Perspective and Opportunity in United Methodist Appointment-Making

“Boy, do I have an opportunity for you!” are words that most United Methodist clergy have heard or will hear during their ministry. Within the next 6 weeks this phrase will be used a lot! The difficulty is that one person’s definition of “opportunity” may not match someone else’s. It is a statement usually said by district superintendents who are on the front-line of making appointments. They are at the point of the triangle between churches and clergy, matchmakers who have on-site knowledge of their churches and ministers. This knowledge is shared with the bishop’s whole cabinet, and through shared discernment, matches are made.

In the UMC system defining an “opportunity” is always a matter of perspective. It takes conferencing about the perspective of the local church and its perception of desired leadership needs; the perspective of the clergy and where they are in their ministry or the importance of family considerations; and the perspective of the bishop and cabinet who are scanning the needs of the whole annual conference and doing their very best to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Connectionalism and working together is part and parcel of United Methodism. Therefore, appointments are made by the whole cabinet, though the Bishop alone is given constitutional authority (Par. 54, 2012 Book of Discipline) to do so after “consultation with the district superintendents.” Consultation includes local churches and clergy, too, and that appears in the form of church and clergy profiles. Therefore, everyone takes a hand, not least God, in our system of clergy deployment. Staff-Parish Relations Committees complete Church Profiles that describe the church, and clergy fill out Pastor Profiles that offer insights into their situations. By the way, both need to understand the importance of a well-presented profile. Those profiles will be pored over with microscopic attention when appointments are made. Please at least use spell-check!

A key paragraph from my perspective about appointment-making is found in Par. 428.4 which says, “All appointments shall receive consideration by the bishop, the district superintendent(s), and the cabinet as a whole until a tentative decision is made.” This fleshes out for me that our appointment-making system is a collegial effort, though the final decision indeed belongs to the bishop. As a former district superintendent who maxed out my tenure after 8 years, and one who is absolutely relishing being appointed to a thriving congregation, I think that a key word as we ramp up for the annual anxiety-laden period of possible clergy transitions is “perspective.”

The bishop and cabinet have a perspective about clergy and churches and the needs of the whole conference, and sometimes they have to make decisions about which only they know all the facts. Churches have their own unique perspective and rightly so if they can only count on one hand the number of effective ministers they have had in any given person’s lifetime. Clergy certainly have a unique perspective shaped by their family needs, and their sense of their gifts and graces and how they might be best utilized. So, what we have as we approach “appointment season” in the UMC is an “intriguing dance of perspectives,” a cooperative connectional effort to discern who goes where and who gets whom.

I pray for all those who are feeling the tensions rise in anticipation. Being on a trapeze with one hand letting go of one bar (pastor, church, friend, etc.) and willing to trust God enough to reach out for that the next bar (church, pastor, friend, etc.) is daunting, yet potentially thrilling. Throughout the whole process, as it is bathed in prayer, we absolutely must believe that God is in this enterprise, that Jesus will be glorified, however saddened or distraught we might be. In other words, we need more than a human perspective. We must affirm that a heavenly perspective is of highest importance. In our system we yield ourselves to a scary and vulnerable process not unlike the risk Jesus took in his incarnation.

So the word is “Perspective,” both divine and human. This is the essence of our belief in the system we call “itineracy,” the moving of clergy. John Wesley called itineracy the “apostolic plan of evangelization.” He thought that our “sent,” not “called” system was and is one of God’s best ways of mobilizing and energizing God’s salvific plan for humanity. I agree and have yielded myself to our peculiar process. Trust me, I haven’t always seen the wisdom of the bishop and cabinet, nor have all of my appointments been rosy. I do know this, however, that God has provided for me, my family, the local church, and the community. When we yield to a divine perspective all other perspectives come into focus!

Some people claim that their personal perspective is supreme and that their needs and/or agenda supplants and trumps everyone else’s. That’s not our system. I’ve seen people finagle their way upwards using manipulation and maneuvering, but, sooner or later, their solitary and self-promoting perspective will come to a halting stop. They have elevated what they want over saying “Yes!” and yielding. God help the UMC if that kind of personal aggrandizement ever wins the day.

