facebook script

Can't find something?

We're here to help.

Send us an email at:

[email protected]

and we'll get back with you as soon as possible.

An unlikely but grace-filled journey

Suzy Todd being ordained an elder

Continuing our series of articles on our newest ordinands, Rev. Suzy Todd gives thanks for the people and experiences that have been part of her journey from an unchurched person to a pastor with a heart on fire to proclaim God’s Good News.

Plymouth: First UMC

So many stories in the Bible are about God calling the least likely people into service in the Kingdom. There is David, Jesse’s youngest son. There’s Rahab, a prostitute who shows up in Jesus’ lineage in the Gospel of Matthew. And there is a Samaritan woman at a well with a storied past who can’t help but tell people about Jesus the Christ. I love these stories because they remind me that while no one may have expected me to be called into ministry, I am not the least likely person God has ever used.

Pastor Suzy Todd in New Orleans
After Hurricane Katrina in 2010, Suzy (second from right) traveled to New Orleans with a United Methodist Early Response Team (ERT) as a volunteer assisting with disaster cleanup. ~ photo courtesy Suzy Todd

I come from a long line of non-churchgoers. One set of my great-great-grandparents left their church over an issue in the 1930s. Neither set of my grandparents were raised in church. My parents were not raised in church. As a child, my family moved to Hamilton, AL, and perhaps because the church was so ingrained in southern culture, they decided to attend a missionary Roman Catholic church. We did that for a year or two before we moved back to the Midwest, where we once again used Sundays to catch up on chores. Church was not a part of my story.

As a young parent in my 20s, I spent a lot of time at the playground. I met a man about my age with a daughter the same age as mine. We became friends. I learned he was terminally ill, yet he seemed to be at peace about it. When I asked how he could be so peaceful in the face of death at such a young age, he told me about his faith. We started meeting regularly at that playground. He shared his faith, bought me a Bible, and helped me explore a spirituality. We met like this for several months, maybe a year. Then, my family and I moved away.

Less than a year later, my life began to fall apart. I had experienced some significant deaths, financial struggles, and relationship difficulties. I was depressed and sitting on my couch, ready to give up on life. I had done everything I knew to fix the situation, but nothing had helped. So, I cried out to the God I did not know: “If you exist, take this life. I can’t do it anymore.”

In that moment, I had an overwhelming sense that I would be okay, not the kind of okay where everything in my life would be restored, but the kind of okay that meant I could and would persist and even find joy, regardless of my circumstances. I had an undeniable revelation that I was loved beyond measure, and so was everyone else. This revelation quickly drew me to the understanding that if everyone realizes how loved and interconnected we are, the world can be transformed. And I felt a nearly uncontrollable compulsion to tell everyone this Good News.

Suzy baptizing a child
Suzy experienced much joy as she performed her first baptism at her first appointment serving Richmond: First UMC. ~ photo courtesy Suzy Todd

I began talking about my experience with people I knew went to church. I hoped they could help me make sense of it. Dr. Harry Davis invited me to his church, Brighton: First UMC, and I have been a United Methodist ever since. I was brought on staff as Christian Education Director, a position I held for 14 years. During that time, many people affirmed God’s call on my life. Pastor Gilson Miller invited me to help him with sermon writing, and he gave me a passion for people all around the world and sent me on mission trips to Haiti, New Orleans, Mexico, and beyond. Pastor Scott Chrostek invited me to assist with weekly communion. He gave me an ever-deepening love of sacrament. Pastor Sherry Parker-Lewis invited me into church and district leadership positions. She nurtured my curiosity in church history and led me to innumerable Christian writers and biblical scholars. Deacon Loretta Job helped center me in prayer. And I will never forget the lay member within the congregation who offered to pay for my seminary education. I was blessed with many great guides on this journey.

Ultimately, it was at the communion table that I finally acquiesced to following God’s call to the pastorate. In the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup — in the words, movements, and beauty of the liturgy — I was most able to recapture the fullness of God’s presence, which I had experienced in my conversion. I knew then that all I had done in the church until now was only a partial response to God’s call on my life. I knew that each time I had said yes to a new opportunity, God had used it to prepare me. Serving in a pastoral role was the only way to quench my thirst to tell everyone the Good News.

It has been quite a journey for that unlikely, unchurched, confused, and lost young woman to find her way to a pulpit in this season of The United Methodist Church. I give thanks for all the struggles and joys that littered my path. They have prepared me to meet people wherever they are on their faith journeys. I give thanks for people who asked me hard questions, for it has prepared me to help others wrestle with hard questions. I give thanks for that unrelenting hope that was planted at my conversion. It allows me to carry on, even when the outcome is completely unknown. Perhaps I have been called for such a time as this.

Last Updated on December 12, 2023

The Michigan Conference