Partners In Ministry

The Partners in Ministry Fall Event was held at the Airport Holiday Inn, Des Moines, IA on
October 16-17, 2015

Purpose: To encourage couples who wish to strengthen their partnerships in ministry and marriage. The primary concern is to offer a revival to our clergy families to be spiritually encouraged. Recognizing in ministry and marriage there is a personal commitment to the Lord our God, our congregations, to our spouse, to our families, to our friends and to our self-care. The Partners in Ministry event seeks to enrich each individuals personal commitment to what he or she, clergy and lay has to offer others is ministry and marriage as leaders, partners and children of God.

Keynote Speakers: Bishop Alfred Norris and Dr. Mackie Norris

September 2011, 50th anniversary celebration

Bishop Alfred Lloyd Norris, Sr.
Bishop Alfred L. Norris, Sr. (retired) expansive ministry extends tirelessly in the global church for over five decades in ministry and mission. Distinguished as a prophetic preacher, a dedicated mentor, an astute administrator, and a visionary leader many notably recognize Bishop Norris as “a preacher’s preacher.” Most important is to let it be known that Alfred L. Norris, Senior is a dedicated child of the Church.

Mackie L. Harper Norris, PhD, MN, RN
Dr. Mackie L. Harper Norris truly has her head and her heart focused on the church and her hands on the pulse of the clergy family. Dr. Norris’ esteemed career begins as a registered professional nurse with experience in education, administration, practice, research and evaluation with a “divine calling” to health and wholeness.

The Norris’ reside in Jonesboro, Georgia and are the loving parents of two and the grandparents of four. 
The Norris’ celebrate 54 years of marriage and ministry.

September 9, 1961

This event is designed to inspire, equip and encourage partners in ministry and marriage through connecting and community.
Meet others, share ideas, be inspired, develop language and learn from our dynamic keynote speaker as well as from one another. 


Love Notes

Be Generous to Those you Love

By: Rev. Kirk Seagren

“You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure, for God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They give generously to those in need.” — 2 Corinthians 9:7-11a

My wife Lilian and I live out in our marriage the following saying, “You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving.” If you say that you love someone and refuse to give to them what they need and you have the means to do so, you do not truly love the person that you say you love. 

God loves us so much He gives us everything, His Son Jesus, eternal life, what we have and most importantly those that we love.  He does this not because He has to but because He love us and that is why He gives. Because He gives what we should give. 

A simple example, I love to eat beef. When we eat beef Lilian gives me the bigger steak. Lilian loves fish. So when we eat fish I give her the bigger fish. We do this not because we have to but because we love each other. We do this cheerfully. God gave Lilian to me and He gave me to her. He did this because He loves us. So we show our gratitude to God by being nice to each and by making sure we both have what we need. Sometimes more than what we need. So be generous to those you love.

The Journey is Not Easy but…

By: Rev. Dr. Eric Z. Sayonkon

 "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus".  Philippians 1:3-6

The journey to commit into marriage is not easy. It is challenging in every way and in the same way as life’s journey. However, the blanket of God’s love and grace allows me to commit my heart’s desire to God and to my wife Eboni because of love and encouragement.

Part of my journey was to seek my parents and mentor counsel and support. I remembered when I shared with my dad on the phone in Liberia, he encouraged me to continue to pray and he said to fall in love is good and rewarding. My parents were millions of miles away from me, yet they were happy for Eboni and I. They kept encouraging me to commit all to God because the journey isn’t easy. 

Indeed, I am thankful for my parents. I am thankful for my wife of ten years. The journey isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. Family life isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy but I’ve learned to trust in the goodness of God in every way. The beauty of the journey is that God is with us and I am happy I found my soulmate to love and cherish in tough times and good times. It has been a joy to fall in love and be in love because we have ways to encourage each other. I am reminded of the beautiful poem from 1 Corinthians 13 which was read during our wedding.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects always trusts, always hopes, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongue, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away”. I am looking forward to the partners in ministry event in the fall for marriage is a gift of God.

Let’s Find You a Verse

By: Mrs. Beth Carlson

Proverbs 24:3 (NIV)

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;


What does it say about us that we can’t agree on a Bible verse?  These were the words that Ron and I were digesting one evening about 18 years ago after our devotional that we had been sharing for the past month.  The author had challenged the reader to pick a verse that could be your family/couple verse.  A verse that represented your thoughts, beliefs, and family.  This is just too hard, I had commented and closed the book.  Ron agreed and we both felt so drained.  We had spent over and hour trudging through the Bible looking for a verse.  None of them fit us.

