Preparing for ministry…in the Holy Land
Julie Tonnesen, a second-year seminary student at Duke University Divinity School, was recently preparing for the trip of a lifetime; a trip to the Holy Land. “I am excited to explore the places I’ve read about, and to interact with people who occupy and live in those spaces today. My grandfather is a Lutheran pastor, and his advice was for me to go right away,” she said.
Tonnesen (daughter of NC Synod Assistant to the Bishop Pastor Phil Tonnesen and his wife, Debbie) along with five other of the NC Synod’s candidates for ministry in the ELCA had the opportunity to travel this past January to the Holy Land for a cultural immersion and transformational visit to biblical and historical sites from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith traditions. Julie’s traveling companions (and fellow candidates for ministry in the ELCA) were Cassie Overcash, Ethan Overcash, Shea Berbaum, Maggie Edwards, and Josh Parris plus 39 other folks from across the synod, including Bishop Tim Smith. For the better part of two weeks, this group of pilgrims worshipped, learned, prayed, shared, and ate together much like the disciples of the early church. The group experienced so much in their two week trip; everyone returned “grateful, hopeful, and tired.”
They visited an olive wood factory and the Church of the Nativity above the cave where Jesus was born in Bethlehem; they dined with Palestinian Christian families. They explored the Judean hill country, the road to Jericho, and the shepherd’s fields. These sojourners sat on the “teaching steps” where Jesus first met Simeon and Anna. They remembered their baptisms as they waded in the waters of the Jordan River; they sailed across the Sea of Galilee and enjoyed a fish dinner similar to what the first disciples might have eaten. These adventurous seminarians floated in the Dead Sea, trekked through tunnels (both wet and dry) from King David’s palace into the Old City, and so much more. After affirming their baptisms beside the Jordan River, Cassie Overcash shared, “Today I am thankful for water whether it helps a tree to grow in the desert or is a deep river, our water is a glorious and great gift from God!”
What an amazing opportunity for those candidates for ministry to walk where Jesus walked and have the stories of our faith brought to life so vividly! Just imagine how this trip will influence, challenge, and enliven the teaching, preaching, and leading in their ministries. Julie agreed. “I’m grateful for this opportunity and for the assistance from the NC Synod. I know this trip will inform my ministry,” she said. Quickly, it was time to go back to the realities of seminary life. “We are home and so tired. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to share my journey with all of you who want to hear more. But first it’s time to rest—the semester starts tomorrow,” shared Ethan Overcash.
This opportunity was partially made possible by your Mission Support dollars as the NC Synod was able to provide $1,561 per candidate to attend the trip. We are delighted that we are able to partner in the formation of future church leaders in this way.
The NC Synod currently has 48 candidates in the candidacy process—the process by which seminary students are approved for ministry in the ELCA. Thanks to your Mission Support, we are able to support each candidate with a $4,000 grant to assist with their education expenses each year. As you know, our church is looking at ways to help lower the amount of student debt incurred when preparing to be a rostered minister in the church as well as to increase the number of candidates for ministry. One of the ways we are church together is by sharing in the cost to prepare our leaders and help them to have transformational experiences that will impact their ministry for years to come.