DOBSON — In early June, as many ordained clergy, locally licensed pastors, and laity gathered at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, the meeting place for United Methodists of the Western North Carolina Conference, Surry Community College’s Kennette Thomas, an English instructor and dedicated Phi Theta Kappa club advisor, took part in one of the church’s most significant ceremonies.
In a year that marks the 20th anniversary of the officially recognized role of deacon within the United Methodist Church (UMC), Thomas was provisionally ordained into that very role.
According to the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the UMC, Deacons are called to “serve all people, particularly the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and to equip and lead the laity in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world,” an appointment Thomas explains as traditionally manifesting in primary roles at places like hospitals, schools, nonprofit organizations and other similar agencies, while also maintaining secondary roles in a local UMC in all forms of ministry as needed.
Now that Thomas is provisionally ordained, she has begun a three-year period of commissioning as required by the Western North Carolina Conference in which she is considered a resident in ordained ministry complete with certain privileges, such as the ability to conduct weddings and funerals, but only within the limited capacity of the local church setting. During this period of provisional ordination, Thomas will take part in growth and enrichment groups to experience professional development and work with mentors to prepare for ordination in full.
Such an honor was undoubtedly accomplished with a great deal of hard work and dedication on Thomas’s part. In addition to divinity school, writing thesis-length papers to prep for commissioning, and going before district level committees, as well as the Board of Ordained Ministry, Thomas took part in a Clinical Pastoral Education unit in which she served 300 clinical hours of chaplaincy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC) during this past academic year. Her experience in chaplaincy at WFBMC, and her commitment to SCC, inspired Thomas to serve as a volunteer chaplain for the college during that time as well.
Thomas plans to continue volunteering her services as a chaplain for Surry, and knows that her new responsibility as deacon of the UMC will be a role that shines through in all aspects of her position as an instructor.
Thomas said, “I believe I have the ability to impact more students than just the ones who step into my classroom in the C-Building through service projects, programs and initiatives, as well as an in-house resource to connect people with outside agencies, nonprofits and churches.”
Thomas looks forward to using what she has learned in preparation for ordination, and what she continues to learn as a deacon, as she expands her teaching experience at Surry in courses like Religion in America and New Testament.