Jun 19, 2024 | Sarah Borgstrom Lee*

Lay and clergy leaders from across the Eastern PA Conference gathered June 2 at Bickley’s New Beginning United Methodist Church in Philadelphia to celebrate the 2024 class of new Certified Lay Ministers, serving in three EPA districts.   

This cohort of seven women, lovingly nicknamed the “CLM Sister Act,” spent 100 hours in study and preparation, including classes held via Zoom, to grow as skilled leaders in their churches.  They are Eastern PA’s 15th class to achieve the CLM distinction.

Since 2009 EPA has trained 114 Certified Lay Ministers. Seventy are still active, 14 serve local churches as lay pastors, and 20 have advanced to become Licensed Local Pastors, according to Judy Ehninger, who coordinates the conference’s CLM program.  

It is fitting that this celebration was hosted by Bickley’s New Beginnings UMC, since the congregation now has seven Certified Lay Ministers leading the church to powerful ministry within its community. It also has five Christ Servant Ministers serving the congregation and its community.

Lay leadership has been at the center of the American Methodist movement since its earliest days when circuit riding pastors would travel from church to church to preach and administer communion. Between their visits, lay leaders proclaimed the good news of the gospel, visited the sick and led their churches in ministry to the community.  

A legacy of dynamic lay leadership

The newly recognized CLMs carry forward that historic legacy of dynamic lay leadership. Through their hours of study, Certified Lay Ministers are equipped with a deeper understanding of John Wesley’s theology and essential tools for effective ministry.

This graduating cohort was nurtured and taught by the Revs. Anita Powell, Lloyd Speer, Karyn Fisher, Michael Roberts, Mark Salvacion and Andrew Foster III, Superintendent of the East District, who preached an encouraging message to the gathering on “How to Defeat Discouragement.”  

During the celebration, each new Certified Lay Minister shared what the training meant to them. Rosalie Foster, a CLM assigned to Hamorton UMC, spoke powerfully about the impact the training had on her faith development.

“The CLM training has drawn me closer to God,” she said. “I am humbled by this endeavor and strive to be worthy of it and to continue to study and seek God’s guidance and direction for the future.” 

Gloria Speer, who serves as the lay pastor of Johnson Memorial UMC, shared what the CLM training meant to her. “It was at the CLM classes under the direction of Judy Ehninger that I recognized my spiritual gifts and passion for ministry.  The CLM training gave me a better understanding of the Wesleyan Theology, and we built relationships that will carry us into the future in serving God. 

“When my pastor became ill and Dr. Foster asked me to serve as the lay pastor of my church,” she recalled, “I was ready to serve. I am grateful for everyone, and I pray each of us will respond with such passion when God calls.”

Barbara Revere shared that her understanding of Wesleyan theology deepened throughout the course. “Now, I understand John Wesley’s quadrilateral much better: Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.”

CLMs provide pastoral leadership for small churches

“Being a CLM gives me a chance to keep my small congregation serving, as they have done for many years,” said Margaret Kropp, who serves as the lay pastor of Grace UMC in Port Carbon, one of many small membership churches in the North District. “It’s a good way to provide support and encouragement for small congregations while answering the purpose for God’s call to each individual to serve as they are capable.”

While attending all classes via Zoom “isn’t particularly good for forming relationships,” she said, the course presentations were interesting and the readings informative, and all of us did connect by sharing our desire to serve the Lord.”

In our baptism, Christians are invited to join in the ministry of all believers. We celebrate these dynamic lay leaders who have taken the next big step in faithful service to God.

2023-2024 Class of Certified Lay Ministers 

  • East District:   
  • Michelle Carter, CLM at Bickley’s New Beginning UMC, Philadelphia 
  • Connie Damon, CLM at Jarrettown UMC 
  • Barbara Revere, CLM at First UMC of Germantown, Philadelphia 
  • Gloria Speer, CLM serving as the Lay Pastor of Johnson Memorial UMC, Philadelphia 

  • North District: 
  • Margaret Kropp, CLM serving as the Lay Pastor of Grace UMC, Port Carbon

  • South District:
  • Rosalie  Foster, CLM serving as the Lay Pastor of Hamorton UMC
    Athlene Jeremiah, CLM at Simpson Fletcher UMC 

*The Rev. Sarah Borgstrom Lee is the new Content Writer for EPA&GNJ Communications.