World Communion Sunday
Chaplain Catrena Talbert
COURTESY CATRENA TALBERT
When the Rev. Catrena Talbert was growing up in tiny State Line, Miss., her dad would often come home frustrated from his military job "fussing and cussing about everybody there," she recalls. "He would always say, 'There's only one person you can trust in the military, and that's the chaplain.'"
That memory is one reason Talbert, 31, is an endorsed chaplain today. Another is the help she received from the Journey toward Ordained Ministry (JTOM) and Ethnic Minority Scholarship programs, both funded by the World Communion Sunday offering received annually in United Methodist churches. Gifts to this offering—officially set for Sunday, Oct. 6, in 2013—are crucial for nurturing diverse, educated leaders who can help make disciples of Jesus Christ and thus, transform the world.
For Talbert, transformation begins with trust; and she has learned to become a chaplain people can trust to help them through dire challenges. But she has also faced her own challenges in answering God's call to ministry—from discrimination and discouragement to domestic violence and divorce, all while raising her young son, TJ.
"It's been a tough road so far," she admits, "but I've had a lot of support, especially from The United Methodist Church, and that's helped me get through the tough times. My mentors in the [JTOM] program told me from the beginning, 'It doesn't matter how long your journey is; we will walk with you all the way.'"
Interpreter readers first met Talbert in 2007 when she was a student at Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta and new to the JTOM program. Then her goal was to graduate, be ordained an elder and serve a local church with white, Hispanic and African-American members. She has achieved those goals.
She graduated from Gammon in 2009 and received her certification from the Associates of American Clinical Pastoral Education and endorsement as a chaplain from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in 2011.
Chaplain Catrena Talbert (right) talks with members of her National Guard unit.
COURTESY CATRENA TALBERT
As a chaplain, her "churches" are soldiers she serves in the National Guard and inmates at a federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss., where she began work in December 2012. There she helps pre-release inmates prepare to reenter a society different from that which they left before incarceration, teaching them coping skills from a spiritual perspective.
"I chose pastoral counseling because I like to help people one-on-one," says Talbert, "I feel God gifted me to be in spiritual intimacy with people as a counselor, where I can help them grow closer to God."
Helping people wrestle with numerous flaws and adversities—in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes and shelters for the homeless—often opened Talbert's eyes and challenged her theological beliefs, she says. "But I learned to accept people for who they are and to earn their trust by listening, relating to them honestly, and helping them see God's love and presence through me."
Adapted from a story by John W. Coleman, Baltimore, published at http://www.umcgiving.org.
World Communion Sunday—Oct. 6
Find materials to help tell the World Communion Sunday story at http://www.umcgiving.org/wcs. Order posters and leaflet/envelopes to promote the offering by calling United Methodist Communications Customer Service, 888-346-3862. While Oct. 6 is the official date for the observance, churches may receive the offering on any day.