Smith’s passion for firefighting, deaconess ministry still strong four years later

By Channon Watkins

Four years into her new role as a United Methodist deaconess, Selena Smith is still on fire for the denomination—and for her chosen ministry focus of firefighting.

Smith, whose home church is Mayesville United Methodist Church, Mayesville, entered the deaconess ministry four years ago after first considering becoming a pastor. She is one of only two active deaconesses in the South Carolina Conference of the UMC (the other is Carol Bruder, whose focus is health ministry).

“I wanted to do more than just sit in church,” Smith said. “God was calling me to do something else.”

As a political science graduate of Columbia College, Smith says that firefighting was last on her list of jobs, but she “has the serving spirit” and became passionate about it the more learned about it. After she became a firefighter, she began to take courses for the deaconess program, a laity course of study in the UMC that requires a lifelong commitment to a ministry passion focusing on love, justice or service. She completed her coursework and was commissioned as a deaconess at General Conference 2012. Today, she is a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Sumter Fire Department and is also doing her best to help UMCs across South Carolina develop fire safety programs.

Combining her work as a firefighter and a deaconess is exactly what she asked God for, even if years ago she didn’t exactly know what the dream would look like.

“Firefighting is a ministry,” she said. “I get to help people that I don’t even know. When I am in my gear, people’s views of me are gone. They just want help. You can’t tell what gender I am, and you can’t tell what color I am. All they know is I am trained like I am supposed to be, and I am there to help.”

The deaconess ministry started in 1888 with single women who were “radical children of ministry.” Smith takes that role seriously in all her duties today.

“We are in-state missionaries,” Smith said. “Each person has their own ministry that they feel is important to them, the church, the community and the world.

“I give my life, service and time to this job.”

To learn more about Smith or her ministry, visit

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