Meet the Rev. Brittney Stephan, the new Associate Director for Multi-cultural Vibrancy for The Michigan Conference.
As congregations enter a busy fall season of ministry and mission around the state, a new collaborative staffing model is in place to equip and support them. MIconnect has shared profiles of the Directors at the table. Now we continue with introductions of their Associate Director colleagues.
This week we get acquainted with the Rev. Brittney Stephan, the Associate Director Multi-cultural Vibrancy and a partner in the Office of Connectional Ministry. Brittney can be reached by phone at 517-347-4030 ext. 4073; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the Rev. Brittney Stephan, in her own words …
Please share a little personal background.
I am a third generation Methodist who was born and baptized in my home congregation. Personally, I am proud to be a United Methodist and believe deeply in the work of the Church. I grew up on a dirt road outside of Huntington, IN and was a ten-year 4-Her and member of the FFA. Being raised on a farm came with a lot of responsibility at an early age, but it has made me who I am today. I come from a family of five where my father farms and works in the automotive industry and my mother is a customer service representative. I am the oldest child of three. I credit much of my faith, work ethic, and determination to my family and the responsibilities that we shared that included many early mornings and long days between harvesting crops, baling hay, and tending to the animals. My roots are of the land, but I have spent close to the last decade living in major cities such as Indianapolis, Chicago, and currently Metro Detroit.
Where have you served and what lessons about leadership did you learn along the way?
I am an Elder of the Indiana Conference and have served churches in Huntington, IN, Indianapolis, IN, and Evanston, IL prior to moving to Michigan. Without a doubt, I have been very fortunate to have incredible United Methodist clergywomen whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with who have become mentors in my life. They have helped me not only grow in my ministry but continue to nurture my call and encourage me to be a lifelong learner and support me along the way. Serving in the local church and working alongside a multitude of laity and clergy have taught me what it means to be a servant leader. While it is true that my specific call to ordained ministry at 14 years of age was one of the most memorable, I have found that God continues to call me to ordained ministry time and time again in new and incredible ways that I could never plan for or expect.
Describe the new role of the Associate Director of Multi-cultural Vibrancy as you understand it.
The vision for our conference is, “The Michigan Conference equips and connects through Christ-centered: Mission & Ministry; Bold & Effective Leaders; and Vibrant Congregations.” My role as the Associate Director of Multi-Cultural Vibrancy consists of assisting laity and clergy to live into that vision through multi-cultural ministry initiatives. A lot of my role involves engaging pastors and congregations in discernment and reflection about their roles, and the role of conference leadership, in fully embracing the communities that we serve. This includes specific attention to developing multiethnic, multicultural, and multigenerational diversity. Together, we will work to expand ministry of The United Methodist Church in Michigan in a way that doesn’t compromise the racial, ethnic, and cultural context of the communities we serve.
What are some hopes and goals that you have as you start your work?
Lysa TerKeurst states, “God’s love is not based on me. It is simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live…loved.” My work in many ways is meaningless if we are not serving as a living witness to God’s love and living a life that reflects the light of Christ. It is my hope that the church will collectively be able to combine its resources with the passion, gifts, and acts of service of its congregants to create a community of care that impacts the greater good and is able to improve the human condition not only within the context of the church, but beyond.
What excites you the most about your participation in the life of the new Michigan Conference?
I am most excited about the opportunity to engage, empower, and equip local churches that collectively consist of more than 140,000 laypersons and over 1,000 active and retired clergy throughout the state of Michigan. To me, Mark Miller’s song, “Draw the Circle Wide” represents multi-cultural vibrancy and the life of the new Michigan Conference in the sense that we all come together with different gifts and strengths as the lyrics state, “Draw the circle, draw the circle wide; draw the circle, draw it wider still. Let this be our song: no one stands alone. Standing side by side, draw the circle, draw the circle wide…” I believe that in recognizing our own strengths, we will have a better lens to be able to recognize the strengths in others, thus allowing us to learn and grow from one another to build effective, multi-cultural communities and ministry settings with room for everyone to have a place at the table and flourish in their God-given gifts.
Where do you see God at work in Michigan and the worldwide connection right now?
Historically, United Methodists have a ministerial legacy of mercy, compassion, and justice. To me, that means that we are called to serve others and live out our call by being the hands and feet and the body of Christ at work in this world. Doing so is putting into action what the Lord requires of us in Micah 6:8, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” In the last three months that I have been working here, I have seen God at work through a number of faithful individuals who are living into this legacy in a way that embodies a compelling desire to cultivate multi-cultural communities and work toward cultural competency in our midst.
What is it that nurtures, sustains and guides you in your work?
I have found that living outside the “temple of my own familiar” largely nurtures, sustains, and guides my work. This involves getting beyond my comfort zone and is not something that takes place easily or quickly, but becomes a new way of life. It is a difficult thing to measure quantitatively, but as challenging as living outside “the temple of my own familiar” may be at times, that is undeniably where my passion and call intersect and where the most growth has taken place.