Mountain Sky Area pastors to be at leadership event in Washington, D.C.

January 23, 2018
Five individuals from the Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church will participate in the General Board of Church & Society's Young Clergy Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. from Jan. 28 to 31. This year, the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) will host about 50 young clergy on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Each United Methodist conference is encouraged to send two young clergy who are currently serving full-time appointments in local United Methodist churches.

The goals of this event are to: 
  • Connect young clergy with the ministry of Church and Society
  • Provide a forum to share knowledge and experience
  • Create bridges for future ministry collaboration
  • Build relationships with other young clergy from across the United Methodist connection
This year’s Young Clergy Leadership Forum will include dialogue sessions with U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black and Shane Claiborne from Red Letter Christians. There will also be a session guided by the Rev. David Billings, author of the award-winning book, Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life.

The young clergy will also spend time with Church & Society’s general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Susan T. Henry-Crowe, and several other Church & Society staff as they consider the critical role the church can play to help build peace and establish justice in a broken and struggling world. The Young Clergy Forum is an annual event hosted by Church & Society; we hope that interested young clergy will consider attending the 2019 gathering scheduled for Jan. 27 to 30.

Meet the participants for the 2018 Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum from the Mountain Sky Area:

Calob Rundell (Rocky Mountain Conference)
Photo of Calob RundellCalob Rundell is the United Methodist pastor that serves in the area of Salida, located in the central mountains of Colorado. He is a veteran of the war in Iraq, a volunteer firefighter, an avid snowboarder, and a self-described SpongeBob-ologist. Currently, Rundell is super stoked about sharing the radically alternative values and way of life that Jesus teaches.

"I am so grateful and so pumped for this opportunity to go to D.C. I am most looking forward to hearing from other participants about what God is doing in their areas of the church to advance the cause of justice and dignity for all. I'm also pretty stoked for the opportunity to hear Shane Claiborne speak."

Sarah Merchant (Rocky Mountain Conference)
Photo of Sarah MerchantSarah Merchant and her family live in the Boulder Valley area where she serves alongside the people of Mountain View United Methodist Church. She enjoys adventures at the park with her young daughter, running along the trails, and attending concerts and musical theater productions with her husband when he’s not manning the keyboard in the pit. As a Rocky Mountain girl, born and raised, she is ever grateful for the sunny skies and inspiration to learn and explore in her faith and relationships with neighbors.

"On any given Tuesday, I could be engaged in multiple expressions of ministry with hospital visits, meetings, conversations with staff and church leadership, and Sunday morning prep. That’s what goes on the Google Calendar. The jokes shared across the office, impromptu chats, or the unexpected visits from my family also fill in the day. Both planned and unplanned moments make this a Tuesday, just the day that the Lord has made. And yet such days are necessarily captured in a fuller, bigger picture of time and place. Such is the hope and beautiful possibility of the Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum 2018. I look forward to gathering with colleagues to explore the bigger picture of ministry from the Capitol to the United Nations, through justice enterprises and ministry to neighbors, all the while sharing stories of our 'Tuesdays.' The gifts of these conferences are the conversations with colleagues about the joys and struggles in the daily work of ministry while also stimulating our imaginations to consider generative ways of holding and responding to larger human realities together and within this daily work."

Melissa Engel (Yellowstone Conference)
Photo of Melissa EngelThe Rev. Melissa Engel is an ordained elder serving the people of Butte, Montana with Butte Aldersgate United Methodist Church. She loves living and adventuring with her spouse, Michael, her one-year-old, Sophia, and their three pets, Voldi, Sunshine and Professor. Engel will be representing the Yellowstone Annual Conference at this event.

"I am looking forward to connecting and working with other young clergy in one of the most charged places in our nation right now. I love that one of our general agencies of the UMC sits on Capitol Hill and I look forward to being there with the General Board of Church & Society and energetic, justice-oriented, Jesus-centered people. My hope is that my hope and faith are renewed through contemplative action as I participate in this event. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to go!"

Zach Bechtold (Yellowstone Conference)
Photo of Zach BechtoldZach Bechtold is the pastor at Brady, Choteau, and Dutton United Methodist churches in the Northern Plains of Montana. Hearing God’s call, Bechtold along with his wife Mikel, their three kids Zoe, Noah and Ryann moved to Montana at the end of last summer from New Mexico. He and Mikel grew up in the panhandle of Texas, where we married 12 years ago and began our life together. He is currently working on his Master's of Divinity at the Iliff School of Theology through their Journey Program.  

"It is an honor and pleasure to be considered to attend the General Board of Church and Society Young Clergy Event. I look forward to representing each of you at the conference and meeting with other United Methodist clergy from across the country. I believe being connectional not only in our conference, but across the denomination is vital to the church being able to reach into our local communities and make a true difference. Not one of our cities, churches, ministries, and the needs that reside within them are the same and my hope is to learn more about how we can effectively advocate in our local contexts."

Daniel Viehland (Yellowstone Conference)
Photo of Daniel ViehlandDaniel Viehland was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, but fell in love with Montana while attending the University of Montana for his undergraduate degree. He is currently a Master's of Divinity student at Wesley Theological Seminary, with the hope of becoming a pastor in Montana after he graduates this May. 

"During the Young Clergy Conference I hope to learn more about how The United Methodist Church seeks to fulfill the Church's mission of transforming the world. I also hope to connect with more United Methodists who are currently serving in a church and are passionate about the biblical call for justice."