The Extravagant Generosity of God

By Rick Wolcott*

Since being assigned to serve as the resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference, Bishop Tracy S. Malone has been intentional about listening to, learning from, and connecting with pastors and churches across the conference.

By spending full-days in all 10 districts, meeting one-on-one with many clergy and lay, participating in conversations with ministry teams and at committee and board meetings, the bishop has seen and heard the joys and the concerns of the conference.

She has observed that our communities are feeling the impact of poverty, crime, and addiction, and that too often our churches have to choose between spending dollars in mission for those in need or spending money to maintain aging buildings.

In the midst of these struggles, there are reasons for hope.  During her visits, Malone has seen and heard countless examples of God’s generosity exhibited in the ministries and the mission work of East Ohio Conference churches and agencies.

The bishop’s most-recent visit was with the leadership and the residents of Copeland Oaks (Mahoning Valley District), one of the health and welfare agencies of the conference.  The vespers service sermon she preached there, “The Extravagant Generosity of God,” centered on the woman at the well, as told in John 4:5-42.

“What I love about this text is that it truly shows us who Jesus is.  It shows us how far reaching, how extravagant is the generosity of God’s love,” she said that evening from the Bennett Chapel pulpit.

Click on the video above to view Bishop Malone’s sermon, “The Extravagant Generosity of God.”

John wrote that Jesus, weary from his travel, stopped to rest in the Samaritan city of Sychar.  That decision shocked the disciples because Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other in Jesus’ day.

“Our Lord, thanks be to God, on so many occasions in his ministry chooses an odd place to stop to witness to the glory of God’s love, and thanks be to God that he also stops in the odd places of our very lives,” Malone said in her sermon.  “There’s a climactic moment in this text.  Here, while at the crossroads of his own spiritual journey, with a woman, a Samaritan woman of questionable repute, he makes himself known to her.”

For the first time in the Bible, Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah.

“The woman at the well became a woman made well because she was in the right place at the right time and Jesus extended to her the extravagant love and the grace of God.  That’s just who Jesus is, and that’s just who he calls us to be,” Malone preached.

At a time when people are hurting, disillusioned, and angry, the ministries of our East Ohio Conference churches offer hope by proclaiming the good news that all things are possible through Jesus Christ.

That’s a message worth sharing.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Rev. Abby Auman Appointed Mahoning Valley District Superintendent

Abby Aum

Bishop Tracy S. Malone is appointing the Rev. Abby Auman to the East Ohio Conference Cabinet.  She will serve as superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District.

“Abby has strong leadership skills, is an innovative thinker who brings vision and courage to the development and empowerment of lay leadership, and has a passion for revitalizing the local church,” said Bishop Malone.

“God’s call is often surprising, and the call to be a district superintendent certainly was!” Auman said.  “As a pastor, I took a vow to follow Jesus wherever he called.  Since I had just preached about that to my congregation, when Bishop Malone called, I had to offer myself to a different kind of service.  I am growing more excited to serve Christ’s church under her leadership.”

In her fifth year as pastor of Greensburg United Methodist Church (Canal District), Auman also serves as Candidacy Summit director for the East Ohio Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.  Her first conference appointment was to Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church (Firelands District) in 2006.  She then served the Strongsville United Methodist Church (North Coast District) as associate pastor from February 16, 2009 until her appointment to Greensburg UMC.

She will succeed the Rev. Dan Bryant as superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District.

“Everywhere I have served, I have been amazed and thrilled to see God work through faithful followers of Christ, in ways large and small,” Auman said.  “I’m excited to learn what God has already done through the people of the Mahoning Valley District, and even more excited to see what new thing God is about to do.  I look forward to dreaming together about how to share Christ with the least, the lost, and the last.”

Her appointment to serve the Mahoning Valley District and Bryant’s appointment as senior pastor of Lakewood United Methodist Church (North Coast District) are effective July 1.

Auman earned a Bachelor’s degree in Religion, with a minor in Creative Writing, from Ohio Northern University, and a Master of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary.

“I was born and raised on a farm, which gave me a deep love for creation and the relationships that are often so strong in farming communities,” she said.  “My husband and I intentionally attended Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC in order to experience more of the world.  There we learned to think globally and to appreciate the diversity and creativity of the city.  Serving small, medium, and large churches has helped me to appreciate the strengths of each in reaching people for Christ and helping them mature as disciples.”

She and the Rev. Seth Auman are parents of a son and a daughter.

Rev. Orlando Chaffee: A Life Well-lived

By Rick Wolcott*

Dozens of East Ohio Conference clergy came to celebrate the life of the Rev. Orlando Chaffee, 60, who passed away on December 18.  His colleagues, dressed in black robes with white stoles, processed into the sanctuary at the beginning of the funeral service.

Bishop Malone addresses the gathering

“Rev. Chaffee gave 32 years of his life to The United Methodist Church, serving local churches and also serving as a district superintendent,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone, resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference.  “He was deeply loved and well-respected as pastor and leader not only in the churches but also in the communities in which he served.”

Bishop Julius C. Trimble, resident bishop of the Indiana Conference, said of his long-time friend, “Orlando loved Jesus and he was a friend to pastors.”

Tears, smiles, and stories filled the air of Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Cleveland as hundreds gathered just a few days after Christmas.

“Orlando Chaffee loved people, and he was sure about his call,” said North Coast District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey.  “He was a pastor everywhere he would go.”

Since July, Rev. Chaffee had been serving Mount Pleasant UMC in Cleveland.  He previously served the following East Ohio Conference appointments: Cory, Willson, Windermere, superintendent of Mahoning Valley District, superintendent of North Coast District, Bedford First, Maple Heights, and Cleveland Saint Matthew.

In his eulogy the Rev. Myron McCoy, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church/Chicago Temple in the Northern Illinois Conference said, “In Orlando we saw a man of extremely good actions.”

Many of those actions involved his family, whom he loved greatly.  Rev. Chaffee was a devoted husband to Velma, and the loving father of Orlando, Ondra and Omar.  He was a dear grandfather, brother, son-in-law, nephew, cousin, and friend.

Omar Chaffee called his dad “a shooting star.”  He said he had all of the qualities of the celestial phenomenon – he shined bright, was gone in an instant, and would never be forgotten.

“Go with God, Orlando.  You have fought the good fight.”  Bishop Malone said.  “We give thanks to God for a life well-lived.  Rest, Orlando, rest.  To God be the glory for the good work and the faithful witness that we have in our beloved Orlando Chaffee.”

Pastors outside of church, pallbearers carry Chaffee's coffin

At the conclusion of the service, clergy members processed out of the building.  They lined the stairs and the sidewalk, surrounding the Rev. Orlando Chaffee, and his family, with love as his casket was carried out of the church.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.