I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
and for this reason, I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16)
Superintending is a lot like chaplaincy. It's a ministry of listening. It's a ministry of walking alongside people in their times of struggle.
It was a year and a half ago that I stepped away from serving the local church. After pastoring three congregations over a period of twenty years, I was physically tired and emotionally drained. The pandemic's complexities-- mask, no mask, social distancing, building use, new technologies-- sucked my remaining energy. I had the opportunity to move into a chaplain residency program at Unity Point-Meriter in Madison. Chaplaincy is ministry in a different form. I learned to be a better listener as well as focus on my own spiritual and personal growth. I also spent time with amazing people in intense and pivotal moments in their lives. As I think about my work as a hospital chaplain, it feels a lot like superintending.
I share this with you for several reasons:
- It's Pastor Appreciation Month. You probably know this, but I ask you to take it to heart. Our clergy are tired. There is stress and fracturing in our churches. Please love them (your church and your pastor!) in real and symbolic ways. We need our clergy-- not just for next Sunday or for next year-- but for years to come as we are confronted with severe clergy shortages and a changing Church. Generosity of spirit for our clergy and for one another is not a sprint but a marathon at this time in the UMC.
- It's a two-month time of discernment for 70-odd congregations in our Conference. These are churches and faith communities that are considering disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church. Listen to their voices, listen to one another's stories. Let us stop trying to convince, argue or debate into new ways of being. May we instead pray for one another and find new patterns and paths of peace and spiritual nurturing.
- I like being a district superintendent. (Shhhh! I know, weird, right?!) I do! I feel called to this specific kind of ministry right now. I am honored to walk with pastors, hurting churches, and struggling, but faithful communities. I am overjoyed to celebrate new appointments, ministry candidates, and resourcing fruitful congregations. I, alongside other Conference staff, am blessed to serve and empower you for your own ministries and mission during these challenging times! Please let me know how I can help; all of our awesome district superintendents and staff are here to help in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful for the gift of our Church and the role I am able to play at this time. As I perform simple tasks like returning phone calls and sending emails, I think about the way that the Apostle Paul wrote to his fellow Christians and likewise, shared a profound appreciation for their deep faith and powerful works. Like our forefather and foremothers did for Paul, your tremendous faith in Christ inspires me and causes me to rejoice! I give thanks for you as I hold you in my prayers. Let us all give thanks to God for being in ministry for and with one another at this time. Amen!