Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A note from Leah Burns, our newest associate pastor


Dear Members and Friends of Church Street UMC:


Rev. Burns and her godchildren

It is with humility but also with great joy that I take this opportunity to introduce myself to you as the newest member of the Church Street ministry team. I am a licensed local pastor and will be serving as a part-time Associate Pastor with a variety of duties including serving with the Stephen Ministry. In my prior assignments at Haven Chapel UMC and Second UMC, and indeed in all my projects and assignments in the Holston Conference, I have been blessed with tremendous opportunities to serve God’s people in ways that I could never have imagined.


As an only child I was raised in the sheltered and protected environment of Shaker Heights, Ohio, a tree-lined suburb of Cleveland known for its excellent schools and uniquely diverse population. My paternal grandfather and great grandfather were both preachers in the AME Church, so my Wesleyan roots go back generations. My mother and grandmother were very accomplished, strong, faithful ladies in their own right and they raised me to be like them... independent, hard-working, accomplished and able to deal with life. Academic excellence and the importance of education were key values in my family. And my mom also instilled in me a love of music (she studied the piano and organ at Oberlin College) and so I studied the cello and piano for as long as I can remember, it seems.

After spending the first two decades of my life in my home state of Ohio, my college education and career choices have taken me to 5 other states and abroad to two other countries – Wisconsin, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and Tennessee; I lived in Spain and later worked for more than a year in Colombia, South America. I have pursued a career working in Marketing and Management first at AT&T and now for the past 11 years at College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).

At an early age, my Christian faith aroused in me a keen interest and involvement in issues of peace and justice. I worked with inner city children, youth and senior citizens, cooked and served meals for homeless people. Then when I joined First and Summerfield United Methodist Church (FSUMC) in New Haven, CT, the seeds of my being called into the ministry were sown. I found this church to be steeped in the awesome worship traditions of the early Wesleyan Methodism. The congregation was passionate about mission and service to the poor as the embodiment of the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. Membership in this congregation was a life-changing experience for me. The pastor influenced me in profound ways. He displayed special qualities of humility and charity. This was a magnet and showed me how humanity and vulnerability can be excellent vehicles for God’s power. I was hooked.

Since that experience, I have discovered effective ways to be faithful to that call. It has not been an easy path nor has it been a very direct route. Throughout my journey, the Word of God has been my life’s anchor...the most important sustaining and nurturing force. I have felt the security of the Word throughout my life...especially in those times when I experience a little shaking in my shoes from the uncertainty and paradox of life. I know that the journey that began in my childhood is an ever-unfolding reality. Only God can call a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of person like me and raise her up to be a voice in the church. I know unequivocally that God is inclusive, and opens doors and makes ways for lives like mine that are surrendered to God.

I have always been a trail blazer my entire life, but lately and more appropriately, I have come to think of myself as traveling the trails that God blazes for me. And now the trail brings me to this wonderful community of Church Street United Methodist Church! It is with excitement and some anxiety that I present myself to you. I know that God has even greater things in store for us all. I only ask that we open our hearts together to the Holy Spirit so that we may know His will and follow Him with generous hearts.

-Rev. Leah Burns 

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