RINGGOLD — Growing up in the United Methodist Church, Angel Rishell never saw herself in the role of pastor when she was older, but she has come to see God can work in amazing ways.
From the time she was in the sixth grade and had to choose a job for her career project, she had wanted to be a veterinarian. This is what she based her whole high school career project on, and even what her college degree is for, but she believes God just had other plans for her.
When she was in high school, she went to an event called Exploration which is meant to help young adults decide what God’s call on their life is leading them to within the church. She said she left the event still convinced she did not want to go into the ministry.
After finishing high school, she attended Penn State for her undergraduate degree in pre-veterinary medicine, with a major in veterinary and biological sciences. While in college she attended another Exploration event, but left this one with new thoughts. She says she found herself thinking, “maybe you can do this,” instead of a definite “no.” She still wanted to graduate from college though.
“All my plans had led up to that. I couldn’t see anything else for myself,” Rishell said.
Going into her junior year of college, she started to struggle with some of her classes. She began to see this as a sign that God wanted her in the ministry. She graduated from college in 2014, married Ryan Rishell, and started seminary that fall.
When she started school, she was on the path to become a deacon. When she started her residency, she was given the title of associate pastor, and she did not want the title. Even though she was going to work with the church, she still couldn’t see herself as a pastor.
“I didn’t want that title, I was against it; I had no interest in being a pastor,” Rishell said.
While in this position though, she started a youth group at the churches where she was doing a residency in Hazen. She received positive feedback from the community, and again felt like God was calling her to the position.
She needed to have a Master’s of Divinity degree to become a pastor, and even though she was going to become a deacon, she was already on the track for Divinity because she had an interest in learning the biblical languages. When she decided to make the change to pastor, all she had to do was declare the change of conference track.
Rishell also began the process to become a pastor in the United Methodist Conference system as well. Her last year of seminary was a busy and intense time. She and her husband found out they were expecting a baby at the beginning of 2017, and she would be having the baby in September. She was also in her last year of school, and would need to go before the Conference to say she was interested in going into the ministry for the UMC.
“I had a group of friends that I went through this process with, so having that support was nice,” Rishell said.
She was also driving back and forth from Stanton to Pittsburgh everyday for her classes. She took the first term of her final year off to have her baby, and spend time at home with baby Gracelyn. When she went back to school, she had a friend who lived by the school with a child near Gracelyn’s age who would watch her while Rishell attended class.
Once she was approved as a candidate for ministry, she found herself stuck in the limbo of being approved, but not graduated from school yet, so she couldn’t begin her residency. When she finally finished her last term, which she said was the hardest, she began her three years of residency to officially be ordained through the UMC Conference.
“It’s a really long process to be ordained in the United Methodist Church,” Rishell said.
She knows she will have to be appointed to a different church someday. She was born and raised in the area, so she’s not sure what this will look like when the time comes, but she trusts that God will send her in the right direction.