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Exploration 2024 affirms Ferris' call

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Abby Ferris photo

Abby Ferris affirmed her call to ministry at Exploration 2024. Photos provided by Abby Ferris.

“I feel hope for the future of the church. I have great confidence in my call to serve God and how to pursue that call,” said Abby Ferris, a member of First UMC in Pierre, South Dakota, who participated in Exploration 2024.

Ferris traveled to Orlando, Florida, Feb. 16-18, 2024,  to experience a sacred space to discern God’s call on her life. The three-day event featured keynote speakers, workshops, small group interaction time, and incredible worship.

“I wanted to go to dig deeper into the role of a deacon in the church,” said Abby. "I attended a workshop about ways people serve as deacons and the paths they have taken. It was very helpful."

She learned that the role of a deacon is multi-faceted. Many people who serve as deacons incorporate their faith in several different career paths.

“I am on a path to being a licensed counselor. I can see myself serving as a deacon in a counseling role for clergy and church leaders. But that is a few years away for me,” Abby said.

Because the gathering was global, worship was offered in three languages: English, Spanish, and Korean. It was a new experience for Abby. 

“I had never experienced multiple languages at worship before. The songs were familiar, but not the words,” she said.

A panel of bishops held a dialogue with the estimated 160 participants about the future of The United Methodist Church. 

“The focus was not on disaffiliation but on how we, as young people in the church, will be the next leaders,” said Abby. “That was refreshing.” 

Each participant spent time in small groups reflecting on what the speakers shared and the content of the workshops. Small groups also provided a space to connect with others about their call to ministry. 

Bishops' panel

A panel of United Methodist Bishops share hope for the future of the United Methodist Church.

“My small group leader was a third-year seminary student at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C. I enjoyed getting to know her and appreciated her feedback,” Abby said.

Abby set up her travel plans as the solo participant from the Dakotas Conference. Once in Orlando, she stepped out of her comfort zone to connect with others.

“There were a lot of different groups of people that attended; several campus ministry groups. People would ask me, ‘Where is South Dakota?’ I learned quickly that not everyone grew up in the church and with United Methodist theology,” Abby shared. “Some people that attended were just beginning to discern their call. I came with a strong foundational background and was aware of my call.” Read more about Ferris' call to ministry.

Abby is the Residence Life Assistant at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota. She is applying to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in counseling. She hopes to get her degree online while she continues in her current job.

“I benefitted from Exploration. I now know I can follow my call to be a United Methodist deacon and how to go about that in my future,” said Abby.

Learn more about Exploration.
Explore your call to ministry


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