Deacon Margy Schmitt Ajer was called to synod staff as the Assistant to the Bishop for Congregations. She will begin in June.
Welcome to the Metro New York Synod! Tell us a little bit about yourself/your background.
I grew up in a little town called Versailles, Ohio and when I was 13 our family moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico. These were very different places. My dad was a pastor so I grew up in the church. I worked at church camps in Colorado and went to Bethany College, an ELCA college. I was a social work major and just thought that’s what I would do. In my senior year though, I was invited to apply to Youth Staffers, a program that placed people in youth ministry positions for a year. I was assigned and went to the Central Canadian Synod. That year was when I began to feel a sense that I was called to serve the church.
How did you feel called to word and service ministry?
Through all of my experiences, as I heard God’s call for me, it was to a place of speaking on behalf of the church while making sure the church heard what was going on out in world. I had gone to a gathering of lay professionals that was right before the Churchwide Assembly voted on the roster of Diaconal Ministers. I sat in this room and heard what the role was about and had tears rolling down my cheeks – I finally had words for my call. As soon as possible, I began the candidacy process to become a Diaconal Minister and was consecrated in 1996.
My ministry has allowed me to keep one foot in the church and one foot in the world. It is important to always translate between the boundaries of the church and the world. The church is for the sake of the world.
What drives your ministry?
I am committed to discernment. Even though I was in my last call for 21 years, I am always asking where God is leading me. I see this in my work too. I walk with individuals and congregations to help them to be in a mode of discernment – Where is God calling you? Where is God calling us? I am passionate about this. I think asking these questions is part of what it means to be a baptized Christian.
What goals do you have for this year?
My biggest goal is to get to know people and to build relationships. To carry out this ministry I need to be in relationship with others. That’s what ministry is all about. So I want to start by getting around and meeting as many people as possible. I will have to learn some of the technical pieces of how things happen in this synod too, but I want to learn about the people I’ve been called to serve. I think my goals will shift as I build these relationships.
Where do you find joy in ministry?
I find great joy in relationships. This is what gives me motivation. It has been interesting in the past months since my call ended as Region 2 Coordinator, I’ve gotten to hear from so many people. Knowing that I have made a difference and had a positive impact on people’s lives brings joy and meaning.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to be together with my family. I am very proud of my family – My husband is an intentional interim pastor, and our three adult children serve as a parish pastor, a member of the ELCA Global Mission Team, and one working at a church camp. Some ask how we got all of our kids into ministry and I say it is just how we lived our lives. Church was always a core piece of family life.
My husband and I also love to travel. Once our kids were out of college we committed to a big trip every year. We’ve been all over! We love to go to new places and are really looking forward to a new chapter in New York!