Rev. Anna Guillozet Knows the Importance of Giving
The Senior Pastor with Linworth UMC recently spoke with Wespath about her role as the co-host of, and participant in, Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-Being.
What can be seen in Reverend Anna Guillozet’s Zoom background offers a glimpse into two of her passions: fitness and faith.
Rev. Guillozet’s medals from running races hang on the wall in her office at Linworth UMC in Columbus, Ohio. Dangling just over her right shoulder, the medals are so numerous and the ribbons are so colorful that they make for a natural conversation starter.
Rev. Guillozet stands in front of a large bookshelf that displays meaningful communion plates and chalices—including two sets of hand thrown pottery made by close friends. A small green set is from the 2010 Global Young People’s Convocation in Germany and, just off camera, another set is from an Exploration event hosted by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“There are times and places where things have spiritual meanings, and if that is something that I can pick up from wherever I am, I try to,” Rev. Guillozet said of the communion sets.
Rev. Guillozet recently spoke with Wespath about another one of her passions—the intersection of faith and finances. She is the co-host of Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well-Being, a new personal money management program. The program helps participants align their Wesleyan faith with their finances.
Q: One of the things that I was told is that you are on the board of pensions for your conference. Is that correct?
A: Yeah, and actually this year I’ve taken on being the chair of our board of pensions and health benefits. To be a young woman, I’m not the norm in that.
Q: How did you get involved in this? Why is this an interest or a passion of yours?
A: My foray into our pensions and health benefits team actually came from serving on the bishop’s wellness taskforce in West Ohio. Bishop (Gregory V.) Palmer was really confronted by how many clergy (had not made their health a priority). Not just physical health, but mental health, spiritual health. As somebody who had taken strides in my own life to be healthy and did it in a pretty visible way through being a pastor, he asked me to serve on that task force. It was a natural transition to talking about health benefits, the ways that being overarchingly healthy can help you in your own individual practice of ministry, but also what it means for us as a conference as far as stewardship is concerned and the way that we steward our own insurance benefits, the health benefits that we need to offer, things like that. It was a weird but natural transition. I’m really thankful to be doing it.
Q: How did you become involved with Saving Grace, specifically as the co-host?
A: I serve on the Young Leaders Advisory Board with Wespath. In one of our very first meetings we talked about the need for a specifically Wesleyan financial wellness curriculum. We articulated to the Wespath team that one of the best community outreach programs we knew was Financial Peace, the Dave Ramsey curriculum. However, there’s a lot that must be adjusted for those theologically educated in the Wesleyan tradition. It’s not egregious. The program isn’t un-Christian. But a Wesleyan understanding of financial wellness is a bit more nuanced.
Q: Can you give me an example of something that is different for Methodists than non-Wesleyan Christian faiths?
A: Yeah, like I said, I don’t think it’s necessarily that Wesleyan theology stands opposed to any of that, but the really basic (John Wesley advice to) “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can,” it’s a little bit different. John Wesley and the way that our theological tradition has evolved is that the reason for your earning, the reason for your hard work, the reason for your saving, is so that you can take care of other people in Christian community. We see other people saying, “Earn all you can, save all you can so that you can have a really comfortable retirement.” John Wesley in his original life didn’t really care about his own personal financial advancement, he just wanted to take care of people.
Also, if you look at his own upbringing, debtors’ prisons were a real thing in his time. And so, a lot of the ways that he taught about money were that money, if not positioned right in your spiritual life, can become an idol to you and can actually become a hinderance in your own spiritual development. So that’s been a really great thing to not have to sort of fiddle with in this curriculum.
Q: Have (Y-LAB) members tried to start groups at your churches yet?
A: Actually, I’m teaching the class right now. We just had our first session with my group last Thursday. So far, it’s going well. This is a group that has been well established with each other for a long time, so they have that natural rapport. But they’ve accepted me in as the leader of it pretty naturally. I think it’s going to be pretty great.
Q: In the first (Saving Grace video), you mentioned you had a personal experience in the past that affected you financially. Are you comfortable going into a little bit of detail about that?
A: I’m happy to talk about it. I grew up in a pretty, now that I reflect on it, probably a lower middle-class family, but middle class still. My parents made it clear to my older brother and I that they would help out with our college education as much as they could, but they made no promises. Then at the end of my freshman year of college, my mom died pretty unexpectedly and so what little help they were able to offer to me in my college education was suddenly removed. It wasn’t simply tuition and books, it was a matter of, I have to pay my own rent now. I have to pay my own cellphone bill now. I was uninsured for the last two years of my college career because when I prioritized my finances, I was a relatively healthy 20-year-old and health insurance didn’t seem necessary. That was back before all of the Affordable Care Act and things of that sort.
And quite honestly there was one time when I was in college that I went to the grocery store—I went to college in a very small town, so there was only one grocery store—and I had gone to the grocery store and I’m standing in the aisle looking at a box of macaroni and cheese trying to decide, would the macaroni and cheese be better without the butter or without the milk? Because I couldn’t afford both of them. Thank goodness my college chaplain’s wife was passing me in the aisle and she had known what I went through and she picked up my entire grocery bill that day. Coming from somebody who had a stable, but not affluent, upbringing, to suddenly be thrust into financial independence and needing to reprioritize everything, I just didn’t really have the tools. Because all I had known growing up was what my dad had told me, and I said in that video, “Just spend less money than you make and you’ll be fine.” Well, when you’re not making any money, what does that mean?
Q: I’m sorry about that. And thank you for sharing. One of those “God moments” that the chaplain’s wife was behind you, walking past you at that moment.
A: Sort of serendipitously. I went to a Methodist college and she was the vice president for student affairs at the time. … Later on, in that school year I had gone to the vice president and I said to her, “Alice-Kay, I’m going to have to drop out. I can’t pay my tuition. I’ve maxed out some of my student loans. I just can’t afford this.” She said, “Here’s the withdrawal slip. Take it tonight and bring it back to me in the morning.” So, I filled it all out ready to withdraw from college and I took it back to her office the next morning and she tore it up in front of me. And she said, “Somebody took care of your tuition bill for this quarter. I can’t do anything for next quarter, but I need you to know that this quarter is taken care of.” But she was very clear to me, she said, “Someday I’m going to call on you because I will need something for another student, and I expect you to help.”
Now what I didn’t know is that she was the daughter of a retired pastor and she called her dad, who worshiped in my home congregation, and said, “Listen, Anna’s trying to withdraw from college because she can’t afford it. Dad, what can you do?” So, he paid my tuition for one quarter. That’s not a luxury that a lot of people get. So, I consider myself very fortunate in that. It’s definitely a testament to the way that the Church raised me that I was able to overcome that and to really move forward in my life. Maybe someday I’ll finish paying off my student loans (laughs), but I try to be thankful that they exist because it meant that I got a good education in what I was called to.