Mother in Ministry
When Ashley Diaz Mejias prepared to enter the M.Div. program at Union Presbyterian Seminary last year, she was 33, married, with one young child and another on the way.
“I told God, ‘You’re going to have to make this work,’” she says. “And it worked out financially.” Things have worked out so far on the homefront as well. Mejias is thriving in her roles as student, wife of Alex (a lawyer), and mother to 3-year-old Belen and 10-month-old Maisy. Although she adds a disclaimer: “You haven’t seen the inside of my house!”
Mejias works five hours a week at East End Fellowship, a five-year-old nondenominational congregation in a multiethnic and economically diverse part of Richmond, VA. A seminary internship takes her twice a week to the city jail, where she helps the chaplain with pastoral counseling and prayer services.
Managing all these responsibilities is “a community effort,” she says. “I’ve got a great church community and a great family. My professors have been supportive and understanding.”
Mejias and her husband both were born in the United States, but her dad is Cuban and Alex’s parents are Haitian and Puerto Rican. She has wrestled for years with questions about racial and economic justice.
While majoring in religious studies and philosophy at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, she volunteered with an urban ministry just blocks from the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Volunteering led to three years of full-time work with the ministry.
She left Memphis to pursue a Master’s degree in theology, ethics, and culture at the University of Virginia. She found graduate school “challenging and creative but removed from the real world.” She still longed for “a place to work out my theological questions.”
Mejias was active in an Episcopal congregation as a child. As an adult, she began to realize that “I knew a lot about the Book of Common Prayer but not a lot about the Bible.”
Finally at Union, Mejias is working out her questions, applying insights from Scripture and theology to real-world justice issues. A recent class assignment involved planning a retreat on the topic of social class. “It was the first time in my life that I’ve been able to take something from an academic setting and distill it down for a church setting,” she says.
For Mejias, ministry likely will always include working for social justice. And thanks to UPSem, she’ll soon be equipped with a better set of tools.