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Called: Myrna's story, the power of connection

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communication, Dakotas UMC

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Myrna Hill serves as the Co-Lay Leader for the Dakotas Conference. Photos by jlynn studios.

Myrna Hill is a member of the United Methodist Church in Sturgis, South Dakota, and serves as the Co-Lay Leader for the Dakotas Conference. Connections are how she lives out the call God has placed on her life.

“My faith is deepened with every connection I make. I fell in love with The United Methodist Church and the people. I have a sense of service because of the love that I have experienced and the connections.”

Hill adopted into a family that was steeped in Methodism. “My parents and grandparents attended Methodist churches. Mom and Dad met at Dakota Wesleyan University. It is part of our family’s DNA,” she says.

She never really had one moment where she felt a call from God but has always known that God called her. “I have always been connected to Jesus,” says Hill. “It is just part of my life.”

Her Dad always said when you are called and asked to do something for your church, you do it. “I am called because of what I witnessed as a child. My Dad lived out his call, as did my grandparents. There were models.”

Hill’s grandparents were members of Sturgis United Methodist Church. When the family moved from Lemmon, South Dakota to Sturgis, it was like coming home.

Memories of seeing her Dad live out his call are vivid for Hill. “My Dad was a lay speaker. There were many times that I would go with him when he was asked to lead worship. He would preach, and I would play the piano. We were a team.”

After attending college and marrying, Hill returned to Sturgis as an English teacher for 40 years. She shared her love for Jesus by intertwining her gifts as a teacher with nurturing and leading in various ways at Sturgis UMC: teaching Sunday School, assisting with Vacation Bible School, coordinating and leading camping experiences, bringing kids to camp. She has shared her musical gifts by being in the choir, participating in instrumental opportunities that come along. She leads others in faith by serving on every committee possible—finance, trustees, administrative council, and now the leadership team.

The power of connection has strengthened her call and the desire to invite others to live out their call.

“When I grew up, everyone went to church. It was just part of our lives. It was natural to explore your gifts from God and to look for ways to live out your call to live a life with Jesus. The idea that church, and leading with God is a natural fit is gone,” says Hill. “We have to go out and share the possibilities of what being part of The United Methodist Church and connecting with God means. People need to be invited. “

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Myrna Hill addresses the 2019 Annual Conference.

In 2016, Mryna Hill was invited to serve beyond Sturgis UMC. Director of Leadership Development for the Dakotas Conference, Deb Kjerstad, who Hill had as a Sunday School student at Sturgis UMC, invited Myrna to consider serving as a co-lay leader for the Dakotas Conference.

“Deb said that I had the passion and gifts for the work,” says Hill. “I love Deb and thought if she thinks I can do it, I will give it a try.”

Hill was elected at the 2016 Dakotas Annual Conference and this her fourth year of serving as the Dakotas Conference Co-Lay Leader. In that role, she serves as a member of the extended cabinet, Committee on Episcopacy, nomination, Common Table, coordinates lay speaking training, and Breakthrough Prayer training.

“I was very ignorant about what happens at the conference level when I was elected,” she says. “I expected that I would be in the background and attend a few meetings. I had no idea that I would be asked to speak at the annual conference, charge conferences, connect with all of the leadership, including the bishop, and staff of the Dakotas Conference. I have gained more than I have given.”

Hill states that United Methodist connections, beyond Sturgis UMC are powerful in her walk with Jesus. “My faith has been impacted by all of the ways God connects us across the Dakotas,” says Hill.

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Myrna Hill (far right) and Davis Anderson, Myrna's nephew discuss during a workshop.

She shares the example of a connection that involves her nephew, Davis Anderson, who is a sophomore at Dakota Wesleyan University. Davis is a member of First United Methodist Church in Pierre, South Dakota, and has a scholarship for music at DWU. Davis began his journey in music in the bell choir at First UMC. He was invited to the bell choir by Karen Grinager, the wife of Rev. Howard Grinager, who served at Pierre, and the mother of Rev. Rebecca Trefz, who serves Dakotas Conference as the director of ministry. Today Hill serves on committees, with both Grinanger and Trefz.

“The connection is so strong and deepens my passion and faith. Today, I sit in meetings with Rebecca and Howard. I see my nephew becoming an accomplished young man. This is something only God can do,” says Hill.

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Myrna Hill, far right reads liturgy during the Celebration of Life in Ministry Service at Legacy UMC.

The United Methodist Church is experiencing tension around the Church’s position on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage. Hill sees the current situation as a divisive time.

“Whatever happens is not a deal-breaker for me. I might disagree with someone’s view or opinion, but that doesn’t change my love for God and all people,” she says. “I wish we could get past the divisions, the fighting. To leave the church because you have a difference of opinion is unknown in Methodism. It is disheartening.”

Living out her call through the position of Co-Lay Leader for the Dakotas Conference is a blessing for Hill. “It has been a great experience. I see the strengths of the leadership of the conference. They are wonderful examples of leading with Jesus’ love and grace,” says Hill. “It is a learning experience. I have felt the presence of Jesus Christ guiding me. That brings joy to my life.”


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