Rev. Beth Fender '91
Rev. Beth Gallegly Fender ’91 first heard of MacMurray College when she attended the Gifted Program on campus between 1981 and 1986.
“From my experience with that program, I got to know some of the faculty and the students who served as counselors, and I fell in love with the welcoming ‘Mac Fam’ – even if we didn't quite use that term yet,” Fender said. “The fact that MacMurray was affiliated with the United Methodist Church helped to confirm Mac as my first choice.”
It was at MacMurray where she started to put together the plan that God had for her, which has led her to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church where she is Coordinator of Discipleship and New Streams. “I serve as a resource person for over 850 churches,” Fender said.
As an elementary education major at Mac, Fender said she appreciated the preparation that would have allowed her to teach right away, but it was not until she started seminary that she fully realized the value of a liberal arts-based education.
Fender completed a Master of Arts in Christian Education in 2009, was ordained in The United Methodist Church in 2011 and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in Spiritual Formation in 2019. “It is hard to fully express how grateful I am for all those response papers in Core, and for the experience of writing clearly and concisely in response to both lectures and primary sources,” Fender said.
She continues to use her skills in teaching and learning every day in her current role with the United Methodist Church, and Fender says she even gets to lead an annual camp for children entering kindergarten through fourth grade.
Life at Mac also played a role. She was a member of the Religious Life Committee for her first two years at Mac and an active member of the Holy Fools clown ministry all four years, serving as "Head Fool" (president) of the Holy Fools her senior year.
“These groups provided a supportive community in which I could continue to express and grow in my faith,” Fender said. “I especially appreciated the prayer circles at the end of Holy Fools meetings as we shared prayer requests and prayed for one another – and I also appreciated the hugs that followed!”
One of the best things that Fender believes churches have to offer – aside from an opportunity to grow in faith – is the opportunity to be in community with people of different backgrounds, generations and perspectives.
“While my life is infinitely richer because of my faith and my connection with the church, even those who can't find that sort of connection through a church should seek out some sort of opportunity to learn to listen to others and to share their perspective with humility, realizing that your firmly held convictions may be wrong – or only partially correct.”
Fender adds that some churches sponsor discussion opportunities at neutral sites such as restaurants, coffee houses, people's living rooms and even bars. She suggests that people seek one of these out, even if they never attend worship services in a church building.
It’s important to find ways to engage in service to your community which also opens up opportunities to interact with people with whom you may not always agree.
“Your Mac education equips you to be a critical thinker and an informed citizen,” Fender said. “Continue to sharpen those skills throughout your lifetime, and don't give in to our culture's demands for loyalty to an ideology at the expense of relationships and respectful discourse.”