Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary 1989
Former District Superintendent, Crossroads District, Detroit Conference of The United Methodist Church; Current Pastor at Halsey UMC / South Mundy UMC, Detroit Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Rev. Dr. Tara Sutton sums up the essence of her ministry using the word “spiritual,” which describes her hope that she can “help people dig deeper in their relationship with God.” For example, in her district’s Annual Charge Conferences, she integrated a spiritual component for each church. Through a worship service tailored to the needs of each congregation—including practices like anointing a lay leader or washing the feet of the pastor—Rev. Sutton had “72 opportunities to worship with each congregation.”
Leadership also characterizes her ministry. When she first became a district superintendent, she gathered a group to develop a vision, which they articulated with this statement: “We envision a transformed Crossroads District of connected spiritual leaders and churches fully reflecting the kingdom of God.” This vision has since shaped her leadership and that of others in the District. She also has offered training to enhance the ministry of clergy and laity, including workshops on topics such as prayer, tools for ministry, or living life in the Spirit.
Also key to Rev. Sutton’s ministry is coaching. Through one-on-one supervisory coaching sessions, she helps clergy identify their gifts and graces, develop habits for self-care and wholeness, or explore financial health. In addition, clergy have the opportunity to work with a professional coach to examine their ministerial effectiveness, discuss areas of concern, and identify areas for improvement.
Most important is her personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship that invites her each day to be courageous in her ministry—which involves being faithful, dedicated, and committed to the call of Christ and never losing focus. One of the ways she stays committed is through the practice of intentional spiritual disciplines—prayer, solitude, the study of Scripture—that help her stay in tune with the voice of God:
“Meditation . . . enabled me to live into the quiet, learn to settle my spirit and my heart to live into the quiet. Prayer and meditation help me stay committed and focused . . . my whole life is a life of prayer.”
Taking time to listen to the spirit and occasionally tuning out the busyness enables Rev. Sutton to make decisions that “edify and glorify God.” If these types of spiritual disciplines are integrated into ministry and all aspects of our lives, Rev. Sutton believes, it allows for “being in the presence of God and listening intently to what God wants you to do.”