of receiving apprenticeship credits in conversation with Drew’s Office of Vocation and Formation.”
As a deaconess herself, Hale has wanted to capture the stories of deaconesses since she was completing her deaconess coursework at Brooks-Howell Home, a retirement community for deaconesses and mission personnel of the UMC. An assignment led Hale to interview a deaconess and write a history report. “It was transformative for me. I’ve always wanted to capture their stories—their ministries are amazing,” said Hale.
“I hope the videos help other people who are discerning a call to vocational ministry to have a better understanding of what it looks like to be a deaconess/home missioner,” said Hale. “I also hope that many years from now that these stories will be living archives—telling our stories and highlighting our ministries for future generations.”
Hale noted there are many similarities in the stories shared from discernment to retirement, but the contexts are consistently diverse. “Your vocation may change, but your call to deaconess does not change,” said Hale. “Your ministry today may not be the same in five years, but you’re still committed to love justice and service.”
“Hearing all the different discernment stories of all ages helps others who are discerning and articulating their call.”
Hale said her education at Drew is making her better at her current position at United Women in Faith. “The education I’m receiving from Drew informs my work,” she said. “It’s helpful for providing social justice and educational opportunities for the deaconess/home missioner community.”
Hale plans to share the stories on social media to expand the reach of the stories, but to also allow the deaconess/home missioners to better understand and be inspired by each other’s work.
Her favorite element of the project has been the advice offered to future deaconess/home missioners. “Everything they share is different, but all important and valuable.”
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