Allie Jones

grad students pose near store doors with toys and games

Allie Jones (left) joins the Grad Study to buy Toys for Tots in 2014.

I came to Wesley looking for a place to belong outside of my academic department at the U of I. I was craving the kind of connection you feel when you’re part of a worshipping community. I’m getting ready to leave this community in the next few months, since I’ve accepted a job in New Jersey that starts in mid-February. So, I’ve been in a reflective mood whenever I’m not solely focused on all the work there is left to do on my PhD. What I’ve realized is that I came to Wesley looking for a place to belong but am leaving Wesley as  someone who has become much more aware of her gifts and talents, and someone knows how to answer a call to use and strengthen them.

After a few years of regularly attending Wesley I felt ready for the commitment of belonging as an official member. I was searching for deeper involvement in the community and deeper meaning for my life than my career as a graduate student. So, I took Miriam’s spiritual gifts workshop. I already had a good idea of what my gifts were. What I was looking for was how to use them. Miriam encouraged me to join the capitol campaign comittee, where I found a role developing and communicating the 3 pronged mission program (local, national, and international). An opportunity also arose to move into a leadership position of Social Action Ministry which has since become a much more focused group, enabling it to better achieve its mission of being a prophetic voice for social issues. One of the things I’m proudest we were able to accomplish was hosting an open conversation on marriage equality in the United Methodist church last February, a topic that is quite controversional in our conference and denomination. We had outstanding participation from Wesley members and friends, who were able to come together to share their varied opinions in a loving and respectful way, and we were able to inform our annual conference representatives of the current state of opinion at Wesley. All of this happened in the context of our country’s highest court deciding the legality of same sex marriage just a few month’s later.  These leadership opportunities have helped me develop into the person I believe God wants me to become, someone who uses her talents for administration to organize people to achieve social change. It’s a great feeling, as if you’re living in your sweet spot, to use the gifts you have impact the communities you’re a part of, talk about a sense of belonging.