For the first time this century, I will be the pastor of a new United Methodist congregation. June 8th will be my first Sunday to preach at First United Methodist Church of Edmond although I had previously officiated at a wedding there.
As I consider this change, I've been thinking about my own call as an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church. Elders are ordained to Word, Sacrament, Order and Service.
Of course, I started as a lay person just as any clergy does. As I grew up in the church, I began to understand God's call upon my life to ordination - to allow the church to set me apart for this important work. I've always felt that this is a rare privilege to live into - the setting oneself apart for the good of the church.
Word is something that I've come to enjoy - preaching, teaching and writing are all areas that I love. They are organic things that are dependent upon the community and I learn and grow through these from our interaction in worship, study and conversation.
Sacrament is my call to baptize and share in Holy Communion with the world. I will be offering these sacred sign-acts of God primarily through the locale of Edmond First UMC. Baptism connects us to the Body of Christ in a universal sense. Holy Communion nourishes us as the Body and pulls us back into service for Christ. Both of these are joys in my life that I look forward to sharing in this new (to me) setting.
Order is my call to administer the unique Wesleyan heritage that we've embraced as United Methodists. Our denominational name implies that we are methodical and organized. Providing structure while allowing God's grace to move through us in this way can sometimes be a balancing act. Order becomes more important for larger churches and I will be looking forward to growing in this part of my call as we grow together.
Service is not unique to ordination. Our Baptism calls all of us to Christian service. Yet, this is important for the style of leadership that elders are to embrace. We are to hold up Christian service as a living illustration for all the congregation to see. Leading by example is the clear expectation. This is not an easy calling and it will be important for us to hold each other accountable as the Body of Christ.
Only by God's grace will I be effective in these four areas of my ordination. As I come to experience these in a new setting, I'm confident that God will continue to work through the laity and clergy so that we all might grow more closely into the likeness of Christ.
One thing I've learned is that God is continually doing a new thing all the time. I think we are about to be caught in the middle of one - how exciting!