Let me share a story that illustrates the illusion that getting our way and making what we think are unseen jabs is the way to go in appointment-making, whether by churches, clergy, district superintendents, and even bishops. Good appointment-making values everyone’s perspective, especially God’s. The story goes like this:

“During World War II, a general and his aide, a lieutenant, were traveling from one base to another. They were forced to travel with civilians aboard a passenger train. They found their compartments where two other folks were already seated – an attractive young lady and her grandmother. For most of the trip, they conversed freely. The train entered a long and rather dark tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, the passengers in this particular car heard two distinct sounds – the first was the smack of a kiss; the second was the loud sound of a slap.

Now, although these four people were in the same compartment aboard the passenger train, they came to four differing perspectives. The young lady thought how glad she was that the young lieutenant got up the courage to kiss her, but she was somewhat disappointed at her grandmother for slapping him for doing it; the general thought to himself how proud he was of his young lieutenant for being enterprising enough to find this opportunity to kiss the attractive young lady but was flabbergasted that she slapped him instead of the lieutenant; the grandmother was flabbergasted to think that the young lieutenant would have the gall to kiss her granddaughter, but was proud of her granddaughter for slapping him for doing it; and the young lieutenant was trying to hold back the laughter, for he found the perfect opportunity to kiss an attractive young girl and slap his superior officer all at the same time!”

Perhaps our so-called “opportunities” are not at all what they seem, or they are fleeting chances for us to “work” the system and “slap” the “Man” by bucking authority. We better be careful not to be so creative in our massaging the system that God’s video cam doesn’t catch us and we end up as our own worst enemy. I would rather trust the communal perspective of our appointment-making system than end up getting what I finagled for and be absolutely miserable. So, let’s trust everyone’s perspective, especially God’s! Everyone’s input insures a better opportunity for fruitful ministry.

Me, Narcie, and Josh at Josh's Ordination

Narcie, Josh, and I at Josh’s Ordination

The red Stoles represent the Yoke of Christ saying that We YIELD to where we are SENT!

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LOL!

Cindy and I got back from Lake Junaluska late Thursday night and had quite the full day on Friday. She caught up on sorting things around the house as we anticipate moving next year, since her time for doing this is running short because she knows the clock is winding down for school to start back. I spent the day having the car worked on, sitting in one of the dealership’s computer work stations typing up a bunch of Cabinet stuff.

We had been at Junaluska for our Cabinet Retreat. It’s when we do a lot of team building and plan for the rest of the conference year. For United Methodists the new year started with our Annual Conference in June. Now is the bit of respite between set-up meetings for clergy and the start of Charge Conferences. After two wonderfully intense visioning days focusing on teamwork we got down to the nuts and bolts of the 2013-14 new conference year; composing the calendar that represents our life together and our common mission, deciding on this year’s Appointment Process; changes in Charge Conference forms; amendments to Cabinet Policies that cover everything from who pays for what in moving costs for clergy to Records Retention rules, and a whole lot more! As Cabinet Secretary I get to write and edit all this stuff, and for the most part I actually like it!  After all, a part of me is a process kind of guy who likes order.

But I’m also a dreamer who loves art – go figure. I love connecting the dots of our methodical process, and I feel that the covenant that holds us together is more of a creative thing than a rules thing. Being United Methodist is more a faith praxis (practice), or way of being, than a blind adherence to a set of rules in the most current Book of Discipline. You read it as much as I do and you start noticing the typos and mistakes. Try to figure out the official age of a young adult in the 2012 BOD (Paragraph 602.4). In less than five lines a young adult is defined as “between the ages of 18 and 30” and subsequently as “not younger than 18 and not older than 35.” So is it 19 to 30, or 18 to 35, and how much does it matter since we as a worldwide denomination have real different experiences of what that means? I used to care more about this stuff. I still notice and like the conundrums but the patterns and praxis of why we do what we do is much more interesting to me.

Part of our retreat time included taking Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and I came back as an an “ENFP.”  Now, 36+ years ago when I came into UM ministry and had to take the MBTI as a part of my psychological testing, I was declared an “ESTJ” – an extroverted, sensing, thinking, judging person. But in looking at the differences through the guidance of this week’s facilitators, the ENFP label fits who I am better.  I can see that during that time as an ESTJ, I’ve been someone who is outgoing, sensing the truth through empirical evidence, thinking things through, and a pretty critical judge of others and the facts — the kind of person who thinks and acts in a linear/literal sense and who loves rules!  But now that I consider it, that’s the guy I turn(ed) into when I’m stressed, afraid, or insecure – something the expectations of marriage, fatherhood, and the church drew me toward. For a long time I felt like I had to work, work, work to prove my worth.  Looking back, though, that isn’t who I was as a new Christian or where my heart has always been.

