How ACMNP Makes an Impact
My three college summers in the early ‘70s were spent working for Yellowstone Park Service Stations –about as far away from the heat and humidity of my coastal Alabama home and university as I could imagine. What drew me there was a sense of adventure, coupled with a deepening spirituality and a nascent vocation to ordained ministry that needed time and space for exploration and testing. But above all, I needed courage to follow it through. Was the Holy Spirit calling, or was it just me? When Jesus really needed to pray, he headed to the wilderness. Yellowstone’s wilderness would do just fine!
A faith lesson I learned early on was: if I take God seriously, God returns the favor. And another was like unto it: the Holy Spirit is sneaky! That first summer a co-worker in my dorm just happened to be a Student Worker with ACMNP, an organization I had never heard of. He invited me to assist with Campground Calling, and later, to help with music at Sunday services at the Madison Junction amphitheater. With frozen fingers I attempted to play hymns on a folding pump organ, while being distracted by nature’s animated stained glass of bison and ravens, flyfishermen working the twisty confluence of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers, and National Park Mountain. What a setting for my first outdoor worship experience!
Soon, the Old Faithful ministry staff invited me to participate, unofficially, in much of what they did, and introduced me to the concept of being a “worker-priest,” of living faith intentionally in a secular context. Today, we might call that living into one’s baptism. All summer I held the idea of ordained life up against pumping gas, swabbing toilets and answering the same two questions a zillion times daily –“What time does Old Faithful erupt?” and “Where are the restrooms?” Somehow, it all fit together, and, down inside, I had my answer.
In my subsequent summers I also served with ACMNP, now officially, as a Student Minister. Until ACMNP, I had never been involved in a multidenominational work and worship experience before, and found that the differing backgrounds of the other Student Ministers and Workers were real strengths and gifts to our overall ministry. The Holy Spirit was saying yes even louder.
Needless to say, there’s far more to this story between my summers in Yellowstone and finishing seminary in 1988 --first master’s degree, teaching at university, starting a family, the long Call validation process of The Episcopal Church, multiple sclerosis and M.Div. Now, as a retired Episcopal priest, I look back and can honestly say that ACMNP was the best Christian faith lab course I could have ever enrolled in! My Field Education in seminary could not compare. Had it not been for my experience through ACMNP, I would still be teaching German. God is good.
My wife, Donna, an Episcopal deacon, and I now live near Helena, Montana, and we get to Yellowstone often. Now, in our early geezerhood, we, or I, have worked and/or volunteered four of the past five summers. I’m drawn to the place that first gave me life.
I suspect that much of what drew me in 1970 also drew you to ACMNP. Our times, our stories are different, but they converge at a manger, at a cross and at an empty tomb. The Spirit gives us courage!
For God so loved the world…
Fr. Glen Gleaves