Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 2, 2019

Ordained ministers on campus

Rebecca Yowler performing communion during ordination in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Yowler)

Faith may not hold a lot of value to some people, but for others, religion can hold a very big place in their heart and as a part of their identity. It is something that brings comfort, joy and solace to their everyday lives. Religion can hold varying degrees of importance in the lives of many, but others take it a step above just worship.

One option to do that for those in the Christian faith is ordination, meaning that they can be authorized to perform various ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and communions. It is an extremely lengthy process, involving several steps and going to three to four years of schooling, depending on the denomination. Director of Spiritual Life Monica Corsaro is among those on campus that are ordained.

“It’s very much like a professor trying to get tenure. It takes years,” Coraso said.

Corsaro opened up about the lengthy process of her ordination and how it relates to what she does here at Knox.

“My task here is to take care of the spiritual needs of faculty, staff and students,” she said. “And then especially in our case, since we are so international, is to help students find access to practice.”

Corsaro went on to elaborate on the religious environment of Galesburg, and how students of various religions may not have the same accessibility as those in Christian denominations. In Galesburg, there are 55 Christian churches, with one synagogue and no mosques. Let alone all the other religions that students here may practice.

Wanting to understand the universe and everything around her was a main drive for Corsaro to seek ordination.

“I have always been interested and curious about what is important for people. God seems to be important for many people,” Coraso said.

The desire to seek greater knowledge and to also give back to the world seems to be a shared characteristic for those who pursue ordination. Librarian Rebecca Yowler is also ordained. Yowler has always worked in youth education and felt strongly that her call was to become ordained.

“There’s this persistent nudge and you feel like this is what you’re supposed to be doing in the world,” Yowler said. “At some point, you just can’t ignore it anymore.”

Despite this, another facet of Yowler’s identity became a detriment to what she loved.

“I’m a librarian because I got fired from being a minister for being gay,” she said. “Being queer cost me my call. I had intentionally not been out, because it was ten years ago and things were different. Someone maliciously outed me to my congregation and I was fired the next day.”

For Yowler, this was a period of hurt and anguish. She spent years trying to regain her sense of self, which was when she decided to go back to school for library science.

Today, Yowler has found some solace in her identity, but it doesn’t come without some inner struggles about having to “pick a side”.

Last year, the school witnessed a conflict between Common Ground and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) about the argued implications that IVCF was an organization that rejected those in the LGBTQ+ community.

“It was extremely triggering and hurtful for me, because I am both. I am queer, and I am Christian,” Yowler said. “And those two things can exist in the same place, they exist in me.”

Despite past and present difficulties, Yowler is still able to connect with her faith in meaningful ways. She can assist students with religious research at the reference desk, and often substitute preaches at churches in Galesburg. However, even that comes with its own limits.

Yowler is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is a sixth generation member of it. Here in Galesburg, practicing may not be so simple.

“The church in my own denomination that’s in this town is not an open and accepting congregation,” Yowler said. “I can’t worship there, in my own tradition, in this town.”

Yet beyond all the grueling years of learning theology, there is a quicker route to getting ordained — doing it online. Albeit less respected in religious spheres, it holds the same legality as going about it “the long way”.

Chad Simpson is one of those that obtained ordination online. Simpson is the chair of the English department, and sought ordination after two former students of his asked if he would be willing to wed them.

“It was really a pretty simple process … I think I just had to click a couple times and then they sent me the stuff [the Certificate of Ordination] in the mail,” Simpson said.

As a minister leading a ceremony, there is a lot of responsibility to take on.

“The students were both kinda writer people, so I thought they would be writing their ceremony, but then when it was getting close to the date, I said, ‘Oh, have you written the ceremony?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, you can do it,’” Simpson said. “So then I felt a little bit of pressure but I pulled it off and it was an honor to be able to do that.”

Pushing past the stress of leading a wedding ceremony, Simpson performed it successfully, and even poked fun at obtaining his ordination online.

“I think I even used the line, ‘By the power vested in me, and by the internet … It’s an easy laugh with the crowd,” He said.

The depth, meaning and purpose may differ for each person who pursues ordination. Whether it is for a one-time wedding ceremony or a duty for life, the title holds great value for many individuals. Although times may seems to have changed, religion is still a part of people’s identity, and will most likely remain important to many.


Alicia Olejniczak, Associate Mosaic Editor

Tags:  chad smipson minister monica corsaro ordination rebecca yowler religion spirituality

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