The guy Cindy fell in love with and married was/is an ENFP who is just a bit extroverted (a low “4”), is intuitive (N) and discerns and reads people and processes, is more into feeling than thinking (I am a potter after all), and perceives more than judges; i.e., even as a multi-decade parliamentarian it is more important for me to do the right things than to do things right! People rather than rules for rule’s sake come first in the ENFP worldview. Ministry isn’t a quota system of numbers of visits or sermons but is about being relational and thereby relevant. As you’ve heard me say before, one of my favorite life mantras of all time is from martyred missionary Jim Elliott, whose widowed bride, Elisabeth, was one of my most significant seminary professors and said: “Wherever you are, be all there.”

So maybe everything we have been through in the last few years has brought me full circle to where God’s heart and mine have most easily intersected. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove anymore, and can just allow God to bathe me in life, family, faith, throwing clay, camping, and a little more “What-the-hecking-it” with a lot of stuff. Freedom! I can enjoy this wonderful gift of life and love and let go of fear of failure. Cindy and I can have a great time together, and be blessed by Narcie, Josh, and Caleb and their love and loves, and our grandchildren, of course! I would encourage you to retake the Meyers-Briggs or do it for the first time. It helped me get a perspective on things that I was feeling but couldn’t adequately describe.

A half-drunk Congressman once staggered up to the table of the late newspaperman Horace Greely and said in a loud but slurred voice, “I’m a self-made man!” Greeley replied that he was glad to hear it, “for it certainly relieves God of a great responsibility.” Acting like or being something we’re not isn’t worth the trouble and it still exposes what we really are.  All the cover-ups that we pull in overwork, name-dropping, and any other overcompensation are pretty darn obvious anyway. I truly resemble the remarks made about a man who was less than average in height, a little fleshy, and also bald. One day he and his wife were walking down a busy sidewalk when the guy turned to his wife and said, “Did you see that pretty young woman smile at me?” His wife replied, “Oh, that’s nothing. The first time I saw you I laughed out loud!” Thank you, Cindy, for not laughing at me too much, and for putting up with me anytime I tried to be somebody I really wasn’t.  And thank God for God’s grace through Jesus, that gives love to us all!

Connected Appointment Making

As a District Superintendent I’m about to head to our Appointment-making Week. I just came back in after spending 3 hours walking with one of the Columbia District clergy. Every Spring and Summer I spend three hours with each clergyperson doing whatever they want to do so we get to know each other at the heart level. Last night I had a long church local conference with a fine church that had some issues that needed to be addressed. Without knowledge of that church the impasse would have remained, but everything worked out well. I know them and they know me and that helped tremendously. I don’t think District Superintendents can adequately represent clergy or churches without personal knowledge. Connectionalism only works if we’re really connected.

This was important in my first parish and every parish. In my first appointment I pastored three churches for five years. I moved from seminary in Boston, Massachusetts to the outskirts of Cheraw, South Carolina. Although I grew up in South Carolina, I had never been in the Pee Dee region. As a matter of fact, I was under the mistaken impression that there were only three regions in our fair state: the Lowcountry, the Midlands, and the Upstate. I learned rather quickly that the Pee Dee is a separate region unto itself, with characteristics of the other three.

I had never heard of “funeralizing” someone. “Chicken Bog” sounded like something you could get stuck in rather than something wonderful to eat. I learned the hard way what a “colyum” was. I asked directions to a church member’s house and was told to turn at the house with “colyums.” Only after stopping at a country store and asking did I discover that a “colyum” was a “column.” Every place has a unique story, even vocabulary.

Each of the three churches was unique, as they should have been. Pleasant Grove was closest to town, situated on a four-lane highway. The folks there pronounced “Cheraw” as “Sha-rah” like “que sera sera.” The people at Mt. Olivet near Teal’s Mill pronounced it as “Chur-rah.” The members of the smallest church, Bethesda, pronounced it as “Chee-raw.” Each church was unique in attitudes, worship styles, and socio-economic preferences.

These differences were especially evident in how each “did” church. Pleasant Grove was closer to town and the music and worship reflected this. Mt. Olivet’s choir was more oriented toward quartets. Bethesda had no choir and the congregation primarily chanted their music except when Cindy played the piano for them.

