November 23, 2022 | by JB Brayfindley
“The first thing to understand is that a Home Missioner is a lay person,” states Ray Jellison, member of Pioneer UMC in Auburn, California, and candidate for the office of Home Missioner in the UMC. He hopes to be consecrated in April 2023 and commissioned in June. “The amount of requirements for me are much, MUCH less than the process to become an ordained clergy--that I think of as a million steps from here to eternity… but some people do it.” Jellison looks over at his pastor and spouse Rev. Ginger Foster, an ordained elder.
“I felt like, for a long time, this is something I wanted to do,” states Jellison, currently tutoring math students, “and I still feel like it is a calling. It’s for people who want to make a stronger connection to the UMC and commit to a fulltime vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service. That’s the bottom line…and you have to find your own employment.”
A Home Missioner is equivalent to the office of Deaconess. Although the first consecrated Deaconess in the Methodist Episcopal Church in America was in 1888, it wasn’t until after the Diaconal Minister option was closed in 1996 that in 2004 the Home Missioner office was established as an equal opportunity for men to also gain an official relationship in lay ministry to the UMC with voice and vote at the annual conference session.
After attending a discernment event in Phoenix, Arizona seven years ago, Jellison wanted to apply.
“And then, I had to fill out an application,” explains Jellison. “This is something that stopped me for years. The application is extensive, with dozens of questions and essays…”
But in 2020, after attending another discernment event online and learning more about the process and commitment, Jellison recruited a pastor friend to help him complete the paperwork.
“After that, a panel interviewed me on Zoom,” states Jellison. “They decided I would fit the bill!”
Jellison had also sent off his college transcripts to be reviewed. Prior professional training, education and/or certifications for candidates’ chosen ministry is necessary as well as further classwork in Theology of Mission & Diakonia, History of the UMC, Doctrine and Polity of the UMC, Old Testament and New Testament.
“I had to take five classes—seminary level,” Jellison states. “My respect for people going to seminary has gone way up! Oh my gosh, it’s difficult! Reading normal theology books, I had to look up two or three words in a dictionary per page!”
Due to the pandemic, classes were held online several times a week over a period of weeks. Intensive classes were one week, meeting up to 5 hours a day with reading assignments given ahead of time. “I counted up to 450 pages of reading for one class,” notes Jellison. Given the syllabus six weeks in advance, Jellison divided up the reading assignments into daily portions to manage the workload. Overall, it took a year to complete the coursework. “All the classes were of value and taught me a lot I didn’t know,” states Jellison. “And it was good to get a better feel for the Methodist church.”
“I like the idea of saying, ‘Hey, I am going to do work for love, justice and service.’ And I’m pretty comfortable with the love and service parts and now after taking all the classes I’m more comfortable with the justice part. These words describe what I want to be, who I want to be. This seems like the right fit for me,” explains Jellison.
Jellison is working on filling out the application for consecration and a plan for ministry. He is currently finishing up an online module on Growing in Culture Competence.
“You’re appointed to the ministry you’ve already found,” states Jellison, a credentialed Math and Physic teacher who plans to continue tutoring math, “As a tutor, I am serving students not high on the academic chain. I think it will help address issues of justice when they come up in my teaching.”
“As I took the classes, I thought about my local church,” explains Jellison planning to continue volunteering at Pioneer UMC where his spouse is the pastor. “I’d like to do things to help my church.” Jellison’s new commitment to a vocation in love, justice, and service as a Home Missioner in the UMC leaves him open to ministry within and outside the church.
“I’m not going to get a job just for money—there’s a lot of jobs that I can do that I am not going to do,” states Jellison, “because I’m going to try to find something that’s going to be more involved in love, justice, and service.”
“I’m open to whatever comes my way…” states Jellison. “I am expecting there will be some opportunities that I never imagined.”
“I love the diversity of our Deaconess/Home Missioner community,” states Megan Hale, an executive for the office of Deaconess and Home Missioner overseeing discerning and candidacy programs throughout the United States and supporting the movement in Africa. “We are diverse in every way you can imagine from geographic location, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexuality, ministry context, age and ability.”
“And we are all unique in our ministries. We have people who serve as educators, as health care; we have fire fighters; people who are community organizers, choir directors, preschool teachers,” states Hale adding that becoming a Deaconess or Home Missioner affirms a person’s calling by the church, provides a lifetime covenant community committed to following common vocational mandates (p. 710 of the 2016 Book of Discipline), a supportive network, and “a theological grounding to empower us … and provide a new lens on how we do our [lay] ministry.”
Commissioned in 2008, Haniel Garibay is the only active Home Missioner in the California Nevada UMC Conference currently. Garibay works with the Retired Clergy Association and is involved in ethnic ministries as part of his current ministry. Also, “by being a home missioner we are voting members of the annual conference,” states Garibay, “...and I want to be part of the decision making process and in the position to influence the programs in the annual conference.”
Beth Bartel has been thinking about becoming a Home Missioner for the past ten years, but having the time and energy was a big issue. As a union steward and Policy and Regulation Analyst for the State of California, Bartel notes, “I knew from day one I was doing God’s work and having it consecrated and recognized by United Women In Faith and the annual conference is important--to I have my name out there as someone who can help.”
This last year, Bartel completed the candidate classwork. “I found the readings and classes to be so spirit-filled and wonderful—I was looking forward to them each time I had them!” states Bartel. “The diversity of subjects: interesting; and participation: amazing! It was a group of like-minded people who all had regard for one another.” Bartel aims to focus ministry on accessibility and advocacy in the workplace and community. Along with Jellison, Bartel hopes to be consecrated in April 2023.
Hale noted that United Women in Faith currently funds candidates’ class tuition fees.
An upcoming Discernment Event is slated online for December 3, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. Register here.
Current Deaconess and Home Missioners in the California-Nevada UMC conference include:
Ellen Dizon, Transfer Coordinator for Filipino Deaconesses, Pinole, CA;
Heidi Caban-Santiago, Medical Social Worker, Carson City, Nevada;
Nerice Cao, General Education Teacher, Fairfield, CA;
Josephine Pablo, Preschool Teacher, Pinole, CA;
Nora B. Marker, Preschool Teacher, San Francisco, CA;
Jeneth Loyola, Caregiver, Fremont, CA;
Eulene Mendillo Granadosin, Human Resources/Recruiter, Sunnyvale;
Maria (Maribel) Villa E. Ulay, Caregiver, San Jose, CA;
Active Home Missioner-
Haniel Garibay, Retired Clergy Assoc/Ethnic Ministry, Marina, CA.
In the Discernment process-
Mary Cabal, Fresno, CA.
Lynn Hermoso, Hanford, CA.
Myra Cubos, Clovis, CA.
Beth Bartel, Sacramento, CA.
Ray Jellison, Auburn, CA.