Seems all through my ministry I have been hearing the not-so-subtle criticism of the way Methodist preachers move around. I guess it is a legitimate topic for discussion – we are itinerant preachers after all (which means we do not remain in one place long but move to ther congregations). We serve at the pleasure of the Bishop – on my case, at this time, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie. Technically, every pastor is appointed to a church each year – either to the same one or to a new one.
Historical aside – I have a Book of Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1813 on my shelf. In that book it says that the maximum appointment for a preacher is 2 years. I cannot imagine leaving a church after two years – it would be incentive to follow Wesley’s advice and keep possessions to a minimum!
This year I have the great pleasure of being appointed to Asbury UMC in Pasadena. Yes, it is the same church I have served for the past three years (apologies to the early Methodists for overstaying my welcome). I say it is the same church, but then I have to ask myself, is it really? The answer is no, and I am not the same pastor who arrived 3 years ago. We have grown, the people of Asbury and I. We have grown in ways we never could have imagined.
There is a sense today that we are no longer looking to discern the vision God has for us, but we are now living into the vision. Oh, there is still more to discern and understand about the long term work God calls us to do, but I’m not certain we need to try and figure that out too soon. We’ll let God reveal that as He sees fit. Right now we are on the verge of moving in new directions. There is new energy and major challenges that come when a church moves from 220 or so in worship to 260 and above – it’s just a common at this threshold to be faced with new challenges and struggles. I do not know what they year ahead will be, but I have no doubt God will continue to do great things. I pray I will grow up into the vision God has for me. I pray Asbury will do the same. I have great confidence.
Back to this idea of an itinerant system – we now have a new Supervising Elder – a new District Superintendent, as he (or she) is called. Rev. Roy James has been appointed to the South District by the Bishop. We’re glad to have him. I must say, he did surprise me when he showed up in worship this past Sunday. It was an unusual day in that I decided to wear blue jeans and tennis shoes – there was an illustrative purpose. As I sat at the front listening to the organ play the prelude for our traditional service, in walks Rev. James. I had to smile. I knew what I would do. I would point out the timeliness of my clothing decision. And I did just that as I got up to speak.
And then, Rev. James surprised me. As I commented on my dressed down appearance in a feigned apologetic tone, I looked back and there he was removing his tie, unbuttoning his collar, and taking off his jacket (we made him stop there, just in case). It was the highlight of my day. I can think of no better response to put the preacher and the church at ease, and even though it was unnecessary, it was fantastic.
Thanks Rev. James for making my day. And thank you to the people of Asbury for making my last three years. I look forward to more.
Holy high five to you, Mike