"So much of ministry requires adaptive behavior--doing the best you can with what you have when you're asked to do it."
- Linnea Wilson M. Div. Class of 2000
- Zach Johnson LSTC Intern
This is ministry, too
by Linnea Wilson
M.Div., Class of 2000
“Y’a wanna be Joseph at VBS?”
That’s how intern Zachary Johnson (aka Vicar Zach) was invited into the community of St. Mark, way back in May.
“Yeah, I could do that,” Zach said, and now, here in August, he has done just that. All during his first week of internship Zach told ‘his’ black-plastic-prison-to-red-velvet-throne story to 25 little ones eager to sing, dance, make bricks, eat hummus, and find out who that Joseph guy “really is.” “Joseph” enjoyed the limelight and Zach, well, he still has an ear-to-ear grin, surprised at how much fun he had and the impact he made.
I’m grinning, too, remembering my own introduction to internship. My supervisor wanted me to get involved in his clown ministry. When I voiced my feeling that maybe that wouldn’t be my niche, he said, “Well, then, maybe you should run the pumpkin patch.” So for my first four weeks on the job, I managed volunteers, banked sales, quelled “smashing pumpkin” sprees, and turned and dried 3,000 dew-wet pumpkins twice daily to make sure they didn’t rot. At the end of each day, I turned my eyes heavenward and asked, “This is ministry?”
Though Vacation Bible School was Zach’s morning focus that first week, each afternoon held its own challenging ministry opportunity: an SOS (Summer of Service) project with middle- and high-schoolers at a WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger) shelter, shut-in and hospital visits with pastor and lay communion ministers, staff picnic table lunches, a town tour, and even an in impromptu meeting with Mayor Irvana Wilks. And, before his second week at St. Mark was over, Zach had participated in two funerals.
St. Mark is a mid-sized church in Mt. Prospect, in a mid-sized suburban community northwest of Chicago that was recently voted among the nation’s best places to raise children. VBS, SOS, and WOW (Wednesdays on Wille), our afternoon church school, are three ways that St. Mark is trying to meet the needs of this population.
But another St. Mark reality is that it is an aged and aging congregation. Chaplaincy and visitation work is a significant part of what I do each day. I enjoy the time spent with our gray saints and have found that these folks have and ask significant questions about their spirituality and about what really happens when they die; they want reassurance about the promise of eternal life. Over the next months, Zach will have oodles of opportunities to fine-tune both his bedside manner and his theology!
When I asked Zach what he wanted to learn from his internship experience, his answer made it clear that he’d given this question some thought. “I pray that St. Mark will be a community that teaches me how to walk in the baptismal vocation God has called me to as a future pastor.” He also hopes that it will walk with him on this faith journey and be supportive of him.
For my part, I want Zach to have experiences that will help him serve Christ’s church with the gifts God has given him. So much of ministry requires adaptive behavior—doing the best you can with what you have when you’re asked to do it. I didn’t know much about outreach at the beginning of my internship, but because I’m friendly and outgoing, I soon learned that the pumpkin patch was a wonderful, non-threatening, first church experience for many who visited it; as an outreach ministry, it was non pareil! My own prayer for Zachary is that there is a “pumpkin patch” in his future.
Though there are many differences between us—our gender, our ancestry, our coloring, our age, our height!—we share a common goal. That is to love the people of God among whom we serve. I’m there Zach—can’t wait for you to be here, too!