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Faith: Anglican deacon opens ecumenical Lenten series
By Jackie R. Broach
Growing up, Beth Sprinkle never imagined she would one day be an ordained leader in the church.
She grew up in a Christian family, which she is grateful for. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t know about the Lord, Jesus Christ, and she accepted him as her personal savior when she was 12. But in college she majored in economics and business management and later went to work as an assistant buyer for a department store chain.
Yet at 50, Sprinkle, a Waverly resident, is a deacon at All Saints Church and on the last day of February she will open this year’s ecumenical Lenten series at Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church. The series will run for five weeks beginning at noon every Wednesday and takes place at a different church each week.
Her personal journey goes to show that every Christian has a spiritual gift to be used in the name of their faith. Sprinkle found hers as a deacon in helping ordinary people realize their gifts.
“You don’t have to be ordained to be used,” she said. “You can help advance His kingdom just through ordinary relationships. You can do it in the workplace. A doctor can do it through praying with patients for healing. A mom can do it through volunteering in the school system.”
In her role as a deacon — seen in the Anglican tradition as a bridge between the priest and the laity — she brings that message, along with words of hope and healing.
But her journey to reach that point was difficult at times. It took a while for her to accept her calling. It started with a women in discipleship course birthed at All Saints by the Rev. Erilynne Barnum in 1998.
“I went through it and it transformed my life,” Sprinkle said. “It showed me a deep hunger to spread the word of God and how to apply it in daily life.”
The program grew and grew, first locally and then to be picked up by churches around the nation. Sprinkle started traveling with Barnum to retreats at other churches where the program was being instituted and Barnum told her she had a gift for teaching. It was a surprise to Sprinkle, as there was nothing in her background that would account for such a gift. But Barnum said it had to do with the way Sprinkle asked questions.
“I barraged her with questions,” Sprinkle recalled.
It was early in 2001 that Sprinkle began to have a sense that she was being called. But she doubted it.
“I thought who am I? Beth Sprinkle, a wife and mother, and a lover of the Lord, certainly.”
But she wondered if that was enough. Why would she, out of so many, be called as a voice for God.
But as the years passed, laymen and clergy alike started to ask if she had given any thought to being ordained. She had thought about it, she would tell them. But her daughter was still small and she still wasn’t convinced of her calling.
“I treasured those things in my heart, but it wasn’t until I understood that God delights in taking ordinary people to transform for his glory that I really embraced it,” she said.
Then in 2007, something that her husband Ralph said, helped her decide.
“He said ‘I really believe you have a call from God and you should pursue it,’ ” she recalled. “That really bowled me over, because whatever you’re called to do, God affirms it in your family first.”
She met with Terrell Glenn, who was her rector and bishop at the time, and she started her on the process to become ordained in 2008. She took the required classes, her calling was affirmed and she was ordained in October of 2010.
“It’s very humbling and a privilege to be used in the service of God, particularly with effecting spiritual growth and helping people identify their spiritual gifts,” Sprinkle said. “Every single person has a gift to help build up the church. There are gifts of mercy or love. They can visit the sick or cook a meal for someone. I like to write notes of encouragement.”
She recalled how Barnum mentored her and took her “under her wing.”
“To me, that’s the picture of discipleship and my greatest joy is to be able to replicate what she did for me in other people’s lives.”
Since recognizing her own calling, Sprinkle said it has affected every area of her life, from how she raises her daughter, Libba, a sophomore at Waccamaw High School, to how she spends money and uses her time.
“I want to do things faithfully and to bring Him glory, even in the grocery store,” she said.
At next week’s Lenten service, Sprinkle will speak on the theme for the series: Jesus’ last seven words on the cross.
“I have the first, which is where Jesus said ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ ” Sprinkle said. ”
A light lunch follows each service. The lineup is:
Feb. 29 at Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church
March 7, the Rev. Al Buckner at Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal
March 14, the Rev. Alex Barron at All Saints
March 21, the Rev. Don Williams at St. John’s AME
March 28, the Rev. Melissa Timmerman at Pawleys Island Community Church