Reflection - September 19, 2016
By Darren McClellan
It was good to see many of you yesterday at the welcome reception for Bishop David and Nancy Graves in Niceville. I hope even more from this district will be traveling to Evergreen this evening for the farewell reception for Rev. June Jernigan. Though for a short time, June has done exceptional work on behalf of this district and deserves our thanks and praise.
And who knows? Having developed this rhythm over recent weeks, you might wake up on September 26 and think, ‘do you know what would be great right about now? Another reception!’ And how blessed you will be that before the previous taste of punch and cookies has dissolved from your palate your new DS and his family will be waiting with open arms to greet you in Atmore. Let us rejoice and be glad!
I recognize that such events can be a challenge to our schedules, but I am one of those who is energized by the fellowship of such occasions. Perhaps it is because I am an extrovert by nature, but more importantly because I believe there is strength in our covenantal community. For instance, last night I watched my young friend Josh Walker playing lead guitar in the worship ensemble during the service. I’ve known Josh since he was in elementary school. I officiated his wedding. My oldest son is named Joshua in large part for my love and respect for him. It was good to reconnect. I later spoke with Jeff Adams, my former Band Director at Pryor Middle School. I had the rare opportunity to tell one of my favorite teachers the impact that he made in my life; how the seeds of expectation and accountability which he had sown later became roots for ministry. It was good to reconnect. Then there were the interactions with other clergy and laity—words of encouragement and embrace, updates of grief and hope, introductions and intercessions. It was good to reconnect.
Whatever individual abilities or traits you or I may possess, I am certain that we are better for knowing and being known by Christ in the context of this community. During a week in which we have felt the wound of brokenness among our clergy ranks and its impact throughout our churches, this reinforcement of relationship seems far from frivolous. There is much that can be done on your way from the punch bowl to the vegetable tray. Some would call it “working the room.” I see it as an act of good shepherding—or at the very least a means of grace.
As such, let us remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians:
Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show us that you are a letter of Christ prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God (3:1-5).
As our charge conference season begins here in the Baypines District, I am savoring the opportunity to make contact with each of our churches and pastors, many of whom I am visiting and meeting for the first time. It is exciting to hear of the signs of fruitfulness that are evident in each setting. And yet, when I discover clergy who have served just down the road from each other for years without ever having met, I know there is work to do. I too am guilty of the same reality in my previous appointment; but I see now how much is lost when we continue to perform the work of ministry in isolation. This is not the Wesleyan way, friends. Not only is it unfruitful in comparison to what could be, but the lack of accountability can breed deep disaster as other desires are conceived (James 1:15).
Therefore, while I admit my struggle to adhere to my own conviction, I am nevertheless convinced that as Christians, and specifically as United Methodists, our only competence is through connection—with God in Christ and with one another as enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This morning I enjoyed meeting with Ed and Alecia Glaize in Fairhope to tour the church there and discuss initial strategies related to the development of Communities of Transformation in Baldwin County (www.communitiesoftransformation.org). I am thankful for Alecia’s leadership in this endeavor. Tomorrow I will be in the Daphne area. On Thursday I will be meeting with a team of leaders from across the district for a day of orientation and missional strategy. I look forward to sharing the outcome of that discussion in the weeks to come. This Sunday I look forward to visiting with 9 different churches over 4 charge conference sessions.
In every occasion, it will be good to reconnect!
Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation (Ps. 111:1).
Grace to You,