Wesley alumna The Rev. Tabea D. Muenz has enjoyed an interesting journey to her current position as Pastor for German Language Ministries at The United Church in Washington, D.C. The church is a blended congregation that is both United Church of Christ and United Methodist and offers fellowship in both English and German languages.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Muenz studied at the School of Theology in Reutlingen, Germany, but found herself itching to go abroad. “I wanted to get out of the little bubble of Reutlingen,” Muenz said. The school had fewer than 60 students and little denominational diversity, she said.
A newly launched exchange program brought her to Wesley in the fall of 2009 for just four months. “It was a much bigger school than what I was used to,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself, about the blind spots I didn’t know I had.”
Muenz reveled in the exchange of diverse perspectives and the collegial atmosphere. “It’s a very loving community at Wesley,” she said. “The teachers cared about us a lot, about us personally. I loved being in the library and talking to people there.”
Before returning to Germany, Muenz completed an application to Wesley’s Master of Theological Studies program. By the summer of 2010, she was back, with a scholarship from Wesley.
“I loved the practical approach,” she said. “German theology is more dogmatic, or academic. Wesley puts the focus on the practical, with the certificate programs, and programs like Urban Ministry.”
She especially enjoyed the school’s ecumenical population. “My colleagues ranged from Baptist to Pentecostal,” she said. “When I took a consortium class at Howard University, some of my classmates were Catholic priests.”
The location was also a benefit. “D.C. is such an international town,” Muenz said. “I attended a Greek Orthodox church. I went to a Muslim mosque. You’re not just sitting in a seminary hearing about Islam, you can actually go and visit these places.”
A part-time position at The United Church turned full-time when she graduated in 2012. She was ordained in Sept. 2016, and now leads two German language services each month.
“The church is 50 percent United Church of Christ and 50 percent United Methodist,” she said. “So it’s an ecumenical church that merges two denominations and two languages.”
Muenz said that those denominations work in close harmony. When there are differences in church law, a congregational vote is taken. A recent example was the topic of same-sex marriage, which is accepted in the United Church of Christ but not formally supported by The United Methodist Church. “We voted to become an open and affirming church,” Muenz said. “It was never really a problem.”
With a three-year contract, Muenz will continue to call Washington, D.C., her home for the near future. “I’m preaching and doing ministry and learning more about what it means to be an international church,” she said.
That multifaceted experience now extends to her young family, which includes a new baby. “I’m fully living my intercultural life,” she said. “My partner also comes from outside the United States. He’s Mexican, so we’re a German-Mexican family living in Washington, DC. There’s a lot of culture for us to explore.”