Alumni Council Spotlight: Rev. Erica Wellner
How did you come to know the Lord?
I cannot pinpoint an exact day or even year when I came to know the Lord. I was raised in the church and had some very faithful Sunday School teachers, who are now with Jesus, who taught me about Him and how to serve Him. I usually tell people it was likely around the third grade that I accepted Jesus as my Savior, though it may have been sooner. It was a gradual conversion that continues to this day.
How were you called to ministry?
This story is a bit easier to pinpoint than my conversion. In 2006, I went on a mission trip to Slidell, Louisiana, to do Hurricane Katrina recovery. While there, I began questioning whether or not God wanted me to be a teacher (I graduated the year before with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education). Over the next two years I explored different areas of ministry including youth ministry, overseas missions, and finally pastoral ministry.
In June of 2008, I preached my first sermon at my home church, thanks to the leading of my best friend Michelle who dragged me to Lay Ministry School for two years. After that sermon, a saint of the church, Dale, asked when the church was going to begin a scholarship fund for me to go to seminary. I told him there was no way that I was called into pastoral ministry. Two months later I went on a mission trip to Paraguay with four pastors and about twenty others from my conference, exploring a possible call to overseas missions. I came home from that trip and told Dale that we could start that fund now.
Through the prayers of Michelle, the pastors on that trip, my own pastor, and myself, God finally confirmed that I was indeed called into ministry, and God clarified that the ministry I was called to was pastoral. I am now in my fifth year of pastoral ministry, and I am serving my second charge in Western Pennsylvania.
How did you decide to come to Asbury?
Asbury was my only choice for seminary, and it was an easy one. The two men I still consider to be my pastors, the Revs. Dennis Swineford and Matt Judd, were both Asbury graduates. After sitting under their ministries at my home church, I knew I had to go to Asbury. I hoped that Asbury could make me half the pastor those men were to me, and I hope that today I am making them proud.
What were some of the best parts of your time at Asbury?
When I think of Asbury and my time there, three things stand out: community, professors, and chapel. Even before I attended Asbury, Pastor Matt’s wife shared how great the community on campus was for them, and it proved true for me during my time there. I made life-long friends at Asbury, including my best friend, Patricia. Part of what made the community of Asbury so great, besides my fellow students were my professors. I went through some very difficult times in seminary, and my professors were just as supportive as my friends. They truly care about their students, even if they put on a tough exterior in the classroom.
The other part of Asbury that I love and miss greatly is Chapel. I fell in love with the chapels on campus the first time I visited. I found Fletcher Chapel on the tour and drug Michelle all over campus looking for it later that day, only to realize it was across the circle from the inn. I did not know then that I would spend three and a half years working in that Chapel as the first Daily Eucharist Intern under Dr. Bob Stamps. I worked for the Chapel Office for four and a half years, starting under Rev. JD Walt, then working for and with Dr. Stamps, and ending with the first six months of Rev. Jessica LaGrone’s term as Dean. I learned so much from these leaders, and spent much time in worship and prayer in the various chapels on campus. I visit each one every time I come “home.”
What has your ministry been like after your time at Asbury?
Ministry overall has been good, but I feel like I am still learning what it means to be a pastor everyday. On June 11, 2017, I was ordained as a Full Elder in the United Methodist Church, and a few weeks later I started my second charge since graduating. I love my people, and they seem to love me in return. I have both an Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation from Asbury, and I try to pull in my Spiritual Formation degree as often as possible in my teaching and preaching. It has been invaluable to me in my ministry.
How has staying connected with Asbury assisted you in ministry?
Besides the friendships I made with fellow students, I became very close to Dr. Steve Martyn during my time at Asbury. We stay in touch regularly, and we often enjoy a cup of tea when I come back to campus. Steve and others from the Asbury community, including Tammy Cessna, Director of Alumni, have been valuable friends during difficult times in ministry and in my own personal life. I cannot imagine what life and ministry would look like for me if I was not able to stay connected to my Asbury family.
Tell us anything you would like to share about your family, hobbies, etc.
I serve a wonderful community in Marion Center, Pennsylvania, thirteen miles south of Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog. I have a sweet pup named FeFe, and no, she’s not a poodle, she’s a terrier mix (see left). When I’m not doing church stuff, I like to play my guitar, read, and occasionally I like to go target shooting and fishing, not necessarily in the same day. I visit Asbury twice a year, once after Easter, and the days before and after the New Room Conference. I’m always up for tea if you’re in the area and want to hear more.