Alumni/ae Spotlight: Jenny Smith

Where are you currently serving? What’s your role there?
I’m currently serving as associate pastor at Saint John United Methodist Church in Anchorage, Alaska. I help with worship leadership, planning, communications, pastoral care, prayer ministries, mission efforts, young adults and other projects as they arise.

What are some significant projects you’ve worked on after graduating from United, and how has your experience at United prepared you for those roles?
I’m participating in the Missional Wisdom Academy under the leadership of Rev. Elaine Heath. It’s a two-year academy that explores how to start missional micro communities. United got me started in church renewal efforts through a class with Dr. Vickers and a class with Mike Slaughter. They opened my eyes to how many local churches are struggling to connect with those outside their walls. The academy is giving me a new mindset and perspective on the body of Christ. I’ve deeply appreciated Dr. Heath’s description of the contemplative and missional life: “Show up, pay attention, cooperate with God and release the outcome.”

What’s your fondest memory of United?
I enjoyed my student work assignment in the IT department and my internship at Stillwater UMC.

How has United shaped where you are today?
A grief class I took with Dr. Emma Justes continues to pay great dividends. I refer to my class notes often when preparing for a memorial service or family visitation. We recently had a suicide in the church family, and I was thankful for my notes on a discussion in class regarding suicide.

Video classes with Jim Eller were a highlight of my time with United. I loved receiving a wide open video prompt and the creative space to see what came together. I continue to use video and other forms of media in ministry. I continue to be amazed at the ability of graphics to help connect people to God. Video and imagery is a crucial part of our worship experiences.

Any advice for current or incoming students? Any advice for incoming students or students thinking about joining United?
I remember thinking United was supposed to prepare me for everything that might happen in ministry. I now understand United gave me the foundation and an ability to think critically for myself. I greatly enjoyed my time at United and am thankful for a concentrated time to study and reflect on God’s call in my life.

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detail from a tapestry of a lamb, flag, and Bible