Love is an action: Maple United Methodist Church pastor talks about life in ministry

Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Rev. Bryan Schaefer is pastor of Maple United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Southeast Missourian

The Rev. Bryan Schaefer is relatively new to Maple United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. A Sikeston Senior High School graduate. Schaefer was appointed earlier this year to the church after serving in other Missouri Methodist churches.

In today's Ministry Focus, Schaefer shares about life in ministry and ways people can serve the community through Maple Church.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I was born and raised in Sikeston, Mo., where I graduated from Sikeston Senior High. I attended college at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I graduated with my degree in religious studies. It was during my college years that I received the call to ministry, or more accurately finally listened to and accepted it.

After graduating from Mizzou I went to seminary at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves and graduated from there with my Masters of Divinity. While I was in St. Louis I served in several positions at Webster Hills United Methodist before receiving my first solo appointment to Desloge, Mo. There I served Desloge United Methodist Church for seven years and Marvin Chapel United Methodist Church for four.

Now I've been appointed back to my old stomping grounds here in Cape and am serving Maple Church, a congregation I hope to have the pleasure of serving for quite some time.

I live here with my wife, Noelie, and our two cats. She's from New Orleans and only moved up here in February, so she's still getting used to winter in Missouri. She has her own nail polish business called Smitten Polish where she makes and sells her own line of nail polishes.

Q: How long have you been a member of your faith?

A: I have been both a Christian and United Methodist since birth. I guess it doesn't get any more deep than that.

Q: Who or what inspired you to become a pastor?

A: The call to be a pastor always comes from God and is placed in the hearts and minds of those God calls to serve. However, I have had the wonderful opportunity to have some truly great pastors in my life that have shown me just what caring, compassionate ministry is truly all about. I have felt a passion for God's people and helping them through acts of social justice and mission ever since I was a child. I believe that was God speaking to me from the time I was very little and helping to prepare me for the ministry. Throughout my journey to become a pastor I have been able to serve under some amazing mentors and guides that have helped me into a deeper understanding of my calling as well as the gifts and graces that God has placed within me to use in my service of God and others. Any time I can help someone see the great love God has for them and that the Creator of all there is wants to be in relationship with them, I find all the inspiration I could ever need.

Q: What's the greatest blessing you've experienced in the ministry?

A: The greatest blessing that I experience in ministry is any time I can truly help someone in the name of Christ. As Christians, we are called to serve all God's children: to help the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and to renew and restore the broken places of this world and people's lives. Any opportunity I get to be a part of serving my sisters and brothers here on earth while bringing light to any who might be lost or wandering in darkness, I count that a tremendous blessing that helps restore and renew my soul again and again, time after time.

Q: What's the greatest challenge you've experienced in the ministry?

A: There are, of course, many challenges in ministry, but probably one of the greatest for me is when you see someone hurting and you are unable to just sweep in and make everything better. Of course, I know that is not how the grief process works and that healing takes time. However, as a person with a deep empathy and care for God's people, sometimes my logical knowledge of how things work gives way to how I wish they would work. Sometimes all we can do to comfort people is to be there for them in their time of need and to let them know that they are loved by us and by their Creator. I think it's true for all of us that when you wish you could do so much more, the act of simply being and being still can be incredibly challenging. This is so very true for me.

Q: What upcoming events or sermon series do you have scheduled at Maple United Methodist Church?

A: We're finishing up our "Retake Christmas" message series here on Jan. 6. Through this series we've been taking a look at how comfort and consumerism have become the commonly accepted message of Christmas in our lives today and how the first Christmas was anything but these things. We've been working to dig down and discover some of the true messages of Christmas that tell us how God comes into our lives even when everything seems a mess.

Then, starting Jan. 13, we'll be starting our next message series entitled "Naked Spirituality" where we'll be taking a look at how we can bring simple, spiritual practices into our lives that can help us unite more meaningfully with our faith and replace empty ritual with powerful connection-building spirituality.

Throughout the months of January and February we're also going to be doing a huge canned food drive to help out local food banks and charities. So many times, these organizations get a lot of help around the holidays, but the new year comes and things drop off substantially. We're hoping that we can help continue the support of these charitable organizations the whole year through by keeping them on the forefront of our minds all the time instead of just some times.

Q: What's your favorite Bible verse and why?

A: Oh my goodness! It's difficult to try and pick out just one, but if I had to narrow it down to just a few, they would be from the New Testament book of 1 John. They would include: 1 John 3:18-19 which says: "Little children, let's not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God's presence," as well as 1 John 4:7-10, which says: "Dear friends, let's love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn't love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins."

I think these verses speak so deeply to me because they tell us of God's great love for us and how we are to respond to that love by loving God in return as well as our sisters and brothers here on this earth. It also tells us that love is not simply a noun, but a verb; it's something we have to be doing. We can talk about loving others all we like, but we're not really living out that love until we get down in the trenches with people, meeting them where they are, and serving them in the name of Christ and his great love for us and them.

Q: What makes your church unique?

A: The slogan of Maple Church is "Where friends become family," and I have found that to true to the highest degree in this congregation. I have only been here since July, myself, and they have welcomed me in, supported me, and made me a member of their family quicker than I have have ever experienced before. They truly have a passion to serve not only the people of their own congregation, but their communities and world because they see the truth of the idea that we are all sisters and brothers in Christ; all family together. This "family" ideology is pervasive throughout the congregation and helps shape everything that they do. It's refreshing, welcoming and something that I have appreciated myself since my first Sunday here.

Q: What ongoing ministries does your church have that people might be interested in?

A: We have several ministries for people to be a part of. They range from our prayer shawl ministry to our support of local food pantries and homeless shelters to our outreach and service in events like our Serve 2012 day of service. If you have a passion and are looking for a place to serve, we've either got a place for you here or can find a way for you to use your gifts and graces in the way God has called you to. We look forward to growing together, as family, in Jesus the Christ!

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