As you read this I’m sure you can see many errors in judgment and have many thoughts about how we handled this process.  I’m having them just writing this article, but it was a real time in our life.  It was before Ron had any thoughts of seminary or either of us had ministry opportunities.  It was quite frankly right after a time in our lives that we had been ready to call the marriage quits.  This was our reality.  So, when I look at our family and see where we started and how far we have come.  I can’t help but smile!  We have been blessed.

Where are you at in your marriage and ministries?  Better yet, how are you growing in your marriage and ministries?  

Because it isn’t easy.

I sat in a room full of women that I knew little about a year ago and they were asked, “what are some issues you have with your marriage and ministries?”  They agreed on words like “communication” and “boundaries.”  The group got excited and was ready to share their thoughts and feelings.  That is exactly what God wants us to do, help each other.  It says in Hebrews 10:24-25  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Can this be the guidance we need when we consider our marriages and ministries?  We are to lean on and encourage each other?

This is what Ron and I found out eighteen years ago.  That after much prayer and lifting up from other people that when we came back to that devotion a month later.  Our verse was right there where it had always been.  We were now able to see this wonderful verse and pull strength from it.  Our marriage and ministries are continuing to thrive due to the community around us. 

Our family has learned to lean not just on one another and God through all things, but to look for those that have the experience and insight to inspire us.   I hope that as a community of God we can learn to lift up each other in our marriages and ministries.

True Equal Partners

By: Rev. Mara Bailey

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
   as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
   passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
   a raging flame. 
Many waters cannot quench love,
   neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
   all the wealth of one’s house,
   it would be utterly scorned. 

    -Song of Solomon 8:6-8a

One of the verses read at our wedding was from this portion of the Song of Solomon.  Yes, we were young (recently graduated from college), and yes, we were in love (that idealistic love so present on a wedding day).  But I believe we chose this verse because it spoke not just to our current emotions.  It also spoke to our understanding of how an active love would be a necessary foundation for what was to come.  In just under two months, we would pack up our few belongings and drive 800 miles to Dallas, TX to begin our journey as seminarians together.  

As I reflect upon the last 9 years of marriage, I realize that it is through our embodiment of this type of love—a love that protects, a love filled with passion, a flame that cannot be quenched, a love worth more than any dollar amount—that has helped to ground us and bring us back to center, particularly in challenging times.  Whether it was financial questions, or considerations to start a family, or actively discerning God’s call for our ministry, we were nothing without this type of love.  But this kind of love is not realized just by saying “I love you”.  It is by realizing that we are true, equal partners in marriage and in ministry, and committing to work on that.  As a “clergy couple”, both ordained and employed in full time ministry, it has been essential to remind ourselves at times of the commitment we made to one another before God, to have this passionate love for one another.  

I am looking forward to the Partners in Ministry event because it will be one more place and space for Jon and I to re-focus our marriage.  We’ll be given the chance to consider the commitments we’ve made to one another, in our marriage and in our ministries.  And we’ll have the chance to do this in space that’s been set aside for this sole purpose—a rare treat not to include the things that sometimes distract us from this work.  May God bless all who are preparing to participate in this event! 


BFFs in Marriage

By: Theresa Morgan

When my oldest daughter got her first cell phone I saw in one of her text messages "BFF." I asked her what it meant and she said, "Best Friends Forever."  I told her, "that's what daddy is to me, my best friend forever."  The most important thing to me was to have married my best friend and that is what I did.  

My best friend and I confide in each other. We are loyal to each other and we trust each other completely. That's why as we hang out with each other and do things with each other all these things continue to grow. This makes us closer friends and I don't want anything to ever come between me and my best friend.  

Mike and I decided early in our marriage to never talk about divorce.  Like every friendship there are great times and there are difficult times so we enjoy some and work through the rest, because that's what good friends do.  

Taking the topic of divorce off the table when times were tough naturally led to more positive behavior and thoughts.  It strengthens our bond, encourages us to find loving solutions and grows our friendship.  This is what we believe is God's will for our marriage.

We don't have all the answers and we work at growing our marriage daily and we think that the Partners in Ministry retreat this October will be a fun and productive way for us to grow.

Hope you will join us.