Bethesda loved revivals and baptisms at the creek. Each Sunday for five years my sermons went through a cultural time-warp as I criss-crossed Thompson’s Creek in my used Plymouth Arrow. I preached every Sunday at 9:45 a.m. at Mt. Olivet, 11:15 a.m. at Pleasant Grove, and at 12:30 p.m. at Bethesda. Bethesda loved what I would call “Hard-Preaching.” They wanted the unadulterated truth straight from the Bible, no humor – all with the bluster of a whirlwind with accompanying fire and brimstone with a dash of thunder and lightning.

They didn’t like the Gospel “sugar-coated,” so to speak. Now, understand, this didn’t mean that they lived up to the Word any more than the other churches. These were hard-living people. They had tough lives and were poverty-stricken, but they also exacerbated their own situations by adding their personal fuel (usually moonshine) to their already tenuous existences. I think they needed Hard-Preaching because they knew themselves. They didn’t hide behind fancy liturgies and worship services. They came to church for medicine, and they expected it to taste like castor oil.

I remember one of my first funerals at Bethesda. I thought that I should comfort the family by bringing out all the good things that I could glean from the deceased’s life. He was a rascal by many people’s estimation. I learned very quickly that I needed to tell the truth at subsequent funerals. It was after this funeral that I first heard the pointed joke about the woman who told her son to go check who was in the casket because the preacher had described a man that was a lot better than the one she was married to. The lesson learned was this: if you don’t own up to sin you can’t appreciate grace.

Lent is our time to lay down pretenses and be honest – no sugar-coating. That’s the lesson from Bethesda: grace excels when you need it most! By the way, each of the three churches was the scene of each of our children’s baptisms. Narcie was baptized at Pleasant Grove, Josh at Mt. Olivet, and Caleb at Bethesda. Each of those churches will remain special in many ways. They trained me as a young pastor and taught me how to live incarnationally with diverse and unique individuals. They especially taught me about grace in the midst of judgment. They were and remain vital to our family.

As we make appointments this week I am profoundly reminded that the Cabinet has to know the churches and clergy whom we will consider. This Annual Conference is our family. The Lenten discipline of speaking the truth in love, helpful insight mixed with bared souls is necessary. If we want to do our part to increase the number of vital congregations we have to express an intimate knowledge of every person and church on the table. Effective and grace-filled appointment-making depends on it!

From Great to Hate

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The historic legislation about healthcare passed this week and the fall-out has started en masse. I am appalled at the news of broken windows and hate mail and other negative forms of communication that legislators have received. Everybody wants to be liked, but sometimes it’s more important to do the right thing. As I think about appointing clergy it has occurred to me that friendships can be strained because the Cabinet has tried to look at the big picture and then it bites some of our colleagues and friends in a personal way. Being on the Cabinet can make for friends you never thought you would have, and make trouble for those with whom you have had a relationship for years. Sure, we would love accolades for doing for what we have thought to be in the best interest of all, but no one can please everybody in a connectional system. It takes faith that the Cabinet has prayed and looked over the landscape of the entire annual conference and has done the very best it can.
Of course, the scenarios from healthcare to appointment-making cause me to think about Jesus’ last week, from accolades to cruxifixon. Gloria Swanson was one of Hollywood’s top actresses from the 1920s to the 1950s. She was very ambitious. Early in her career, Swanson was quoted as saying, “I have gone through enough of being a nobody. I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment the star! Everybody from the studio gate man to the highest executive will know it.” And Swanson made sure of that. Before returning from a trip to France, Gloria Swanson sent a telegram to her film studio informing them that she expected a grand welcome when she arrived in California. In the telegram she demanded that the studio have enough well-wishers on hand to give her a standing ovation when she got out of her car in Hollywood. An ovation was duly arranged.

Palm Sunday is when we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the events surrounding His Passion. Jesus didn’t have to arrange his own ovation when he entered Jerusalem. Word about Jesus had spread throughout the countryside. Jesus had healed many. He had taught with authority using parables that both anyone could understand and yet they confounded the wise. He spoke of love and lived grace to rich and poor alike. He had become quite a celebrity when Palm Sunday arrived.

Unfortunately, He had become too much of a celebrity to suit the Jerusalem fat cats. So even as the crowd waved its palm branches in adulation, the shadows of the cross loomed in the background. Have you ever felt wrongly persecuted when you’ve done everything right that you know to do? And there’s only one thing more disappointing than having crowds of strangers turn on you when you’re innocent. After all, crowds are fickle. The worst thing is when your friends and family let you down.

