GREENFIELD — Melinda Stonebraker believes many of her life experiences have pointed her in the direction of serving as a pastor.
July 1, Stonebraker began as pastor at Greenfield United Methodist Church. It’s her first pastorate, and she takes over for Eric Schubert, who was reassigned to a church in Grinnell after he served here since 2013.
Stonebraker is a former teacher and web designer. She also coached robotics in her former community of Tipton, where her husband Ryan and Zoe, their oldest daughter, will reside until she graduates next spring from high school. Melinda and Lea, their youngest daughter, a seventh-grader, have moved to Greenfield.
Not only has Stonebraker done these things, she’s also cared for her mother, who had a stroke, and lost her father to cancer at a young age.
“I believe that God’s economy is vast, wide and involves everything. I don’t believe God wastes any of our experiences. I don’t believe God causes bad things to happen, but He uses all of it,” Stonebraker said. “One thing that’s good is I have a background in technology, so going to an online worship format, that doesn’t scare me. All of that teaching and computer science is very systems oriented and communications is really important.”
Stonebraker says her background in technology gives her more confidence stepping into a church that is primarily operating virtually due to COVID-19. Her teaching and computer sciences background gives her confidence in various systems and in communications. Having cared for her mother and father gives her empathy in hard times, she explained.
Stonebraker grew up on a farm near Eddyville. She earned an undergraduate degree in computer science and was one partner in a new business in Oskaloosa that designed websites.
When Ryan became the sports editor at the newspaper in Tipton, they moved here and Melinda designed websites remotely. When their daughters began going to school, Melinda started on there, teaching, working as a para-educator and coaching the robotics team.
“I decided it would make more sense to either get my masters degree in computer science so I could teach more and have a full-time job, or I could get my Iowa teaching license, and that’s the way I was leaning. I’m a Christian and pray about decisions, and I could not feel peace about either one,” Stonebraker said.
What those prayers led to was people asking her whether she had considered becoming a pastor. Those questions became louder and louder until one day, her pastor asked her if she had considered it.
“It was a hard decision for me because I felt so strongly about the impact I was having on the lives of students as a teacher,” Stonebraker said. “I was praying a lot about it, not talking about it. I told God that if you want me to do this you should talk louder. I was talking once with my pastor [and told him my options] and he asked me what about a Masters of Divinity and go to seminary and be a pastor? I left there thinking that was definitely louder.”
Stonebraker graduated in May from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and is excited to serve amid unique circumstances in the life of the church due to the pandemic.
Services have not been held since March and Greenfield United Methodist Church is currently posting its services online via social media and small groups are meeting in garages or on front lawns to view services together each week.
“Right now, my goal is to get to know people, and that’s a little more challenging than it would be in other times. Another thing would be to see what’s going on in the community — and I think there are a lot of things to be celebrated,” Stonebraker said. “I am coming in as an outsider, as a guest. I want to continue to experience the welcome I’ve had. I don’t have an agenda, I just want to listen to God through these people and bring whatever gifts I have to offer to this place.”