Many Ways to Minister

By Jonathan Graham

Many Bethany students are already engaged in ministry while pursuing their degrees. These students have found creative and innovative ways to answer their call and help the world flourish.

Elaine Jones is well suited to her role as a spiritual director, helping people to deepen their faith and transform their lives. After all, her own spiritual journey has been rich and varied in breadth and depth.

Born and raised  in South Africa, she was Christened, formed, and confirmed in the Dutch Reformed Church, but parted ways with the denomination and the Christian faith for a time, in part because of that denomination’s role in the Apartheid system, and the church leadership’s rejection of her spirituality and beliefs. Her subsequent spiritual seeking led her to explore the nature of the divine through the lens of many other faith traditions, including Hinduism and Buddhism.

She immigrated to the United States in 2003. After the devastating loss of her mother, she attended a retreat at a Roman Catholic church, where God’s love became palpable and her faith in Christianity was restored. She converted to Roman Catholicism and began a spiritual quest that has led her most recently to become a member of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon, Ohio. Her personal discernment also led her to a vocation as a spiritual director and leader of workshops and retreats for those who are seeking to deepen their relationships with God and transform their lives.

A student in the Master of Spiritual and Social Transformation (MASST) and Master of Divinity  (MDiv) degree programs, she is a leader of the Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides program of Oasis Ministries. She maintains an active practice as a spiritual director and has led retreats at such venues as the Christine Center in Willard, Wisconsin, and at The Springs Retreat Center in Oldenburg, Indiana. She serves as student chapel coordinator at Bethany.

Her work focuses on accompanying others on their own journeys of spiritual deepening, healing, and transformation — something that she discovered to be invaluable in her own life. 

“I believe that the societal transformation that we are yearning for can only be attained through a deeper spiritual transformation both individually and collectively. My conviction is born out of my own spiritual journey,” she says.

Jones has a particular interest in working with those who are serving as congregational  ministers or are preparing to serve.

“I think it is very important that pastors have the time to attend to their own spiritual needs for deepening and transformation in order to be balanced practitioners and leaders.”

A centerpiece of her work focuses upon fostering connections between spirituality and creativity. She leads workshops in intuitive, contemplative, and expressive art practices, which offer participants an opportunity to explore and deepen their relationship to themselves, God, and the world in creative ways.

“Some who participate in these events are very open to engage freely, but others are fearful of judgment. I try to create a judgment-free environment that encourages everyone to play and explore. If they can bypass the thinking mind, and lean into the flow of the creative process, they might just get in touch with the voice of their soul. The soul speaks through art in powerful ways.”

Jones notes that she first discovered contemplative spiritual practices through study and practice of Buddist meditation, and her Bethany classes helped her trace the history of Christian contemplative practices and reclaim her Christian faith and practice in a meaningful and integrated way.

“It has been interesting to see that these practices are part of the foundation of Christianity,” she says. “I also appreciate that Bethany professors allow me to use class assignments for self-reflective work. This program is not simply an academic exercise, but truly an opportunity to deepen my understanding of myself and God.”


Natasha Beaumont has felt called to ministry since she was a little girl, but her sense of her calling has gained specificity and clarity in recent years — with help from Bethany. After a varied career in social services, mostly focused on the needs of marginalized communities, Beaumont is now pursuing a Master of Divinity degree with hopes of putting her skills and experience in counseling and social work to use in helping congregations to address challenges and — eventually — to thrive.

Beaumont is from Brooklyn, New York. She attended Nyack College. She worked as an administrative assistant on Wall Street, but chose to work in social services so that she could help others overcome life’s challenges.

She has served as director of a homeless shelter, a case manager helping families affected by mental health and substance abuse issues, and a counselor providing services to families in their homes. Recently, however, she has yearned to connect her Christian faith more directly to her daily work she does with people who are struggling.

“This work is so needed, it’s elbow grease work — matching individuals with the services they need. But it is also sometimes limited. The social services system may say that an individual needs a new door for their house, so that’s the problem you solve, even if you sense that the individual’s needs go much deeper.”

As she pursues her studies at Bethany and contemplates moving into Church-based work, she looks forward to a paradigm shift.

“It is freeing to me to lead with Christ,” she says. “This is an opportunity for me to go to where the struggle is and provide support to those who need pastoral care and counseling.”

In particular, Beaumont is interested in helping congregations who are without pastoral leadership and preparing to search for new pastors. 

“I want to specialize in churches that are experiencing struggle or flux,” says Beaumont. “I can help them identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I also can assist them in setting goals, and moving forward. This is so important, because if people are not whole and healed inside, they can’t effectively do the work of the Church.”

Beaumont discovered the Church of the Brethren only few a years ago, after relocating to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. She now attends both Mount Wilson Church of the Brethren and Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren. After attending some classes through the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, she transitioned to Bethany’s MDiv program.

She appreciates the “incredible support” she feels from Bethany faculty and students, and she feels confident that she is in the place God intends for her to be.

“I didn’t think I would feel so good while pursuing a master’s degree,” she says. “I didn’t realize I would feel so cared for. I think anywhere else I would have gone, I would have felt so much more stress.”


When Meridith Owensby was in college, she had a friend who became pregnant while lacking a permanent place to live. Knowing that the young woman was sleeping on friends’ couches, without a consistent place to call home, Owensby felt at the time that there had to be a better place for young mothers like her friend. Years later, she has helped create a solution.

Owensby is co-founder (with Mary Ellen Mitchell) of Lydia’s House, a shelter for unhoused women and young children in Cincinnati. The organization houses four families at a time in a group house and  provides an aftercare program for 40-plus families who previously lived at the shelter.

Lydia’s House is a Catholic Worker house of hospitality, with a specific mission to “provide safe, stable, and supportive housing to women and children in crisis.” The organization describes itself as “a demonstration plot of God’s beloved community, a home where people from all walks of life can help one another grow toward wholeness.”

Families typically stay for three to four months, departing once they have some sort of income, a stable place to live, and any necessary identity documents. Some families have chosen to move into apartments close by after they leave Lydia’s House — including 12 apartments that the organization owns — so mothers and children can remain part of the Lydia’s House community. 

“Because of our aftercare program, we have known some of the kids we serve for almost 10 years,” she says. “We hope these relationships continue in perpetuity.”

Owensby completed a Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination at Bethany, and she is currently working towards an MDiv. She incorporates her love of poetry into her interactions with vulnerable populations, sharing poems in her monthly mailings to clients, posting poems in the community’s bathroom, and writing liturgies for use at community gatherings. 

“We try to create rituals as part of our shared life together,” says Owensby, noting that while  the programming they offer for children is robust, their ministry to adults is still developing. “How do we do right by our adults? That’s a question we are still trying to answer.”

Whatever they come up with, it will surely draw on the personal strengths of the founders and the dedicated volunteers (including a current member of Brethren Volunteer Service) who participate in the ministry. 

Lydia’s House will soon be offering a Wednesday night bible study for adults, and this summer, 18 campers will participate in a camp. Campers will improve their reading and swimming skills, under the tutelage of passionate literacy volunteers and a former collegiate swimmer.

Owensby’s own gifts are numerous and various. She earned anundergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and a master’s degree in rehabilitation from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work with homeless populations includes time at Open Door Community in Atlanta and Miriam’s House in Washington, D.C. She also worked as a vision rehabilitation therapist for several years. She is a member of Winton Community Free Methodist Church and is an oblate with the Transfiguration Sisters. She is committed to providing something to the Lydia’s House community that transcends what a typical case manager can provide. 

“If there’s world enough and time, what is the best thing we could offer to the people we serve,” she asks.


This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Wonder & Word.