That’s when it’s really tough to keep loving people. I don’t know about you, but when I feel betrayed, my first inclination is to cut my losses and move on. Who wants to “throw their pearls before swine?” The answer is, “Nobody,” right? But when we look at Jesus’ last week we see a loving Lord who washes his denying betraying disciples’ feet, and a Savior who looks down at his killers and says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they’re doing.” Wow! In the midst of betrayal, Jesus summons enough grace to forgive.

This world would be such a different place if we could be that forgiving and patient. Jesus gave up his rights and put the rights of others before his own. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus let go of his will and said that God’s will was more important. This Holy Week, the same challenge is ours. Can we put aside the disappointment that fickle people offer and lay claim to God’s approval? Is it enough for us to be loved by God even when it makes us unpopular with people? Can we do the right thing regardless of public opinion? I pray so.

Appointments

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Appointment-making in the UMC is a arduous task. We just finished the process of making the tentative appointments that will take effect June 30. Today I rested. In the morning I will be preaching at St. John, Columbia. Tomorrow afternoon I will call all the church Pastor-Parish Chairpersons and the clergy where a move is projected. One of the things that I will say over and over is how we bathed the whole process in prayer.

I feel extremely good about all of the appointments, and particularly good about the ones for the Columbia District. Monday morning I will meet with the clergy who are projected to move and give them a copy of the church’s profile where they are anticipated to go. Monday afternoon I will give a copy of the pastor’s profile to the S/PPRC chairs. Everyone has until next Friday morning at 10 am to give a written reason why the match won’t work and ask for reconsideration. Then the Cabinet will meet April 5-7 and reconsider the appointments.

I started last week with a lot of anxiety, and feel great peace about each situation tonight. I know all of the churches and pastors are still feeling the uncertainty. My prayers are with them. I’ve been there. I was in my fourth appointment thinking I was staying when I got an unexpected call from the Bishop. It was after appointment-making was finished. Everyone knew who was moving, and I wasn’t one of them, but a pastor died of a sudden heart attack. We loved where we were. Cindy had a great job as a Guidance Counselor in a school she loved. The church was thriving. The kids were great. Narcie was going into her senior year of high school. Josh was a rising junior, and Caleb the next fall would have been a freshman.

Nobody thinks it’s a great idea for their rising senior to move, but Narcie thrived in her senior year at the next school. Josh did great, and Caleb adapted though the move was probably toughest on him. There was no local job for Cindy in education so she ended up as a Guidance Counselor in a North Carolina Elementary School. Such is the price of itineracy. In the UMC, we are a sent ministry, whether lay or clergy. As a District Superintendent one has to look at the big picture, put the needs of the churches first and send our clergy to where they are best needed.

Ordained clergy wear a stole symbolizing this whole process. The stole reminds us that we are under orders as we wear the yoke of Christ. The stole is like the yoke on oxen or the reins on a horse representing God’s tug in one direction or another. I feel this week the whole Cabinet felt that yoke and are being used by God to send our clergy in the best directions possible. That’s my prayer and hope on this tired but exciting Saturday night.

Carolina Moon Over the Marsh

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It’s got to be a full moon! Just as sure as the full moon makes the tides grow larger, I think they also pull all of our brains a little too far from our brain stem – craziness happens. I resemble that remark. The last 3 days have been 12+ hour days, everything pretty good stuff with the occasional trap or two. The tyranny of the urgent has about robbed me of the best of the last month, but I’m fighting it! A month ago I spent a glorious week by myself on top of Mt. Mitchell, reading novels and papers, getting spiritually ready for teaching at Emory. Then it was two weeks at Emory sleeping in the same sleeping bag I used on Mitchell, except this time I was on a sofa (The mattresses in the dorm were worse). The students were super! I love teaching. If I could teach more I would do it. If I ever happened to be elected to the episcopacy, the teaching office of bishop would be huge for me.
 
Then I dashed to a week of Cabinet Retreat with our Bishop and my colleagues at Palm key in the marshes near Bluffton, SC. It was wonderful and we did good work listening to the Spirit and visioning for the work of the Annual Conference. We went kayaking to build up our sense of community and it was great. Next was our scheduled week at the beach. The grandkids were great!!! Enoch loved the ocean. All I had to do was say, “Beach,” and he started taking his clothes off. It was simply precious. The highlight was a huge rainbow over the ocean that my mind keeps remembering. In the midst of all the crud there’s God’s providence and promise!
 
