Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 10 of Lent, Saturday, March 15, 2014

Changes are inevitable and we resist them as often as we can.

When they come seemingly unasked, we sometimes feel under attack.  

One big change I dropped on the Piedmont and Cashion congregations recently was my move to Edmond as the new pastor of First United Methodist Church where I'll start on June 8.

Those who are long-time United Methodists have responded with comments like, "Well, we're glad that we had you for as long as we did."  These are sad to see the change but not surprised.

Those new to the denomination may not understand how this works.  I've heard things like, "It doesn't make any sense to move you when things are going well and everybody's happy."

United Methodist pastors serve their appointments on a year-by-year basis and we are usually appointed at annual conference at the end of May.  We serve within their conference boundaries.  If we move outside of the conference area - say our spouse needed to move for employment or family reasons - the bishop would then speak to the bishop of the area to which we are moving and we could then receive an appointment in the new conference assuming there's an opening.

Bishop Hayes is a very spiritual man and is shown
praying for a woman in South Africa that he just met.
So as a member of the Oklahoma Conference, I can be appointed to any United Methodist church in our state (other than one of our Native American congregations but that is another post).

The degree to which a pastor and a church has a say in the appointment process is up to the bishop.  Some bishops send without a lot of consultation but Bishop Hayes is very collegial and allows us the choice if things are going well.

I was not forced to take this appointment but I wanted to share some reasons for why I accepted it.

    1)  There is a need for a pastor with experience in building projects.  Edmond's pastor is retiring and they are in the middle of a building project that will add new square footage as well as renovating their current facility.  The cabinet felt like the experience I gained at Piedmont in our relocation would serve this church well.

    2)  Their congregation has been larger in regards to worship attendance.  Preachers spend time crafting their worship and their sermons to impact people's lives - to shape them as disciples of Jesus Christ.  My desire has always been to grow the church and to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel.  This is a deep part of my calling.

   3)  We considered possible future moves.  It was likely that we would eventually move. The age and grades of our children make this year a good time for a move.  If we were to wait much longer, we would have to move in the middle of Kyla's high school which would not be ideal.  The schools in Edmond are as good as any in the state and there is no guarantee that we would get an appointment in such a good school district in the future. Edmond schools also offer orchestra which is a bonus for our daughter Kyla who plays violin.  If we stay in the new appointment for eight years, we can graduate both our children with only one move which is remarkable for our system.

As we considered these three things through prayer and conversation, it felt that God was moving us in this direction.  It was not easy as we love our congregation and community. For those that are critical of the appointment system, I want to remind you that it was this system that brought me to Piedmont in the first place.

During Lent, I would ask you to reflect upon how God might be calling you to do something difficult - to make a hard choice.  You might read Genesis 12 where Abram (Abraham) is called to do a new thing in his life.  He must have had doubts and fears as he went and yet he followed the call.

I come back to a prayer by Thomas Merton in his book, Thoughts in Solitude:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

     I do not see the road ahead of me. 

          I cannot know for certain where it will end.   Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 

     I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

     Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” 

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