“I can see my call to ministry in hindsight perfectly,” Monica Reynolds said. “Having been raised Catholic, I didn’t see me (fitting in) anywhere in the church. As a young girl, I took the missalettes (the printed weekly liturgy booklets) home with me, saved them in my closet, read them over and over, and memorized them.
“I made tin foil chalices, filled them with Necco wafers, and gave communion to my friends. It felt comfortable and right.”
While in high school Ms. Reynolds started having questions; things were not making sense. By the time she got to college, she had moved away from the church. She had a Bible that was rarely opened and went to church only a handful of times.
Drawn to a life of service, Ms. Reynolds wound up in the Army ROTC program and the Army Reserves.
“It was about being part of a team, where everyone has a purpose, or a mission,” she said. “It was about putting your life on the line.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Ms. Reynolds was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army. She was assigned to a job with the Air Defense Artillery (missiles).
“After a while,” she said, “the reality of what those weapons were designed for began to make me uncomfortable. I had no desire to hurt or kill people.”
She left the job after a two-year struggle.
With a continuing desire to serve, Ms. Reynolds took a position as a financial and budget analyst with the U.S. Air Force.
“This job was better,” she said. “We weren’t armed; it was more laid back, but the struggle was still there.”
While serving in Florida in her early 20s, she earned an MBA and purchased her first townhouse. She was doing what the world expected of her, but still she felt increasingly restless, empty.
“I remember one day sitting on the floor in my townhouse crying. I had never felt so disconnected from God.
“The next day, I went to a church that one of my co-workers attended. I felt an immediate shift. I loved the relatable, more conversational language and worship style. Filled with curiosity, I got involved in small groups, learning and growing in my faith.”
Although it didn’t make sense, because she liked her friends and her church, Ms. Reynolds was led to the realization a year later that it was time to leave Florida. She interviewed for a job at the Pentagon and got it. The shock of the high cost of living in the Washington area sent her looking for a roommate situation, preferably with someone in the Air Force.
One of the basement apartments she looked at turned out to be in a house owned by a man named Fred Reynolds. She found another apartment, but started dating him. The two married in 2004 in Old Town Alexandria.
The young couple moved to California. Ms. Reynolds still worked as a financial analyst for the Air Force, knowing it was not the right vocation for her.
She prayed: “Lord if this is not the right place for me, please close the door.”
He said, “You close the door and walk away.”
After the 2006 birth of her first son, David, Ms. Reynolds decided to take a year off without pay. The young family moved back to Washington. Then, her husband was deployed, her mom got cancer, and she found out that she was pregnant with her second child. In 2008, she decided to close the door and walk away. Her son, Christian, was born and she became a stay-at-home mom for a while. She learned to wait and listen.
When David started attending preschool near their home at Messiah United Methodist Church in Springfield, Ms. Reynolds got to know the associate pastor, Rev. Beth Anderson, a mom with two children the same ages as hers.
“I saw the similarities and the two of us connected right away. We got to be close friends over the next two years. One day she said to me, ‘I can see you doing this.’
“Several months later, in 2011, I accepted a full-time job at that church as the director of welcoming.”
The job responsibilities included developing evangelism strategies, connecting with visitors and teaching membership classes.
Monica and Fred, both passionate about the gospel’s call to care for orphans, had adopted three additional children by then. The adoptions of Misgana and Adoniyas were finalized in early 2011, and Sidise came home to them in the summer of 2012.
Ms. Reynolds began attending Wesley Theological Seminary, a United Methodist-affiliated seminary in Washington, while working full-time and raising five children. She chose a Methodist seminary because she is “drawn toward Wesleyan theology in that it is grace-based and practical. Also, Wesleyan theology keeps Scripture as our primary source for theology, but also allows for reason, experience, and tradition as we interpret God's Word for us today.”
In 2013, while still in seminary completing her studies, Ms. Reynolds had the opportunity to become a licensed local pastor in the Virginia Conference. She was appointed as the associate pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Fairfax Station, where she served as a senior organizational leader.
“I was part of a three-person leadership team responsible for leading, guiding and overseeing all aspects of the church’s organization, mission and ministry.”
This year she was commissioned as an elder.
“This current move to Warrenton was prompted by an inner restlessness. It was God saying, ‘I have something else for you.’ I was open to the move to Warrenton UMC. I was ready for new opportunities to serve and I am incredibly excited to be here.
“At Warrenton, because I am the associate pastor, my short-term vision is to support and be in partnership with Pastor Tim (Tate) as we seek God’s will and discern how to organize and position Warrenton UMC to make disciples for the transformation of the world in a world that increasingly has written off church.
“In short, when people are choosing to no longer go to church, how can we be the church and take the church into the world?”
The writer is a Warrenton United Methodist Church member.