It’s good to be back in our own bed, and last Sunday began my transition back into the life of a D.S. I preached and observed the Eucharist with a wonderful church at 10 am then held a charge conference to certify a young adult as a candidate for ordained ministry at 12:30; then it was 2:30 that we had a very productive Native American Committee meeting; then it was on the road to do a pottery-sermon on the stages of grace at another church at 6. I made it home after cleaning up at 10:30.
 
The next day didn’t start so good when I noticed our city-supplied trash can missing from the curb. A lady walking by said she saw several turned over on the otherside of the neighborhood. There it was with my clay as proof that it was ours turned over on someone’s lawn. I cleaned it all up and drove my little car with the flashers blinking with my arm out the window pulling the trash bin. It had to have been a sight. I disinfected and came to work. Meetings, Cabinet Retreat minutes, calendar for the Cabinet, and getting ready for our annual set-up meeting tomorrow night has been interpersed with talking to a lot of people, catching up on situations and getting home late. I just finished the Cabinet calendar and tomorrow I tackle the rest of the minutes. In the hectic day tomorrow I do get to meet with a young adult who wants to know how to start in the ministry process. Thank God for the oases of connecting with people. One joy was being with one of our clergy families as they welcomed their new daughter into the world!
 
New birth, new opportunities – keep me going. I may physically feel like the waxing moon in my picture over the marsh, but better days are ahead!

The Mountain is Calling!

>The tyranny of the urgent things is killing me. By this time every year I have already been to Mt. Mitchell at least 3-4 times, but not this year. Cindy’s mother has been sick and in and out of the hospital at least 5 times in the last three months so that’s been a priority. Appointment-making for the Cabinet was tough this year with so few retirements and churches cutting salaries out from under positions. There were fewer moves but more attention needed and received for each one. Lately, I’ve been under the gun of trying to make a R-1 Visa application work for a new Korean pastor. We have to resubmit all kinds of info and I’ve pored over detail after detail because we really need this to work out. The Korean pastor is a model of faithfulness. He gave up being a medical doctor in Korea making $300k to being a full-time local pastor here with a Duke M.Div. making in the $30k range. He’s a great guy and that church is going to grow!

Conference whipped me, not at all for the usual reasons. It wasn’t the parliamentarian bit although I can’t have a brain-break when I’m trying to follow all of the discussion and anticipate what amendments or motions might be made. Actually Conference was pretty bland, except for the good preaching and the hoopla over the consitutional amendments. I’m glad we came out 85% to 15% against the worldwide UMC ones. A lot of my energy at conference went to clergy in the Columbia District. I was all over the map literally with 3 trips to McLeod’s Emergency Room in Florence, to driving back after a conference session to see one of the clergy in a Heart Hospital in Columbia. There hasn’t been any let up since last week. Cindy’s mother was back in the Emergency Room, one of our clergy had a heart procedure, another had a purported mild heart attack and hospitalized. Another’s mother died, and another former clergy died yesterday. Wow! I’m praying for everyone to get healthy and stay that way!

So, this coming Tuesday (Cindy doesn’t know yet, so it’s iffy), I’m headed to Mt. Mitchell to be alone, sit and read, hike out to Mt. Craig, and stoke the fire. Yes, at 6684 feet, you need a fire even in June. As John Muir said, “The moutains are calling and I must go!” Where do you go to to escape the tyranny of the urgent?

Good News!

Sunday, Sunday – For the last month or so, I’ve been preaching in Columbia District churches which always gives me great hope for our future as a denomination. We have some great ministries! Today is a little different in terms of what happend today. I’m not preaching anywhere, but I have already been to a New Member’s Class at one of our churches and stopped by the office to get ready for my next two stops: one with a SPRC in a conflicted church, and another with a prospective Senior Pastor and Prospective Associate.

We had Cabinet Meetings for 3 long days last week and it looks like we are going to have very few moves this year. With the economy there seems to be an incentive for people to try to work together without making a pastoral change. I have high hope that this will encourage people to actually work through their issues without a “critical mass” causing an explosion. As a Cabinet we will have the opportunity to give each appointment more attention and effort. Rather than the economy causing bad news, this is an opportunity to get it done right whether a clergyperson moves or not.
Tomorrow is Monday, Monday and I start meeting with clergy 3 hours each doing whatever they want to do. This is a breath of fresh air to my spirit and I hope to their’s as well. This is going to be a good year in the United Methodist Church! May it be, Lord; May it be!