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‘You are so beautiful to me’

Scott Marsh being ordained

Rev. Scott Marsh continues our series of articles on our newest ordinands by sharing examples of how God has used each life experience to guide and shape his path into ministry.

Coldwater UMC

I wouldn’t have projected ordination as a course for my life. My goals and aspirations were like a lot of people’s. Graduate, attend university, find a steady job, hopefully meet someone special and settle down. Buy a house, start a family, find a hip church to attend. I’d commit to being a liturgist, maybe sit on the board of trustees, but a pastor? Not a chance, or so I thought.

College kids
The WMU Wesley Praise Band, wearing tie-dyed T-shirts, attended the 2011 West Michigan Annual Conference at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI). ~ photo courtesy Scott Marsh

In my teens and early 20s, I was active in church. Apart from the youth group and various choirs in my home church of Reed City UMC, I followed the church life modeled by my parents. Praying for God’s love to be revealed as a teen, I followed Holy Spirit moments to the Wesley Foundation at Western Michigan University (WMU), where I first heard this calling into ordained ministry. It wasn’t expected; as a matter of fact, I did my best to ignore it. The spiritual goosebumps, the sense of the Spirit moving in prayer and conversation, didn’t mean I was called to something different just because I prayed for this. At WMU Wesley, I was given the opportunity to lead Bible study, go on mission trips, plan and lead worship, and preach. It preoccupied my time. My calling was affirmed there, and it was given room to grow. Finally, it was an opportunity to realize the plans God had for me.

As graduation neared, I stepped back from church. “Time for the real world, Scott.” Everything I had done up to this point had been in a church, so I resigned from church activity and soon found work as a delivery driver and then a shift manager. I started working on Sundays and stopped going to church altogether. Over the next year, I found out more about myself. With this desire I had to help people, how could God use an environmental studies degree in ministry? My gifts were being wasted; I saw how I needed God.

Students participating in communion
In 2019, seminary graduates assisted Rev. Karen Mosby with communion in the Chapel of the Unnamed Faithful at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. ~ photo courtesy Scott Marsh

Driving home one night, Joe Cocker’s song “You Are So Beautiful” came on the radio. I thought of God saying this to me — the one who would ignore and run, the one who would doubt, the one who didn’t value myself that much. I wept. “Okay, let’s try your way, God.” Shortly following some time as a youth minister at Paw Paw UMC and a brief time as co-pastor at WMU Wesley, I attended seminary, graduated, and then found full-time appointment at Coleman: Faith UMC and then Coldwater UMC, where I was ordained.

God has always worked on me through communion. I first had the idea I was being called into the ministry during communion. I remember the sunlight shining through the old WMU Wesley sanctuary, watching Lisa Batten break bread and lift the cup. The Spirit nudged me, “This is your work; you’re called to this.” On mission trips, with no bread or juice to be found, the Spirit affirmed the holiness of the eternal moment and meal using potato chips and grape soda. As a youth director responding to a family in the throes of divorce, my first thought was, “Who would bring them communion? Who would witness to this redemptive transformation?” Still, to this day, God works on me through communion. After all that has happened, no matter how worthy I feel, God keeps singing, “You are so beautiful and worthy to me.”

Church supporting LGBT community
In 2022, Rev. Scott Marsh marched in his first pride parade, supporting the LGBT community with Coldwater UMC’s All God’s Children Group. ~ photo courtesy Scott Marsh

Soon after ordination, interviews were scheduled. I began preparing by reviewing all I had submitted. During the process, I had printed off photos of my life in ministry. I pulled them out to remember and reflect on what God had done in my life up to this moment. I thought about Rev. Rick Blunt, who confirmed me and introduced the Bible as a living word. What a breath of fresh air that was for my curious and young mind! I thought of my friends at WMU Wesley for the mission trips, the traveling praise band, pub Bible study, and all those times I would tell Lisa Batten I was called into a career of well water testing. I thought about my youth group kids and the lock-in when we read the whole Gospel of Matthew. Because why not? I thought about my seminary friends and how God worked through lunch conversations and late-night study hall to bless us through each other. I thought of all the firsts — funeral, baptism, wedding, communion, sermon — and the wonderful people at Coleman: Faith UMC who were with my family in loss and celebration. All of these and more have been my village in this process.

One of my seminary professors notoriously named our generation as the one to redirect and change the church. Through denominational schism and our response, through an aging population and a spiritual-but-not-religious peer group, through an unexpected pandemic that signaled a myriad of injustices and apathy. We would be tasked with the next chapter of the church. Through racist and homophobic attitudes that encourage division and demand healing, through climate change and adapting to a world where the poor suffer and insulated communities “ride it out.” We would be challenged to respond. Young clergy certainly have our work cut out for us. Yet this is precisely why our work is needed, why we are called, and why we have responded. Nothing can heal our world quite like hearing God beckon to us, “You are so beautiful to me.”

Last Updated on January 11, 2024

The Michigan Conference