Denise Forrest

Young Women's Stories
August 16, 2007

» 27 years old

» Dicoese of Nebraska (Church of the Resurrection, Omaha)
» Young Adult Service Corps (Cuernavaca, Mexico)
» Resurrection House (Omaha, NE)

Denise has spent much of her life bridging two worlds. She grew up in an interfaith family, her mother Jewish and her growing up in the Episcopal Church. Early on in life she learned that these two different religious heritages could be integrated and could complement each other. Denise also points to her time in the Young Adult Service Corps as another experience that has formed her, and sparked her interest in multiculturalism. After much discernment, she has found a way to integrate many of her experiences and interests, developing a vital and committed lay ministry within her church and outside of its walls.

Denise spent two years in Cuernavaca, Mexico, organizing short term mission trips for groups from the United States and Canada, and working with the office of the Bishop. She very quickly learned Spanish, and within a short time was running services at the Cathedral for the small English-speaking community. While Denise describes much of the work she did in Mexico as administrative, she does point toward her interactions with people from other cultures as a key growth moment for her. Before traveling to Mexico with YASC, Denise had never been outside of the United States, and was admittedly going quite far out of her comfort zone.

Throughout her two years in Cuernavaca, Denise was able to learn to interact with people and develop cross-cultural relationships while still remaining outside that comfort zone. Soon after beginning to attend the Spanish congregation at the Cathedral, Denise realized how isolated she felt in her foreignness, and how little her foreignness mattered to the people she was worshipping with. “When cultural barriers didn’t matter to them, it didn’t take long before they didn’t matter to me,” she recalls.

Denise returned from Mexico and went to the Resurrection House in Omaha, Nebraska. Resurrection House is an intentional Christian community of people discerning vocation in their lives and serving at placements throughout the city. While Denise eventually discerned that she was not called to ordained ministry, she did discern that she was called to multicultural work. As an intern at Resurrection House, Denise observed a shift in leadership in Omaha and was able to witness “how important lay leadership is in making the church survive. People in the community that form together—that’s what makes the community what it is.” She interned at the first integrated church in Omaha—Church of the Resurrection. This church, she proudly said, was the first church to make an effort to change segregation and to combine one all White and one all Black church; “they take multiculturalism seriously.”

Denise is now finishing up her master’s degree in teaching and will soon start working as an elementary school teacher, teaching both Spanish and English as a Second Language classes in Omaha. Denise understands her role as a leader in the church in a very integrated way. “As a Christian, God is calling me to serve other people, calling me to serve my neighbor, and I think that my experiences as a missionary, intern, and someone who is about to become a teacher have formed this understanding. There are many gifts and many ways to serve; it’s just a matter of finding the right fit. I feel that teaching is a service career, and its own form of ministry. As a Christian, I need to feel that what I do each day is something that is serving my fellow neighbor, that it is a ministry that is serving the Christian ideal.” Denise has a way of bridging communities and cultures, and in her experiences and formation in the Episcopal Church has gained a broader understanding of who is her neighbor, and what Christian ministry can look like in her Church.