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Natalie Buck, future UM Mission Fellow, seeks to grow in love of God and neighbor

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communication, Dakotas UMC

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Natalie Buck prepares for graduation from Candler this May. Photos courtesy of Natalie Buck.

“One of the roles of the pastor beyond sacrament, order, and the word is to have compassion and a sense of solidarity with your neighbors and justice,” says Natalie Buck. She will graduate from the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, this May and will be commissioned as a Mission Fellow in August.

Global Mission Fellows are young adults, ages 20–30, who are committed to working in social justice ministries for two years. They serve outside of their home communities, either in the United States or overseas. This graduate-level fellowship allows participants to address the root causes of oppression and alleviate human suffering alongside community organizations in a variety of issues, including public health (including HIV/AIDS), migration/immigration, education, and poverty.

Buck was led to apply to the program to develop a more profound sense of justice and living in solidarity with others. “In my second year, I started to wonder what mission could be like in the church and why it is considered important. One class that is required at Candler is Mission. The course led me to see that mission is central to the life of the church. Caring for others, and love and justice are what the church is about,” she says.

She will serve in the United States, in Philadelphia, with Arch Street Ministry as part of the US-2 cohort. The US-2 track is for those authorized to work in the United States and who are called to serve in the United States. It is a 24-month service program that includes training, transition into the new affiliate site, and intentional/community living. 

“I am excited to work with people I have not met and be in places I have not been,” Natalie says.
"As soon as I found out I was going to be at Arch Street, I went to Google and did all the digital searches I could. I have interviewed with the leadership team at Arch Street and met the UMC deacon who will be my affiliate supervisor."

While in Philadelphia, Buck will serve as a community organizer at The Center—Philadelphia and as a ministry associate at Arch Street UMC. “The ministry is located in downtown Philadelphia with a focus on immigration, food, and housing insecurity. Arch Street is a justice-seeking congregation with MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action) and a sanctuary church.” 

Even though Buck will be serving in Philadelphia, she remains a member of the Dakotas Conference, keeping in contact with mentors and as a candidate for ministry. Natalie says, “I feel called to serve the church as pastor. Ordination is in my future. One of the roles of the pastor beyond sacrament, order, and the word is to have compassion and a sense of solidarity with your neighbors and justice. I was led to apply to the program to develop a deeper sense of justice and living in solidarity with others.”

The typical process for US-2 mission fellows is commissioning, which will take place on August 28, followed by a two-week orientation as a US-2 cohort, and then starting the assignment—she will head to Philadelphia. All of this may happen virtually, or be adjusted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Natalie will head to Philadelphia in the fall to serve as a US-2 Mission Fellow at Arch Street UMC and The Center—Philadelphia.

With seminary graduation just around the corner, Buck shares that she is grateful for her seminary experience. In the past three years, she sees that her theology has developed and that her spirituality has deepened.

“I have different understandings than when I started,” says Buck. “I am grateful for the peers I have at Candler. It has been a support system that I have been able to develop, and I will continue to reach out to friends and call on them.”

When asked about the impending General Conference and the potential split of the denomination, she wonders how missions could be what is central to the church, central to the identity of the church.

“I have mentors and friends who sit on both sides of the debate,” says Natalie. “I think The United Methodist Church is considering how they love their neighbors best and love their neighbors well. My big questions are, how can we love our neighbors in a particular context? How can we truly love the people we have been called to serve in mission? I love the history and the tradition of this denomination, the larger Wesleyan vision. I have a love for The United Methodist Church and hope for it to continue.”

Another Dakotas Conference member, Lily Jones, is a Global Mission Fellow, was commissioned in July of 2019, to serve in Ireland at the Surf Project. She is a member of Fusion Church.  Read more about her work here


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