I continue to offer this simple phrase, the motto of the Theological School of Drew University, 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 the Methodists of Nashville, North Carolina.
I invited us a year ago to take a moment’s breath as we were launching a process that involved building a 14,500 square foot addition and renovating another 16,000 square feet. We now desire to move now into the sanctuary to renovate that space in a manner that is compatible with its great history. Our sanctuary is well-prayed and well-worshipped space and our mothers and fathers call us to finish the work. I pray that our sanctuary team will be able to help us discern a common vision for preparing that space for another century of service on behalf of God’s soon-coming kingdom.
A year later I confess to being short of breath. I find myself in the middle of wrestling with a new manner of working among the saints and sinners of this church. I am committed to setting us free for ministry in this place. As I seek to know Jesus more and the details of the church’s life less I find the journey difficult, but I find strength in the apostle Paul’s willingness “to become all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved” (1 Cor. 9:22). I commend Ann Collier for being willing to lead a new adventure of all our church leaders meeting to discuss the work of the church, breaking into teams and committees for continued work, and returning to say “amen” together – the trick is that we hope to do all of this in one night a month. I lift prayers of thanksgiving for Ann, Gary Helms, Matt Brown, Lynn & Ellen Ward, Cindy Pike, and Rita Bennett as they work to flesh out how we can grow and function as the body of Christ in ministry together.
I reviewed again the words of Albert Outler in Evangelism & Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit (1996). Our lay leadership development team comes to you offering a simpler slate of officers – a chance for God to breathe fresh air into our predictability. This model of calling, equipping, and sending setting the tempo for our life continues to be a struggle – the work of putting this building is place has been all-consuming. Albert Outler noted that our task is always three-fold (see pp. 65-66): (1) announcing the coming of Christ (see Mark 16:15), (2) witnessing by our actions and words to God’s love (see Acts 1:8), and (3) living as servants together (see John 13). The problem for Outler’s day and our own is that living together – not calling, equipping, and sending saints into ministry – is often all we are willing to do in response to God’s great love for us. Rich Mullins reminds us that “faith without works is a song you can’t sing … it’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.” Let us never lose our resolve to reach out to the “Lost in America” beginning with the 15,000 persons in the 27856 zip code (see Tom Clegg, Lost in America, 2001).
Within the Methodist connection I continue in service as the Chairperson of our Conference’s Commission on Congregational Development. I finished a two year term of leadership in the Residency In Ordained Ministry program and I give thanks for the seven sisters and brothers who are now elders in full connection within The United Methodist Church.
I cannot finish without saying a word of gratitude to Scott Smallwood, Cindy Pike, Tom Parker, and now Rita Bennett, Jim Boehm, and Joanna Mercer. They keep my humble with their comments and with their willingness to serve Christ in this place. For Denise Calloway and Jenna Rae Migdon I give thanks as they continue to build a stronger day care ministry for pre-school and after school children in this place. To Becky Lockwood and Tara Williams in our office I also give thanks. To their names, I add the great blessing I receive from retired colleagues Lester and Henrietta Jackson and Sidney and Katherine Boone. I give God thanks for Cindy, Ann and William – they are God’s breath of fresh air every day of my life. Finally, I am truly blessed to live and work among the saints and sinners of Nashville United Methodist Church and the community we serve.