Story by Iliff School of Theology
Front-range student, Samuel Fisher, has felt led for many years to pursue full-time ministry. Attending Iliff has just been the first step on his journey. Sam sat down with us and shared his story, his experience, and his journey through and with Iliff.
Why did you attend Iliff?
What a BIG question. If I’m being honest, Iliff wasn’t on my list several years ago when I was first looking at theological education. For some reason the nudge to look at Iliff came from one of my best friends and many of my colleagues in Iowa who are in the Journey program. Since starting, I have come to realize that Iliff is probably one of the better choices I have made. The focus on social justice, the diversity in belief both Christian and non-Christian, and the overwhelmingly warm community at Iliff is a testament to decades of focused care on creating and sustaining a powerful institution that equips leaders.
What has surprised you the most about Iliff, both as a school and as a community?
The biggest surprise for me about Iliff is the diversity in experience and belief. I love how we hold personal experiences as part of the journey and honor the spaces people are in. In the culture we live in, it is not common to find places where you can engage authentically with other people.
How have the classes you’ve taken at Iliff shaped the way that you see ministry?
I am a pretty big picture kind of person, and I see every class and person at Iliff as part of the larger puzzle in the work of ministry. I love being United Methodist because of our deep commitment to education and the relationships between our institutions of higher education. I have, for many years now, had a passion for seeing the relationships between Conferences and Colleges strengthen. I believe that the church is better for promoting quality education, and I believe student’s experiences are more rounded with the freedom the church gives our institutions.
Was a degree in theology or ministry always a goal for you?
I have known for many years that I wanted to pursue ministry full-time in the United Methodist Church. With General Conference approaching I have been very hesitant to jump completely into the educational components of my calling, but I know that no matter what happens to the denomination, I love that my degree and my calling will continue to support the work God has called me to do.
What work have you done in the community and in a ministry setting thus far?
My work at the Mountain Sky Conference is part of the work study program that is offered through Financial Aid. My position is somewhat new. My name and resume floated through the office before it landed on the desk of Youngsook C. Kang. Youngsook is the Superintendent of Leadership Development/Director of Connectional Ministry. When we talked on the phone everything, sort of serendipitously, “clicked.” I had served in churches as clergy for four years prior to moving to Denver to start my MDiv. Additionally, I worked in and with the Legacy Nebraska Annual Conference prior to it merging with Kansas East and Kansas West.
I am and have been for several years very passionate about how the UMC’s connectional system provides resources and training to our clergy and laity. There are amazing opportunities for Annual Conferences to equip their pastors and laity to transform this world as disciples of Jesus Christ, but to be honest, I think we often don’t create programs and resources that are comprehensive. We often fail to partner with our own communities and the other groups within our own denomination to build development opportunities that meet the challenging landscape of ministry today.
With my work-study position at Mountain Sky, I am happy to be on a team that is exploring these opportunities!