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Calvin Selects Jubilee Fellows
December 8, 2005

The Lilly Vocation Project has chosen 12 Calvin College juniors as its 2006 Jubilee Fellows.

Throughout the spring and summer of the upcoming year, these seven women and five men from an array of majors will expand their gifts of Christian ministry leadership through training, mentoring and ministry internships in churches around the country.

"This is a very good group,” says Lilly Vocation Project director Shirley Roels of fellows Braden Britton, Matt Cosnek, Allison Graff, Jordan Horras, Kwang Ji, Melody Joachim, Deborah Lemmen, Ryan Kruis, Julie Richards, Emily Rose, Julie Saksa and Rachel Schipull (see bottom of page for bios of the 2006 Fellows).

In spring 2006, the Jubilee Fellows will take a semester-long class concentrating on the visions and theologies of Christian leaders throughout church history. During that period of study, they will also meet regularly for supper with current ministry leaders from all over the world.

Come summer, the fellows will work in ministry internships in churches all over North America.

“They could be spread from New Jersey to California and from Toronto to Texas,” Roels says.

These ministry internships will be as varied in focus as they are in location, Roels promises.

“We will place students in congregational care, youth ministry, social outreach, new church development, and preaching and worship-related settings," she says.

Next fall, the fellows will spend a retreat together, debriefing about their internship experiences and clarifying their plans for future ministry. The students will also make decisions about how they’ll contribute to the community life at Calvin during their senior years.

Each Jubilee Fellow will receive support for her or his internship living expenses and a $4,000 fellowship for the senior year of college.

The goal of the Jubilee Fellows program, founded in 2002, is to foster a new generation of Christian leadership, Roels says.

"There is no Christian church circle," Roels says, "Protestant or Catholic, that will have sufficient church leadership in the decades ahead.”

The looming clergy shortage has several causes.

"One of the problems," Roels says, "is that there were very significant numbers of people who went into seminary education in the 1960s and early ’70s, and those large pools of people are now retiring. We need a tremendous number of young people to consider futures in the church to fill the void.”

Another problem contributing to the clergy shortage is what Roels calls the “fairly high washout rate” among fledgling clergy.

“Everybody has a church in which they served,” she says. “The question is do they have a second church and a third church?”

By serving a ministry internship, Jubilee Fellows are able to test their callings before they enter seminary, and whatever the student’s vocational choice, the church benefits.

When students complete the program, there are two responses,” she says. “One is that a seminary education and future in ministry leadership is the student’s future. The other response is that the student will feel called in a different direction, but will always be a deeply involved lay participant in his or her church.”

The Jubilee Program also addresses a third issue that compounds the clergy shortage: the uneasy relationship of the church to women who consider futures in ministry.

Says Roels: “Compare that to other professions such as law and medicine, where women approximate 50 percent of law and medical school graduates. In those fields they can be easily employed. But the ranks of clergy are not as open."

Roels says, over the course of the four years that Calvin has developed the Lilly Vocation Project, of which the Jubilee Fellows program is a part, Calvin students’ interest in Christian ministry has grown.

“In spring 2001," she says, "we surveyed students and asked how many of them were seriously considering a future in ordained ministry, and the answer was three percent. When we re-surveyed Calvin students in the spring of 2005 with the same question, the answer was seven percent. In the four years of the program, we’ve more than doubled the number of students seriously considering ministry.”

The Lilly Vocation Project was founded in 2002, funded by a 5-year, $2 million grant from the Lilly Foundation. Recently the project received an additional $500,000 to fund the Lilly programs for an additional two years.


Braden Britton, a Spanish major from Rockford, Mich., hopes to go from Calvin into a seminary program. He’s looking forward to his term as a fellow: “It's a unique opportunity and the first time I’ve been able to actually explore, grow and fellowship with my peers,” he says.

Matt Cosnek, an electrical engineering major from Pittsburgh, Penn., is interested in youth ministry. “Although I’m staying open-minded, I hope to work part-time as a youth minister or missionary,” he says.

Allison Graff, a self-described “missionary kid” who has lived in Germany, Russia and all over the United States, is thinking about a future in pastoral counseling—perhaps in a Russian-language church—or in a ministry that involves writing. “My real passion is extending hospitality to those who have gone through a lot of transition in their lives, whether that be missionary kids or refugees,” she says. “I have had an inkling that I will spend my life in full-time ministry for about five years now, and the Jubilee Fellows program with its practical internship experience is giving me the chance to figure out whether the inkling is just a directionless passion or whether it is truly my life's vocation.”

Jordan Horras, a mass media major from Oak Park, Ill., wants to explore the possibilities of media ministries. “There is a chance God will allow me work for him in a church doing media production, or he might have me work at a TV station and do media ministry in my off time. That is why this internship is crucial because it is going to help me see God's will for me,” he says.

Kwang Hoon Ji, an international relations major and native Korean who was raised on the mission field in Portugal, believes the Jubilee opportunity is an answer from God to his questions about his future. “I am not sure if I would be doing ministry as my career. Through this program, I want to grow my desire for God and ministries, and eventually find out what my vision really is,” he says.

Melody Joachim, a French major from Boardman, Ohio decided to explore the possibility of a future in ministry after a mission trip to Turkey last summer. “Specifically, I am wondering if parachurch ministry is the best way to combine my passion for helping people and my interest in church outreach and missions,” she says. “I think even if Jubilee Fellows does not lead me to an epiphany about my calling, it will give me valuable insights into the church’s role in the community, my place in the church body, and my own strengths and weaknesses. I can also see the Jubilee Fellows experience serving as a testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life because wherever I end up this summer, he’s coming too.”

Deborah Lemmen, a rhetoric communications major from Hamilton, Mich., is already serving as a worship apprentice at Calvin. She is excited about exploring a number of areas of ministry through her Jubilee fellowship: “I'm really excited about kids and youth and would love to be in a ministry position that serves them. I'm also considering the areas of women's ministry and pastoral care. And on top of all that, I'm interested in worship and what it looks like in today's church.”

Ryan Kruis, a double major in English and religion who hails from Grand Rapids, Mich., is curious to see how God can use, not only his gifts, but his personal struggles with faith in his ministry: “I can see myself doing college chaplaincy, pastoring in an urban setting, or working in a more postmodern church,” he says. “Eventually, however, I would like to get a doctorate in theology and influence the church through my teaching and writing.”

Julie Richards, a religion and pre-seminary major with a Greek and missions minor, hopes the Jubilee program will allow her to explore missions and pastoral ministry. After seminary, I hope to become a full-time pastor and missionary in Asia,” she says. “I then want to train Asian pastors and missionaries in Bible, theology and ministry so that they might serve their own communities.”

Emily Rose, a religion major from Indiana, Penn., hopes her Jubilee experience will allow her to build a stronger biblical foundation in her life. “After finishing school as an undergraduate I would love to continue to study for a graduate degree and pursue ministry full time on a campus setting working with college students or involved with national or international missions work,” she says.

Julie Saksa, a religion major with minors in gender studies and youth ministry from Livonia, Mich., has already worked in short-terms missions, youth events and Sunday school at her church. “I am so excited about the Jubilee Fellows program and the opportunities it presents to serve and to minister and to grow in my own faith journey,” she says.

Rachel Schipull, an English major and Japanese studies minor from Melrose Park, Ill. is uncertain about which area of ministry she will pursue. “I wanted something meaningful to do next summer,” she says, “and JF provides that along with several other things that were appealing enough to compel me to apply.”

For more on the Fellows, including pics, see the Jubilee Fellows page

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson