TOPEKA — The Great Plains Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, or BoOM, has seen a boom of its own this year.
A record 50 candidates interviewed with BoOM from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at Topeka First United Methodist Church as part of the credentialing process that will lead to ordination.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said the Rev. Andrew Conard, BoOM chair. “It’s a long process to move into the credentialing process by the time you get to this point. God continues to be at work calling people into ministry, and it’s great to play a small part in that.”
The Rev. Karen Jeffcoat, BoOM registrar, said that in the nine-year history of the conference, the number of interviewees has ranged from 36 to 44. Of the 50, 23 are seeking to become provisional members and 27 are seeking full membership. There are no candidates for associate membership this year, she said.
The last time the process was in person was in 2020, a month before the coronavirus pandemic. The interview process the next two years was done online.
“It’s good to be together, have conversations around meals, worship together — things that were really difficult when we were online only,” Conard said.
Neither Conard nor Jeffcoat attributed the large numbers in 2023 to the pandemic years.
“Folks just feel really shepherded and welcomed and encouraged as they continue their journey in ministry,” she said.
Following the interviews with the ordained clergy from the board, the candidates are voted upon. The choices are not yes or no, but yes and “not yet.”
“We still have folks who aren’t quite ready, who need to work on one thing or another,” Jeffcoat said. “But we try to find ways to support folks in that journey. It’s not a reflection of who they are as a person or the ministry they’re doing. If they receive a ‘not yet,’ we believe there’s something for whatever we’re asking that isn’t quite there.”
Jeffcoat said only two candidates in nine years have dropped out after they receive a “not yet.”
“It’s incredibly rare,” she said.
Once the candidates meet the approval of the board, they are voted upon at the clergy session of the annual conference, June 7-10, and ordained in a ceremony, this year scheduled for June 9.
The approval from the BoOM is not a rubber stamp, Jeffcoat said. In the first year of the Great Plains, two-thirds of candidates were approved and one-third was not. Last year, 75 to 80% of the candidates received approval.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s the fruition of work that’s start in local churches, continued in district committees on ordained ministry, seminary and the education that happens there.”
Ultimately at the 2023 session, 23 candidates were approved for ordination (20 elders and three deacons), and 18 for commissioning. Two were told “not yet” and two had a pause in the process.
Although the basic requirements for candidates are specified in the Book of Discipline, Jeffcoat said, some conferences may adjust the rules. In the Great Plains, a candidate must have completed seminary or plan to complete it before ordination, she said.
Among the interviewers on the board was Rev. Jin Cho, pastor of Pittsburg First UMC.
“It’s a very humbling moment and inspiring moment,” said Cho, who interviewed candidates on their call to ministry. “Whenever I hear their stories, it’s so inspiring. Everyone has a gift to share and to use for the kingdom. I’m so happy to be able to learn from this in this capacity.”
Cho said it was interesting to see a transformation of the candidates during the interview process.
“This is a moment where we grow together and learn from one another,” he said. “They’re getting more relaxed and more like themselves.”
Among the candidates were Mike and Allison Marcus, who began seminary at Saint Paul School of Theology seven years ago, two weeks after their wedding.
“It feels like this culmination of such a long journey,” said Allison, who works as a chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospice House in Kansas City, Missouri. “I hope these people know us. We’ve been in ministry with them for seven years now, and it seems like such a space where hopefully we get to say this is who we are, and this is our story, and this is our ministry.”
Mike Marcus, a provisional deacon who works at Reconciliation Services, a nonprofit in the Kansas City area, said he was glad to be back in person after two years online.
“The last two years was a very different environment, very different space, very different kind of prep work,” he said. “You have to be ready for this kind of setting, but it’s really nice to have that kind of community present as we go through this next round of interviews.”
The couple, who live in Shawnee, stopped for coffee in Lawrence on their way to Topeka and quizzed each other with questions that might be asked of them by the board.
“It’s been fun to do the whole process together,” she said.
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