Connie Detwiler, Lakeview
After receiving his MDiv, my husband told me, “Hon, we are on an adventure.” Here I am fifteen years later, shaking my head in wonder and commenting – Are we ever!
I grew up on a dairy farm where I had wide open spaces to play, explore and use my imagination. I have always loved the clear sky at night dotted with thousands of stars and have appreciated God’s creation in many ways. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t feel a connectedness to God.
Perhaps it would be easier to write my story about becoming a Mennonite pastor if I were a cradle Mennonite. My ancestors were not from Switzerland, Germany or Russia. They were from England and Scotland and were very different from the Anabaptists.
I was baptized as a baby and grew up in a Methodist church. During my childhood I attended the Lakeview Mennonite Bible School and occasionally their Sunday School. As a family we didn’t leave the farm much so VBS was my vacation and I loved it. I sang songs and learned Bible verses and stories which I have not forgotten. It was my social outlet and connection with other Christians which was unique to my family of origin. As a teenager I had a strong Christian peer group and one of my best friends was a Mennonite. These formational years certainly had an impact on my spiritual growth.
Eventually I married one of the local Mennonite boys, Blaine Detwiler. I became a member of the church where he grew up. This was the same church where I had attended VBS. We were in the process of buying the family farm when his calling to become a pastor transpired. We sold the cows, packed our bags and moved to Harrisonburg, Va., where he attended Eastern Mennonite Seminary. I audited classes when possible and began to understand more of who I was as a person and also my worth as God’s child. I learned that God’s grace grows in private places of prayer and I found that God has come near to restore and make things right…another milestone in my spiritual growth.
After seminary we returned to our home congregation where Blaine was asked to pastor. My role as his wife has included partnering and walking with him on this journey of ministry. Over the years various folks in our congregation have pointed our that I have pastoral giftings that differ from Blaine’s, which make us a good “team.” I have pondered these observations and words of encouragement for some time.
Four years ago at our annual church retreat, Noel Santiago and a woman named Jeanette Phillips, prayed for me. I hadn’t met either of them before. Their prayer included the following, “God has been calling you to a ministry for some time and you’ve been keeping this hidden in your heart.” Wow, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. Those words resonanted in my soul like nothing before and I felt God saying, “It’s time.”
Sometime later, during group spiritual direction, a gentleman mentioned that he strongly felt I have pastoral giftings and needed to begin to pursue my calling and consider becoming licensed. I began to discern this more with our church elders and council, my spiritual director and other persons in the congregation. All have been encouraging and affirmative. I am humbled and excited as the “adventure” continues.
I recently completed an Anabaptist History and Theology course which widened my understanding of the word “radical.” Our Anabaptist ancestors were of that vein, in the deepest of ways. They loved Jesus and lived the Sermon on the Mount without a thought given to another way. I was amazed to discover that women played just as an important role in Anabaptist witnessing as the men. I discovered that over a third of Anabaptist martyrs were women. I pray for the dedication and courage they demonstrated as I follow the stepping stones of these faithful ones.
Possibly my calling to ministry began a long time ago in the wide open spaces of the farm where I realized I have been known and loved by my creator. The brightest stars on a clear night remind me I am never alone on this journey and a falling star reminds me of the activity of God’s spirit. I was told years ago that my grandma prayed that someone in our family would become a pastor. The process of discernment regarding my calling and licensing has caused me to become relentless in praying that I may become all God intends, for His glory and makes me realize the prayers of a grandmother can be very powerful.