Michelle Lewis, 33, said she was the type of child one would drag to church kicking and screaming. But Lewis has surprised herself, becoming the newest minister of United Methodist Church of East Berlin.
“It was the one thing I ran from. I decided to stop running from it and embrace it,” Lewis said.
Originally from Manteo, North Carolina, Lewis worked some unique jobs, including a park ranger in North Carolina and worked as an advisor to the United Nations. It was her stint working in law enforcement in Atlanta dealing with a population of homeless and mentally ill people, when she realized people needed a connection to God.
Lewis moved to Connecticut soon after to study at Yale University, where she is currently working on her Masters in Divinity. Raised Baptist, she followed the path of ministry in the Methodist Church when talking with a Pastor she previously worked for.
After working as a Youth Minister at the Newtown United Methodist Church in Newtown, Conn., she was invited to relocate and started preaching as a local pastor in East Berlin.
“The people of the congregation have been great. They have made me feel very welcome,” she said.
To keep a closer connection to the congregation, Lewis lives in the parsonage, or home, provided by the church, located on Main Street in East Berlin.
“I know other pastors who live out of town and I feel like it’s harder to get to know the pastor and get connected. I felt that it was almost necessary to move into the community,” Lewis said. “They treat and respect you differently when they see you’re living in the same community they are.”
Lewis hopes, as a young pastor herself, she can influence the younger generation to continue to come to church services. Lewis credits the Methodist Church for realizing there is a younger generation which needs to be reached and are pushing to have young clergy.
“I think young people need to see young ministers,” Lewis said. “I think I am the kind of person the ministry can benefit from having people like me as a part of it. As a person who sees it as more than going to church but to see it as how we live in the world and interact with people on a daily basis.”
Along with studying for her Masters in Divinity, she is working on a Masters of Environmental Science and currently holds a Masters of Arts and Communication from Regent University. She is learning to connect her education and life passions to preaching in the church, in hopes to make positive changes and give people a different way to look at life.
“To me doing what everyone else has done is playing it safe,” she said. “It’s about how can I do this and make it different and exciting and maybe change the way we think about what is going on in the world.”
But with all of her endeavors, Lewis said she has finally come full circle.
“I feel that this is what I’m called to,” she said. “If you had asked me six months ago if I saw myself in ministry I would have said maybe in 10 years. I have always seen it as a huge calling and commitment and something to take very seriously. I’m really glad I’m doing this and it has exceeded my expectations thus far.”
Services at East Berlin United Methodist Church are Sunday at 10 a.m. The doors are open and welcome for any member of the community to attend the service.