This is the motto of the Theological School of Drew University. A year ago I offered this as my personal mission statement. As a person called by God and ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church, I am privileged to employ my gifts among a people growing in faith, in fellowship, in service, and in Christ.
This year I offer the following statement from Paul as a tentative new direction for the life of this church. Paul writes to Christians of Ephesus: “The gifts [Jesus] gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The insight that haunts my prayers of late is that the leaders of the church (me) are called to equip the saints (us) for the work of ministry. Since Paul used the greeting saints to greet Christian communities throughout his ministry we know in the core of our being that we are each called to a particular ministry in God’s soon-coming kingdom. In addition, I must, as the pastor of this church, recommit myself to the work of teaching and equipping God’s people for ministry. For all of us this is a journey out of the safe territory of playing church to being the church.
What will this look like? I do not know specifically. I asked the Nominations and Personnel committee to appoint many of you to the administrative board as at-large members. Why? The first reason is simple; it will be easier for me to ask you to find a specific ministry on your own rather than to choose one for you. Working with a particular ministry, within or without the walls of the church, will be an expectation for members of our administrative board. The second reason is that many of us need to dream, pray, envision and together carefully discern God’s future in this community. Mike Slaughter challenged us on Monday to be able to answer three questions: 1) What is our business, 2) who is our customer, and 3) what does our customer consider of value? Tonight we must confess that we do not have corporate answers for these questions – our future depends on what we wrestle with God as we seek to answer these questions.
We proclaim two important victories for our congregation for this past year. Tara Williams has reported on the heroic effort to help almost 50 families recover from the flooding associated with Hurricane Floyd. Secondly, our NEW BEGINNINGS worship celebration is launched with an average attendance of 115 after six months. Our traditional service is being rethought in these months and we anticipate growth in both celebrations in the coming year. Our current average worship attendance is 224 for the year and 248 for the fall quarter. Our goal is a worship attendance averaging at least 278 for the coming year. This will put on track with those who twenty years ago created the educational space for a growing faith community.
Within the Methodist connection I serve on the Conference Commission on Congregational Development. I worked with Steve Compton, Branson Sheets, and RockFish < to host a conference on starting new worship services. With Jim Boehm and Anne King, I taught DISCIPLE I Bible Study at Fountain Correctional Institute this past year. I will serve as the spiritual director for a Chrysalis flight in January. I especially look forward to my work in the Reynolds program in church leadership in the coming year.
We welcomed Scott Smallwood home this year and I pray for the moments – maybe only fifteen months from now – when Scott will stand as a full-time colleague in ministry. I count it a blessing to have Scott share in the leaning into the yoke of obedience that is our mutual calling from God. Cindy Pike brings energy and almost reckless abandonment to her work as minister of youth and education. Joan Pate is making headway as she tackles two issues – gaining strength in the traditional musical arts while learning on the fly the multi-disciplinary tasks of leading our worship life.
Cindy, Ann, William and I are blessed to serve in ministry with Scott, Kathy, Andy, and Katie Smallwood, Cindy, Bob, Casey, Bryce, and Aaron Pike and Joan, Bob, Rob, and Sara Pate. To their names, I add the great blessing I receive from retired colleagues Lester and Henrietta Jackson and Sidney and Katherine Boone.
I am truly blessed to live and work among the saints and sinners of Nashville United Methodist Church and the community we serve.