Former pastoral intern Miriam Ippel shares about her ministry in our second installment of “Where are they now?”.
1. What does your current ministry context look like?
I serve as the solo pastor of The Reformed Church of Canajoharie in Canajoharie, NY. Canajoharie is a village of about 2,000 people (although there are probably 5,000+ in a 10 mile radius) in upstate NY. We’re right off the NYS Thruway and about an hour from Albany. Canajoharie was once a thriving mill town, the home of Beechnut (most recently known for making baby food), and a town along the Erie Canal. Since we moved here 4 years ago, Beechnut has left the community, adding another big vacant factory building to the roster. For being a small town we deal with all the same things as most urban contexts, except for gang violence. There are many, many needs in the community.
Our congregation first organized in 1827. 186 years later we’re still here and trying to make an impact. For the last 12 years the church has grown a ministry known as Comfort Zone. Once a month we provide household supplies (toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, diapers, laundry detergent, etc.) to families in need. This ministry has helped us to build some wonderful relationships in the wider community.
2. What have been some of the biggest joys and struggles of ministry?
There was no youth ministry in place when we moved here, so Eric and I started a youth group with just 3 students our first year. We have now expanded the ministry to other churches in the area and have had as many as 12-14 students on a Sunday night. Sunday evenings in the parsonage are a highlight of our week!
I’ve also really enjoyed planning worship services and teaching the congregation new music. We’re adding the new RCA/CRC hymnals to our pews this summer which is really exciting!
Finding and building community in and outside the church has been a struggle. The congregation is very friendly on Sunday mornings, but many of the relationships don’t extend beyond those 1-2 hours on a Sunday morning. And like most churches, getting and equipping volunteers is a struggle. The average age in our congregation is probably 55 or higher which adds to the challenge.
3. How did you time at Trinity form you for your ministry?
My three years at Trinity were wonderful preparation for ministry. It was so helpful to get experience in all different areas of church life: pastoral care, children and youth, planning and leading worship, community outreach, etc. I attribute my time at Trinity to my willingness to even seek a call in parish ministry after seminary! I continue to thank God for all of you and the journey we shared together. We continue to pray for you and your ministry in NW Grand Rapids.