Joy Ireland becomes Blessed Earth’s first Sabbath chaplain

By Paula Diaz
Staff Writer

After serving and working alongside Asbury students as the assistant director of campus ministries and assistant chaplain for the past eight years, Joy Ireland has transitioned into a new role by following her God-given passion for the Sabbath. With the start of this spring semester, Ireland began working with an educational non-profit in Lexington called Blessed Earth, fulfilling the role of the organization’s very first Sabbath chaplain.

“Anyone who knows me well knows that the topic of Sabbath is an absolute passion of mine,” said Ireland. According to its website, Blessed Earth is a ministry that strives to “promote measurable change and meaningful spiritual growth.” In her new position, Ireland will be responsible for various Sabbath initiatives aimed at clergy and lay leaders. 

“My specific emphasis over the next three years deals with a significant grant Blessed Earth has received to focus these Sabbath-based initiatives in North Carolina,” Ireland said over an email interview. “My new boss has told me that I am the first full-time Sabbath chaplain in the country, so I assume I’ll experience many things that are new to me as we continue to create the position.”

While Ireland has only been in her new position for a couple of days, the most immediate change she has experienced has been her new work hours. She now works a traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday and is “up and at ‘em quite early,” she said. Even with this new change, Ireland knows that God has called her to this new responsibility and gives her the motivation to wake up each morning when her alarm sounds.  

Along with fulfilling her duties as assistant director of campus ministries and assistant chaplain at Asbury, Ireland was also in charge of overseeing the Summer Ministry Team program, which she said was her favorite part of her work at Asbury. “Preparing, discipling, advising and challenging the Summer Ministry Team program members toward a deeper walk with Christ was a highlight of my week…every week!” she said. 

While Ireland initially found it difficult to hand the Summer Ministry Team over to new leadership, she recognized that the team is in good hands and wished this year’s team well.

“Transitioning away from Asbury was difficult, but I can see looking back that God has been preparing me for this quick job change very gradually and graciously over the last few years,” Ireland said. 

As Ireland continues to transition into her new position with Blessed Earth, students on campus are already missing her presence. “I will miss Joy’s adorable excitement about ministry, her passion for stewardship and her gift of strategic planning and organizing,” said VP of Spiritual Life Katie Pittman, who was also on a summer ministry team last summer. 

Even as she begins this new chapter in life, Ireland will continue to visit campus whenever possible. “Since I still live in Wilmore, I will be around,” she said. “I’ve especially enjoyed attending numerous plays and recitals over the years…Don’t be surprised if you see me at these types of events.”

While Asbury is sad to see Ireland leave the campus community, we join her in excitement for the great things God is doing through her life and ministry.

“Working in a place where I am invited to encourage and empower clergy and lay leaders back toward the gift of the fourth commandment is a privilege I never knew to ask for,” said Ireland. “I accept the responsibility with eager anticipation for what God will do.”