Rev. Melissa Drake
District Superintendent of the Aldersgate District
Growing up as a Southwest Iowa farm kid during the 80’s and the early 90’s, we were told by everyone – our teachers, the governor, our parents – that with our good Iowa education and our farm-kid work ethic, we could grow up to go anywhere and be successful at everything. So, along with most of my generation born out of the farm crisis, I wanted to go anywhere but here; to do anything but this. Seminary took me to Madison, New Jersey, where I was living the urban dream: 20 miles to New York City, working for the largest non-profit feeding program in the state, with fashion, art, music, food, and diverse cultures to my heart’s content. But as I was sent out on Sundays to preach at local churches and share about the non-profit I was working for, I realized that every single sermon I preached somehow turned out to be one of Jesus’ farming parables, including some sort of farming story or knowledge. Good sermons; wrong crowd.
I had the clear conviction from God that I was supposed to love the neighbors I had, instead of the neighbors I always thought I wanted. I moved back to Southwest Iowa.
My ministry as local pastor, as a Field Outreach Minister, working for the Office of Congregational Excellence, and now as a District Superintendent is rooted in this conviction to love the neighbors we actually have as we love God with our whole being. It has been my delight to encourage, equip, cheerlead, and walk alongside congregations as they begin to reach out to the real people living in their neighborhoods - sometimes on the same block of the church! - to begin building new relationships and friendships on purpose. Because, as my first congregation said to me: “how can we love the neighbors we have, if we don’t actually know who they are?”
I believe deeply in God’s mission, which is to always move outward as a blessing to others.
And I believe in a United Methodist Church that daily strives to reflect the fruits of the Spirit that I first learned about in Vacation Bible School: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. The United Methodist Church birthed, baptized, confirmed, called, and continues to shape who I am. I am transformed by the grace present in the sacrament of communion, again and again. I am bound to God and to our Christian community and commitment by our baptismal vows. I am molded by our Wesleyan understanding of Grace.
I am committed to the United Methodist Church. As a District Superintendent, I am a practical theologian: it is my call to equip and encourage and congregations and clergy to do the ministry that God is calling them to do, right where God has placed them, for just this time. This means ministry in each context, community, church and clergy is different – because each place is different – and I delight in and celebrate all the ways that we have found to reach out, to love our neighbors, to be better disciples as we move along towards sanctification.
As I have shared with the conference before, I am a progressive compatabilist/inclusionist: I believe in the sacred worth, belovedness and inclusion of lgbtqi+ kin in all areas of the life of the church. As a compatabilist/inclusionist, this also means that I believe in the sacred worth, belovedness, and inclusion of folks in all areas of the life of the church who do not think or understand the same as me. I treasure and value our connection that has always found a way to do the hard work of living together in community, even as we are different or disagree.
I dream and want to be part of the United Methodist Connection in Iowa that is willing to trust each other to do the ministry we are each called to do - even as it is different: to trust that we have all engaged scripture deeply; to trust that we are connected to the Holy Spirit in our conviction and passion; to be willing to work together, to keep talking to one another, to keep engaging in ministry together for the sake of the mission, so that there is more room at the table, not less.
Read the previous Leading Now personal reflections here.