With these signs from our God: Following God’s leading to Blooming Glen

Mary Nitzsche, Blooming Glen


mary.jpgAs a child, I loved to play church with my sister. We sang songs of faith, read scripture and I “preached.” It was not in the realm of my thinking or imagination at this early age that one day God would call me to be a pastor. My parents were people of deep faith in Jesus and served many years in either a congregational setting or in a Mennonite institution. Their love for Jesus and the Mennonite church inspired me to consider how I might serve the church.I was a shy child and slowly developed confidence and leadership gifts during my college and young adult years. I graduated from Hesston and Goshen colleges, served a year in voluntary service and gained work experience as an elementary school teacher and support staff at Goshen College before taking several classes at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) to test an emerging call to ministry. When I became pregnant with our first child however, I put seminary on hold.By the time my husband, Wayne, completed his seminary training at AMBS and accepted a call to pastor Wooster (Ohio) Mennonite Church we had two young daughters and I was very content as a stay-at-home mom with a variety of opportunities to further develop my gifts as a lay person in the congregation.When my children were both enrolled in elementary school, I began sensing a call to ministry again, but I resisted, unsure that the timing to return to seminary was in the best interest of my children. The call persisted, and I decided to share it with Wayne and the elder team.One of the elders, Beulah, served as a mentor to help me further test my call and learn to own it as separate from Wayne’s call. She encouraged me to enroll at Ashland Theological Seminary as a next step in the discernment process. I experienced motivation, energy and joy through my seminary studies, accompanied by affirmation of my call. While at Ashland, I studied under professors and with students from other faith traditions which deepened my identity and theology as an Anabaptist/Mennonite.Near the end of my seminary experience, I was prepared to seek a position as a pastoral counselor when Ohio Mennonite Conference approached Wayne and I, to consider the regional pastor position. Though I did not have the proper credentials, training or experience for this role, Mark Weidner, Conference Minister, graciously encouraged me to accept the call later serving as an advocate and mentor. I stepped out in faith, believing that God would provide. For the next twelve years, I thoroughly loved ministering to pastors, lay leaders and congregations while using my counseling skills and developing other ministry skills.Another surprise came in November 2007 when the Franconia Conference consultant, working with the Blooming Glen Pastoral Transition Task Force, called to ask if I was open to a conversation regarding an associate pastor position. Again I wondered if I had the proper experience to serve on the pastoral team of a large congregation. I wondered if there would also be a ministry opportunity for Wayne. After naming my struggles to God and talking with Wayne, I felt led to step out in faith and test this new call.text-3.jpgAfter my interview, I felt cautiously optimistic, but the doubts and questions persisted. My family’s previous transitions were focused on Wayne’s call, not mine. It felt risky to move ahead without Wayne also securing a job. The invitation came for me to be a candidate. Wayne and I needed a sign to be sure of God’s direction. The following day, in a meeting, the devotional was about Abraham’s call to go, leave his security and follow God to a new land.Several mornings later I awoke earlier than normal with Proverbs 3:5-6 on my mind, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”With these signs from our God, who works in surprising and mysterious ways inviting us to risk, I accepted the pastoral position at Blooming Glen and have confidence that God will continue to provide what is needed.photo by Kreg Ulery