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Journey to ordination: Melissa’s story

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Rev. Melissa Gall is commissioned as a deacon. Photos by jlynn studio.

Melissa Gall will be ordained a deacon on June 7, 2019, in Bismarck, North Dakota beside five of her clergy colleagues at the Celebration of Life in Ministry Service. The Service will honor retiring clergy, and celebrate newly licensed local pastors, and those being commissioned and ordained. 

Gall has been preparing for this moment since she was in high school when she first felt her call to ministry. "I first felt my call into ministry when I was 16 years old," she says. I was attending Leadership Training Camp (LTC) at Lake Poinsett Camp, and as I sat on the grass of the shore, watching the water, I felt God calling me to a life of servant-leadership.

Before following her call, she focused on her teaching career. Teaching left her feeling like God was calling her to do more. She felt incomplete.

Gall and her family.

She says, At the time I entered the ministry, I was in my sixth year of teaching high school English. I was torn to leave the school to be in ministry full-time, especially because I wasn't unhappy at the school, but felt as though something was 'incomplete' in my life. 

Leaving her full-time teaching job was a leap of faith for Gall. She knew that God was calling her and that she needed to put her trust in Him. Pastor Melissa had to trust that God would take care of the logistics of it all.

Melissa says, Logically, I kept telling myself it was a crazy leap of faith! How could I leave my students? How could I walk away from a tenured position? What would happen if I gave up my teaching job and then realized ministry wasn't for me? Taking a leap of faith meant I had to give up some control and let God show me what God can do!
She has been supported throughout the journey. From the beginning, she has been part of a covenant group. Gall is connecting with new colleagues and friends at Clergy Leadership Academy.  She is also receiving support from clergy she has known her entire life.

Gall says, I can honestly say I have always felt supported. I also have an exceptionally patient and capable husband who has supported me every step of the way. Our two children have been excited and engaged in this journey with me every step of the way, cheering as I finished seminary papers, asking questions that allow me to dig deeper into my faith, and celebrating the love and grace of God in our daily lives. My parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends have all supported this journey and were excited when I decided to answer God's call finally. 

Pastor Melissa will be ordained a deacon in The United Methodist Church on June 7 along with clergy colleagues, Pastors Luke Smith, and Joy Tracy. Deacons are ordained United Methodist clergy who lead the church in relating Christians to their ministries in the world through worship leadership, preaching, teaching, nurturing spiritual vitality and leading ministries of Service, love, and justice. They may work primarily in congregations, or they may work primarily in settings like hospitals, social-service agencies, mission agencies, schools, counseling centers, denominational agencies, and more. Learn more about how deacons serve and lead.

Pastors Nicole Anderson, Juwle Nagbe, and Mark Tracy will be ordained elders. Elders are ordained United Methodist clergy who are ordained to a ministry of Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service. This means elders preach and teach the Word of God, provide pastoral care and counsel, administer the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, and order the life of the church for Service in mission and ministry.

Revs. Melissa Gall (right) and Nicole Anderson receive instructions from Bishop Ough at their commissioning.

The journey to ordination for deacons and elders is similar. Individuals first declare their candidacy through the Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) and complete a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from a United Methodist seminary, or a seminary approved by the Church. After completing all educational requirements, candidates for ordination who wish to become deacons or elders must serve as a provisional member for at least two (2) years. Provisional membership is a program designed by your annual conference. After all requirements are met, provisional members may ask the conference BOM for approval to be ordained.

One of the final preparation steps for ordination is attending a retreat. The Ordinand's Retreat for 2019 recently took place at Lake Poinsett for all candidates in the Dakotas-Minnesota Area.

The Ordinand's Retreat was a wonderful time to gather with others who are at the same stage in their ordination journey, to celebrate together, and to prepare for our futures in ministry as a group, Pastor Melissa says. "It is wonderful to get time with Bishop Ough, to hear his perspective, and to hold discussions about everything from the Celebration of Life in Ministry Service, to what it will be like in our future appointments, to possible ministry situations.

Gall is back to teaching English as her primary appointment and feels right at home.  “I really feel I am in the perfect position for my calling,” she says. “That ‘incomplete’ feeling I had, because I was running from my calling for all those years, is now fulfilled as I get to both teach English and show the love of Christ in everything I do in my daily work.

Everyone is invited to attend the 2019 Annual Conference and Celebration of Life in Ministry Service in Bismarck, North Dakota. The service will take place at Bismarck Legacy UMC beginning at 7 p.m.