The Rev. Dr. Jerusha Neal is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving as professor of theology at the Davuilevu Theological College of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma in the South Pacific. Her particular interests are teaching preaching to new pastors and affirming women in their pastoral call.
Fiji has a population of 900,000, of whom 500,000 are native Fijians. Of those, two-thirds are Methodist. The Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma is a long-time mission partner of Global Ministries, especially in the area of training for pastoral and lay leadership. Davuilevu College is the primary institution for such education. Professor Neal teaches courses in a broad spectrum of subjects. Her husband, the Rev. Wesley Neal, also a missionary, is on the seminary faculty.
Jerusha Neal, a Midwest US native, is an ordained clergyperson of the American Baptist Churches in the USA. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities from the University of Chicago, a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate in Philosophy in homiletics, also from Princeton Seminary.
She has worked as a teaching fellow in the homiletics department at Princeton, co-pastor of the Santee United Methodist Church in Santee, California, and director of Christian education at the First Presbyterian Church of Fullerton, California. Since 2008, she has been involved in theatre, writing, and performing a one-woman show about the joys and challenges of the Christian vocation.
“I was born into an intentional, ecumenical, Christian community that existed for the purpose of loving God and neighbor,” she says. “I grew up joyful and loved, a full participant in the worship and service of the church.” That formative experience continues to help her “live with an honest and open heart and share with others how Jesus has extended grace to me. I find Jesus present in all kinds of places and people, especially unexpected places and people.”
Jerusha—whose Hebrew name means “owned by the Lord”—expected to teach religion when she enrolled at Princeton Seminary, until she preached her first sermon. “The match was lit.” Jerusha’s call to teach preaching in the context of the global church comes from the conviction that preaching matters to the life of the church and world. Moreover, when persons who have had their voices silenced by others stand and speak in the pulpit, preaching becomes a liberating sacrament of God’s grace and power. Jerusha is privileged to bear witness to God’s work in the preaching of men and women around the world. She is convinced that this global witness is vitally important to the American church as it faces its own challenges in the 21st century.
“A missionary calling to teach preaching overseas calls me to a deeper ground in Christian community. It provides opportunities for speaking and listening to future leaders in God’s church, learning together as we share our preaching practices across cultures. Most importantly, it calls me to the lifetime work of embracing my identity as a member of God’s family and witnessing to the heart of the God revealed in Jesus.”
Jerusha and Wesley have two young children, Mercy, and Josiah.
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