By Rev. Tim McCollum*
As the Service of Commissioning and Ordination set under way, it was not long until we remembered our common call. Bishop Tracy S. Malone led us in the liturgical work to remember our baptism, our shared ministry. We remember out loud, together. We spoke these words “We remember our baptism and affirm our common call to ministry.” We, as a people, are a committed people. This is a call upon every Christian life, it sets the stage for everything that follows.
For some are called to be leaders in the church, as pastors, Elders (both commissioned and ordained) and Deacons. Some are set apart for the work of leadership, guidance, and wisdom in ministry.
Therein lies the depth of our shared call and set it upon those who were presented this evening as Malone blessed each of them, “…that the work begun in you by the Holy Spirit may be brought to perfection.”
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, an East Ohio alumni, brought the message this afternoon focused on 2 Peter 1:1-15.
To say that Palmer was on fire for the church simply does not capture the passion of his message. Quoting the movie Boyz N the Hood, Bishop Palmer reminded us all that we are “cute, but not special.” What we have is meaningful, but the problems of the world are not new. We cannot let the problems we see, the people who fail us, the church that disappoints us become the depth of reality we see. When we start to see more than what we are in the midst of, we see more of what God is already doing that we are called to be a part of in motion.
When we focus on God’s economy of God’s abundance, we start to see the world that is bigger than our problems, bigger than our theologies, bigger than our differences. We start to see the world that God is pouring divine power into the world to overflowing. The bishop set it upon us all that we already have everything we need to be the Church when God is the one pouring into us.
And then, Palmer got to the heart of things. When one takes up the role of leader in the Church, then you are committed to spending more time on God, with God, becoming filled with the divine nature and power of God. This is not done to dictate over others, but to model for others, to model for the Church what is capable in God’s saving work, what it means to be the presence of Christ in the world, what it means to be in the midst of God’s continuing, transforming work. That when we find ourselves in the midst of what God is already doing, we set the vision for what God is seeking to do in our churches, in our communities, and in our world.
And it takes a commitment, not just of knowledge, but of life. So, commit yourself to the work, to the faith, to the church. More than anything else, commit yourself to God. That is where the real work will happen, in the commitment of life and love to God. As these leaders were to be commissioned and ordained, Palmer asked this question, “What will your people say about you?” And in the midst of a story, he hit the nail on the head “will they say you showed them God?”
It will only be possible if we take on the divine nature and divine power of God. May it be so for you. “In the name of God, who creates and is creating, who redeems and is redeeming, who right in this moment is making all things holy, amen.”
As the choir echoed the message, they sang “How Will They Know?”
Then the commissioning began. As Malone led the church in blessing and commissioning 10 pastors. Nine pastors received that blessing in person. We prayed together for pastor Andrew Thompson in absentia as he was missing due to an injury.
In the blessing of ordination, the East Ohio Conference and Bishop Malone blessed one new Deacon and six Elders to serve in ordained ministry.
In both the commissioning and the ordaining, the body of faith echoed the bishop’s words, “Come Holy Spirit.” Recognizing each of the servants who have been lifted up this afternoon, we recognized the call to be servant leaders. We bid each servant, as hands were laid upon them “Lead us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
This is our calling, our shared, committed calling.
At the conclusion of the commissioning and ordaining work, Malone invited the church to hear the call of God. As the church shared in song, she invited all those who feel the urging of God’s movement that may be calling them to leadership to come forward and be prayed over, sharing in the conversation about the committed ministry of leadership.
*Rev. Tim McCollum is pastor of Fitchville, New Haven and North Fairfield UMCs (Firelands District).