My Fourth Day Story

February 20, 2023 by Evelyn Penn

I did not know what to expect from my Walk to Emmaus. One of my fellow choir members, who also participated in a Walk at the same time, looked up information about the Walk and shared it with me. We were both skeptical because there was not much detail, but we figured that we would go because we had registered.

The talks were inspirational.  When I learned one could become a Methodist pastor and still hold a regular job, I was intrigued. I’m not sure why, because I had never thought about being a pastor. I decided to talk with one of the two pastors who were present at the Walk and had shared that they were bivocational. One had a government job at the Pentagon, and the other worked a full-time job at a food bank.

Because I was so happy in my current job, I did not want to give it up. After talking with the pastor,  I realized I did not have to. I could continue what I was doing and still be a pastor. But would I want to?  Still, I didn’t give it a second thought. However, when I did decide, it was the best decision of my life. I eventually gave up my full-time traveling job and became a licensed United Methodist local pastor.

Following my Walk to Emmaus, as I continued to grow in grace, I dedicated time for morning and evening prayer. I also participate in a local group of clergy and laity called Kindred Project. We meet via Zoom each Wednesday morning. We greet each other, listen to a prayer or inspirational reading, and then spend time in silence. We are still and wait for God to speak to us in some manner during that silent time. At the end of our silent time, we share our experiences.

Praying at the altar of my two churches before leading worship services each Sunday morning is important to me. My parishioners see me do this, and I hope it encourages them to spend time in prayer. At times I drive to church in silence, spending time listening for a word from God. Another way I continue my growth in piety is by regularly attending a small group on Sunday after worship. There I get to share thoughts and inspirations from particular scriptures. I do not lead this group because it is important for laity to be involved in leadership opportunities.

Also, each Tuesday morning I meet with a group of clergy to discuss the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. Using the commentary Feasting on the Word, we receive theological, pastoral, exegetical, and homiletical perspectives. With the written commentary and our own personal thoughts about the particular scripture, we gain insight that helps us prepare for the coming Sunday worship service.

God called me to ministry, but he never said I should do it on my own. Not only is God walking with me every step of the way, but he has provided these incredible assets to help me.

I also study as a means of growth in grace. In December 2021 I completed my master of divinity degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. I recently read Will You Pray with Me? by Steve Langhofer and Anne Williams. I used this terrific book to encourage a small group in their prayer life. It helped them feel comfortable writing out their prayers before praying out loud. It is interesting how many people say they don’t feel comfortable praying aloud or that they don’t know how to pray.  

I finished the book Nevertheless, She Preached: The Story of the Two Earliest Methodist Clergywomen in Virginia. Margaret Kutz, the author, lives south of Richmond, VA, and joined us at our Methodist Women in Faith meeting to talk about how she researched these two women’s lives.

I am currently reading Will Willimon’s Don’t Look Back: Methodist Hope for What Comes Next. I think this book is a must read for all United Methodists as we traverse the United Methodist faith today preparing for General Conference in 2024.

As far as my growth through Christian action is concerned, I volunteer at the monthly food pantry in Lancaster County, VA, bagging and distributing food to qualified families, which gives me an opportunity to pray with families. I regularly send birthday and anniversary cards to members of my parishes, as well as thank-you notes to visitors at my churches. The hours I spend doing this each month are important to those receiving the cards. I volunteer one Friday morning a month at the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic in Lancaster, VA.  Pulling patient charts and completing necessary paperwork for appointments is something I really enjoy doing.  The clinic staff is very busy, and helping them in this small way gives them a break. I think I get more from it than the staff do (although they are appreciative of my work); I leave feeling good that I have helped somebody else.

As part of the activities that helped shape my ministry, I recall participating in an international  medical mission trip to Honduras. It was an eye-opening experience I will never forget. After Hurricane Sandy I worked on a mission trip to Crisfield, MD, to help residents rebuild their homes. This mission trip was done in cooperation with United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). It was a great learning experience to see how thankful the people were to have help, no matter how big or small the job.

This coming July, I will join a neighboring United Methodist church on a mission trip to the Appalachian mountains. Red Bird is a United Methodist mission in Beverly, KY. This work camp strives to provide home repair for low-income community residents and maintenance for Mission buildings and grounds.

Participating in mission work is personally satisfying. Through it, I get to witness to my parishioners and share what the church of Christ is all about—helping those who need help. I am leading by example and glad to do it. My goal is to encourage them to get involved with our local community and other areas that need help.

As far as the future is concerned, I remember that God called me, I answered, and I was sent. I have been sent by the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to be a shepherd, leading others to know and believe in Jesus. I will continue this work until God calls me home.

Evelyn Penn attended the Walk to Emmaus in November 2012 in Richardville, VA, where she sat at the Table of Peace.

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