God Kept Us Together

By: Rev. Mike Morgan

She was dating the reigning “Mr. Iowa” and I was a Mr. who lived in Iowa. Our eyes met, for a moment, the room became silent, and the world seemed to stop…. Then her boyfriend said; “Ok Theresa, let’s go” and out on their date they went.

A month later, she was with some of her girlfriends when we met again. This time the opportunity allowed for a conversation. I went fishing. “Are you still dating Tom?” “Nope, that really didn’t work.” (Internally I thought, Oh yeah…) as I said “sorry about that” all the while thinking she’s cute, nice and won’t be available long. A plan was needed – immediately!

The next night I arranged for one of her girlfriends to get her in the same room with me. Apparently they had been (thankfully) talking me up and when I asked her out, she said acquiesced. Didn’t take long until we figured we were pretty deeply in love. Then the problem arose. It wasn’t that I was Protestant and she was Catholic, it wasn’t that she was Hispanic and I was Caucasian, no, the problem was, I was a second semester senior intent on attending seminary 800 miles from Mount Pleasant.

Because I wanted to focus entirely on seminary and developing a ministry, the next four years became an exercise in how to grow a relationship via long distance phone calls, letters in the US Mail (remember them) and fast trips on planes, trains and automobiles.  Thankfully God kept us together while physically far apart and in August of 1985 Theresa and I were married.

The love and faithfulness to each other that was born then and there remains red hot through today. Like then, it takes significant effort to have a wonderful and love filled marriage. We make time to pray, have a weekly date night, take vacations, have fun and communicate significant and not so significant stuff every single day. We make time to grow our relationship or we know given the realities of our lives, ministries, jobs etc. our relationship will collapse like some around us have.

We feel that the Partners in Ministry event this October will be a wonderful asset to our marriage and we unapologetically “evangelize” you as a prospect to come and be blessed by it. It will cost a few bucks, no doubt, but it will be of great value to you both. Hope you come and join us – it will be a fun and blessed time.


Adopt the Attitude 

By: Rev. Ronald Carlson

Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.” Even though I did not realize it almost twenty years ago, this passage has been the bedrock on which our marriage has survived, thrived and grown over those years. While these words are important for any relationship they were/are vital in our blended family.

    People laugh when Beth and I tell them that we fell asleep on our wedding night to the noises and giggles that 3 preteen boys will produce when they are in the same room. When we were married we came with an instant family. Our boys were 5, 8 and ten; and the first “family” event we celebrated after our wedding was a six year old birthday party the next day! From the beginning the boys were “ours.” Even though they all had other parent(s) and we didn’t ask the boys to call us Mom or Dad, we did see the entire group as “ours.” That is not to say there were no ups and downs, but it is to say we knew we were on a journey together. We planned on being a family before we ever were a family.

    Beth and I have been blessed by their love from the beginning and our blessings multiplied when we welcomed our daughter a little over a year later. The boys were my “best men” when we got married. To this day I have received no greater compliment than when someone tells me that Ben or Michael looks or acts like me, in our family we call that “jumping genes.” They are a part of who we are, and we are a part of who they have become. God has and continues to bless our family.

    None of this would be possible without avoiding doing things “for selfish purposes.” In any marriage, and especially in a blended family, it is extremely important to act with humility watching out for what is best for others. When we worry first about what and how we feel, it is a pretty good sign that we are risking danger in our relationships. Marriage is hard work, statistics show one in two will fail; blended families are even harder with 2 in 3 failing. The only way that I can see it working is by drawing you and your family closer to Christ, so that you can more easily imitate his attitude.

    There are many opportunities in our lives to practice the give and take that is necessary for a successful partnership. I understand much of Jesus’ teaching to focus on our love for others. As we show and practice the love that Jesus first showed to us, we will grow in love for each other and Jesus. 

    What do you do in your marital relationship that helps you “adopt the attitude that was in Jesus Christ?” How can you mutually hold each other accountable in your attitudes?

Outburst of Love

By: Lilian Gallo Seagren

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “…be filled with the Spirit in the following ways:  speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.” Ephesians 5:18b-21

For the last 25 years in the Gallo Seagren home, we treasure the moments of spontaneous outbursts of love, thanksgiving, joy, and hope.  Sometimes the spontaneous outbursts come from me.  Often times from my husband, Kirk.  

When our children with us, our Jane Anne would also burst into singing her own songs, Kirk and I would join her in her pop music or contemporary or country songs or Gospel songs.  There has always been a song, a hymn, in every circumstance. 

The spontaneous outbursts come on our drive back and forth to a psychotherapy session when silence is often broken by the singing of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  The spontaneous outburst of joy on our way home from an ice cream treat following a chiropractic treatment is “Victory in Jesus.”  After a great dinner, it is not unusual to sing as dishes are brought from the table to the sink, “I Serve a Risen Savior.”  When all checks are written and bills are sealed and stamped, sighs are followed with the spontaneous outbursts come “How Great Thou Art” and or “El Shaddai.”  Coming home from difficult meetings, bursting into singing “The Church’s One Foundation” is a normal moment of love.  I always know when Kirk is being gifted with a pain-free day as he is singing “Majesty” and/or “Trust and Obey.”  The Spirit fills our silence, tears, pain, hope, victory, healing, love, joy, and gratitude with music in faithful and powerful ways.  We respond without restraint!

Our marriage is one of the best places where the practice of living in the present moment with the Spirit invites us to spontaneous outbursts of love, hope, joy, and gratitude.  God has gifted me with a lifetime partner who is always unrestrained to live and give in the present.  While I am the one who is more likely to say, “In the near future, we will do such and such,” he invites me often to think about living love, joy, and gratitude now.  As partners in ministry, we continue to weave together into our lives differing perspectives with our songs and hymns.  “God of grace and God of glory . . . grant us wisdom; grant us courage, for the facing of this hour . . . .”

For 25 years at the Gallo Seagren home, the Spirit has filled our lives with music!  


Did you know that Lilian & Kirk are a clergy couple who met at as classmates at Garrett Theological Seminary?

Couples who wish to strengthen their partnerships in ministry and marriage

Our Primary Concern…Giving Thanks

By: Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble

Primary Concern in encouragement for all who are in ministry and marriage is a personal commitment is to give thanks during every season of life for those We can encourage in the Lord and for those that encourage Us in the Lord.

The friendship with my wife started on the dance floor in the fall of 1973, at Illinois State University. As a fraternity man ready to impress this particular college freshman, Racelder, with an invitation to dance my primary concern changed quickly as I wanted to know more about her after the dance. I asked for her address so as to write her--as three cent stamps were less likely to break by budget. As this was also before the advent of cell phones, Facebook, skype, email, etc., my primary concern as a student from a different college campus was clear--connect with this ingénue. From my college campus to hers many cards and letters were written, dating began… As I look back over these 40+ years our families are connected, we have three wonderful children, I recommitted my life to Christ and to The Church…and I see how blessed I am.

The years go by, but God is always placing people to bless you along the way. In 1979, it was my new bride who encouraged me to talk to my pastor, Dr. John Porter about going to seminary. In our first full-time appointment, at Emmanuel UMC in North Chicago, Illinois we meet Mr. Bill Russell (an MVP in my life; a most valuable person). Mr. Russell was a retired nurse who served in the military who joined the congregation in my second year.

Mr. Russell as our MVP encouraged the pastoral family in numerous ways. He knew I needed a break; he took me fishing. As a volunteer in the church’s food pantry, Mr. Russell never allowed my mother-in-law or other women volunteers to do heavy lifting. Mr. Russell gladly drove my wife to her doctors’ visits during the pregnancy of our last two children when I was unavailable. In his garden, he grew tomatoes, beans, apples and he blessed us with his bounty.

Mr. Russell provided encouragement and words wisdom always at just the right time. At my 30th birthday celebration, Mr. Russell offered his sage wisdom to say, “You are not really grown, as in a real adult, until age 40.” “Whew!” we said, as we both felt so young still. Mr. Russell went on to say, “You still have time for mistakes in life and to trust that life gets even better." Mr. Russell succeeded in reminding me and my wife to give thanks for every stage in life and to give thanks for the people God blesses you with.

Wherever we have been--in every state, in every community and in every church assignment and appointment--God has been faithful. Our primary commitment is to give thanks for our partnerships in the ministry of encouragement. God always sends the people you need and people you need to bless and the people you need to be a blessing to you. I thank God for the most valuable persons in my life—with 36 years of marriage to my college sweetheart and for blessed good folks like Bill Russell.  God is faithful.

Who are the MVP's in your life?

"Give thanks to The Lord because he is good because his faithful love last forever" (Psalm 118:1