Surprising Support, Faithful Following

[The NC Synod's support] solidifies for me that this is where God wants me to be. I feel it all the time.

January 22, 2024 |

Image credit: Rahim Brown

When Rahim Brown was hired as a youth minister at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Fuquay-Varina, NC in 2021, he was finishing up a Master of Divinity degree at St. Paul School of Theology. Rahim had been a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist Church but had left the ordination process in 2015. As he worked in his new position and served among the faithful people of Abiding Presence, he began to discern a call to ministry in the ELCA. True to his Methodist tradition, he felt “a warming in my heart when Abiding Presence welcomed me wholeheartedly even when I was the only African American person there.” Pastor Kim Carlson, the pastor at Abiding Presence, became a trusted mentor, encouraged him in his discernment, and connected him with the NC Synod candidacy coordinator at the time, Pastor Sara Ilderton.

This tug toward Lutheran ministry meant some shifting in the lives of both Rahim and his wife, Cecelia. After some great conversations with Pastor Sara, he understood that since his degree was not from an ELCA seminary, he had some courses to take in Lutheran worship, polity, history, and theology. An extra year of graduate school was going to cost time, energy, and money. They had been counting down the days and dollars until seminary was finished, and now God seemed to be calling them to extend that expensive chapter of their lives.

Learning that the NC Synod provides candidates for ministry with a yearly stipend of $5,000 brought an immediate sense of relief to the Browns. These funds may be used for tuition, books, housing, food, or other expenses like travel, easing the financial burden of saying yes to God’s call to rostered ministry in the ELCA.

Talking through the memories of this discernment process, Rahim said, “Having a church financially support my discernment and study means the NC Synod really supports me in my call. They have my back in very real ways. It solidifies for me that this is where God wants me to be. I feel it all the time.”

When Rahim called Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary to inquire about admissions, tuition costs, and available financial aid, God surprised him once again. They had a streamlined admissions process for “Lutheran Year” students and had significant scholarship funds to offer him.

While Cecelia was working full time, Rahim was working part-time and in seminary full time. “I think the biggest thing for me is understanding the call on your life. It was difficult to watch my wife pay most of the bills, and me not being able to support us was difficult. Seeing God open up the doors for the calling on my life has been a fresh understanding of God’s grace. Cecelia and I were able, as a team, to see that God was opening doors for us. So, working hard is manageable.”

Currently, Rahim is serving his internship year at Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Atlanta, GA. In August, he will complete his year there in time for his approval panel, the final step in the NC Synod candidacy process. Rahim and Cecelia trust God to continue to open the doors they are to step through as they move forward in faith.

When congregations send in their Mission Support dollars, a portion of that money funds stipends like the one Rahim Brown received, as well as financial scholarships at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. If an individual, small group, or congregation feels called to financially support candidates for ministry in our synod, they can give a gift designated to Candidacy. Together, we support the unbroken chain of people who have answered God’s call to public ministry throughout the generations.

Story Attribution:

Pastor Jennifer Shimota for the NC Synod

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