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7/18/2013 Methodist Church pastor obtains formal ordination

 

In June of this year, Deborah Christine, pastor of the Methodist Church, completed a personal and professional 12-year journey: she was ordained as an Elder of the church. Sitting in her office decorated with Western paraphernalia, papers scattered on her desk and a bookcase full of theological tomes, Christine described the long process that brought her to Westcliffe and her ordination.

Moving to the Valley two years ago, Christine had already invested ten years to becoming a fully-fledged minister. Before her journey began, she had received an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona at Tempe and a Masters at the University of Arizona in Tucson in art education. Teaching art, Christine decided to change course and began her voyage into serving as a pastor.

"I spent seven years going through certification," Christine explains. "To do this, I engaged in three different studies with three different people. That study involved a three-step process in which I became an Inquiring Candidate, then a Declared Candidate and eventually Certified."

Finishing that course of study, Christine searched for a seminary to attend to receive her Masters in Divinity or MDIV. She ended up in Iliff School of theology in Denver. "I selected it since theologically it matched what I wanted to study," Christine says. "Its program focused on peace, justice and inclusion." Not only does the seminary’s mission statement define its goals of "academic leadership" and "the cultivation of justice and peace in local and global contexts," but it includes a list of values it embraces, diversity, mutual respect, accountability, honest communication, critical self-reflection, curiosity, creativity and a sense of adventure.

Certainly Christine displays those values, especially in her sense of adventure in deciding to come to Westcliffe, a small town far from her roots in Arizona and her school in Denver. She prepared well for a Valley ministry. As a seminary student, which involved three years of full-time study, she served through an intern-type position, in a church in Evans, Colo. After graduation, she served unofficially at the Crosspoints Ministry in Denver before she applied to be a Provisional Elder in the church.

That application brought her to the Valley; when the Rocky Mountain Conference offered her the post in Westcliffe, she had 24-hours to make a decision. "I looked at the town on the internet," she says, "and the area, with its mountains, appealed to me." She jumped at the offer and made the move.

To become an Ordained Elder, Christine had to, every year, write a 30 to 40 page thesis, twice a year for two years meet with the Board of Ordained Ministry and attend several Residence in Ministry retreats. Having done all this, in June 2013 Christine was ordained as an Elder in Full Connection.

In her two years in the Valley, Christine, a tall and striking woman, has become a visible presence in the community. This week, for instance, she was the superintendent for the 4-H horse show at the county fair. Christine has an equine, a 23-year-old Quarter Horse named Skeeter. The horse is the same age as her kids, one set of fraternal twins. Her son, Matt, lives in Boston and owns/operates a non-profit recording studio and her daughter, Kate, is a graduate student in the Equine Science program at Texas Tech. Christine is often seen with her large, yellow lab, Phoebe, who napped in the office while Christine described her role as a pastor.

Overseeing a congregation of 115 people, Christine defines her vision for the church, "The ministry in Westcliffe is welcoming, open, friendly and healthy," she says. "We are in the process of taking a year to decide, for us, what is God’s greatest good for this community. It can’t be me saying ‘this is God’s greatest good,’ but me asking the congregation, what do you want to do and how can I facilitate it?"

As an Elder, Christine has taken a vow to be an itinerant preacher. In this regard, she follows in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, an Irish immigrant named Anthony McCarney. She points to a framed, hand-written document on the wall. "Those are my great-grandfather’s ordination papers from 1856," she says. "He was a circuit-riding minister in Kansas for the United Brethren."

At the end of the interview, Christine shows off her collection of colorful stoles that she wears when conducting church service, including a rainbow-hued one she wore for her ordination. "The Methodist church is ‘methodical,’ or highly structured," she says. "But it’s also an incredible church of change, and I love being a part of it."

– Cyn Williams

 
 
 
 
 
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