Practicum Story: Finding life and energy in church ministry’s diverse demands
"My primary experience of the inner workings of a church has been gathered under a pandemic. [...] The variety is endlessly surprising, delightful, tiring, invigorating, and of course, exciting."
Marina 'Marnie' Klassen, 22, is in her fifth and final year of an interdisciplinary BA in Social Theology, with Communications and Media minor. Over the last few months, she has been working through a pastoral internship with Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, in fulfillment of her CMU practicum.
In the process, both because of and despite the unforeseen challenges to ministry norms posed by COVID-19, she has collected a host of valuable new experiences, connections, and lessons:
"It's been wonderful and strange, this internship, mostly because my primary experience of the inner workings of a church has been gathered under a pandemic. I've been learning a lot about adaptability and creative thinking, and, of course, collaboration. I attend a lot of meetings with different committees and that has been a really helpful part of learning about church structure, negotiation, and such," Klassen says.
"The absence of Sunday gatherings also confirmed for me that I love work that is social. My opportunities to visit folks in the Bethel Place [Seniors' Home] courtyard, or to attend a Worship Committee meeting in a friend's backyard have made me feel so alive amidst the isolation."
A deeper appreciation for the variety and constant surprise of practical ministry—inside and beyond a pastoral mandate—will be one of Klassen's major takeaways from this summer.
"As someone who really values creative work and out-of-the-box thinking, I've been surprised by how drawn I am to some pretty linear tasks. Building PDFs for Zoom services, finding the right images for those materials, even some of the mundane tasks related to our new preparations for reopening—I'm putting up ropes, designing and posting signs—those jobs have surprised me with how satisfying they can be," she says.
"Church work is so incredibly varied—in the span of a week you can write a sermon about ostriches (what?!), create three protocol checklists, clean the nursery, and celebrate a birthday with someone. The variety is endlessly surprising, delightful, tiring, invigorating, and of course, exciting."
Not least exciting of all, she even got to sneak in an outdoor wedding! A major entry in Klassen's personal book of firsts.
"Officiating a wedding was so fun! I was completely surprised to be asked to do this, but it was a great learning experience. I got to be in on the big picture of how the service would run and make sure all the background stuff was working so smoothly that the congregation wouldn't even know there was background stuff. That's a real challenge. I also got to preach on a super fun text from Ecclesiastes 3, which I love. It was a treat."
Further reflections from Klassen's studies and summer in ministry can be found in her recent article, "Encountering prayer, encountering others" published in Visions Journal (21:1 Spring 2020) under guest editor Andrew Dyck, CMU's own Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry.