Jennifer Macy heard her calling early in life. And now, thanks to the Fund for Theological Education, she is preparing to magnify her mission to serve teenagers in urban churches in Massachusetts.
"A lot of these kids don't have the support that suburban kids have within their families, school systems and extracurricular activities," says Macy, who attended the Congregational Leadership Intensive for FTE Ministry Fellows in May and is one of 20 students – including nine from the UCC – to receive a $10,000 educational fellowship. "There is a real opportunity to step up because of the sheer number of kids in need."
An M.Div. student entering her second year at Andover Newton Theological School, Macy has worked the past four years in family ministries at Christ Church United UCC in Lowell, Mass. "It's a very urban, multicultural church," says Macy, a 23-year-old from Beverly, Mass. "My first year in seminary and my time at CCU have challenged me in a way that has helped me know that this is where I need to be."
In her application for the fellowship, Macy wrote, "My call to ministry is a part of my soul I know very well, and this part has often has been the only constant in a life that has taken many unexpected twists and turns. From the tragedy of being diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease (at age 17) and being confined to a wheelchair (at 18), to the beautiful surprise of finding my calling at CCU, my peace comes from God and God's ability to create beauty and miracles in any situation."
Macy's main motivation stems from watching too many teens slip through the cracks at too many churches. "As these kids go from age 12 up to 18, a lot of churches just stop serving them – especially the urban churches. We need to help them graduate. It's kind of soul-forming for them."
Beginning in September for one year, Macy's self-assigned project will be to research and evaluate how well select urban congregations in Massachusetts serve teens – especially the at-risk population, which includes the less affluent and more likely to be victimized by unwanted pregnancy, drug use, school dropout and gang activity.
At the end of the year, Macy plans to focus on creating a retreat program to discuss methods in which urban ministry leadership can be strengthened and sustained. "I hope to involve about 12 teen leaders who will participate and then go back out into congregations and make ministry more effective."
In addition to Macy, this year's UCC FTE Fellows are Undergraduate Fellows Lucia R. Hulsether, Agnes Scott College; Jake M. Joseph, Grinnell College; Cody W. Long, Temple University; Eric J. Ogi, University of Wisconsin. Erica E. Kierulf (Union Theological Seminary and PSCE) and Christophe D. Ringer (Vanderbilt University) have earned North American Doctoral Fellowships, while Marlene Q. Underwood (Drew University) was named Doctoral Renewal Fellow, and John C. Allen (Union Theological Seminary), a Congregational Fellow.
An ecumenical advocate for excellence and diversity in pastoral ministry and theological scholarship, FTE awards the fellowships annually. Nearly 150 undergraduate, seminary and doctoral students from the U.S. and Canada – representing 34 Christian denominations – will receive $1.5 million this year in fellowships and support to prepare for vocations in ministry and teaching.
More than 90 percent of FTE Ministry Program Fellows since 1998 serve today in congregations or church-related organizations; 79 percent of FTE Doctoral Program Fellows over the past decade now teach at theological schools or universities.
"I'm amazingly impressed with FTE," says Macy. "They have shown a tremendous amount of support, and I am very grateful."
For more information and to see a complete list of 2010 FTE fellowship recipients, visit <fteleaders.org>.