Two ordained, six commissioned at Service of Ordination and Commissioning
Rev. Erik J. Alsgaard
Upper New York Area Bishop Marcus Matthews delivers the sermon during the Service of Ordination and Commissioning. (Photo by Jeremy Africa)
Diane Brown, chairperson of the conference committee on reference and daily procedure, addresses the conference on Sunday, May 20. (Photo by Jeremy Africa)
Under cloudless blue skies and temperatures nearing 90 degrees, families, friends, and members of the Detroit Annual Conference gathered in Herrick Chapel Sunday afternoon, May 20, for the service of ordination and commissioning.
And, for the first time in the memory of most, there were no elders in full connection ordained.
However, six Provisional Elders were commissioned: Daniel Joseph Charnley Hart; Robert A. Miller, Jr.; Anna Mi-Hyun Moon; Rahim Omar Shabazz; Joel Leslie Walther; and Brian Gregory West. A Provisional Elder must serve three years under appointment and supervision before being allowed to request Full Elder status.
Two deacons were ordained: Catherine Jean Martin Miles, and Walter Vincent McGlothin Eller.
Four local pastors—Lisa J. Clark, Ronald G. Hutchinson, Michael P. Kelley, and Donald L. Wojewski—were recognized during the service for having completed their course of study.
The candidates were challenged during the worship by the sermon delivered by Bishop Marcus Matthews, episcopal leader of the New York West Annual Conference. Using 2 Corinthians 2:12-17, the bishop repeatedly asked, “Who is fit for these things?”
Bishop Matthews encouraged those about to be commissioned and ordained to listen to the voice of God. “Too many of us listen to other voices,” he said, relating how, when he was growing up in Florence, South Carolina, if he had listened to the many voices in the community “I wouldn’t be here today.” Instead, Bishop Matthews listened to God with the support of his home church, which, he said, “nudged him and pushed him.”
The bishop urged his congregation to carry the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14) by becoming more like Christ each day.
“Genuine discipleship is becoming Christ-like in all that we do,” he said. “It is showing compassion, having a zeal for the least, the last, and the lost; for stewardship; for social justice.”
However, he said, there are many things that can get in the way of our discipleship and our calling to be set apart as ministers of Christ.
One roadblock is people who don’t understand that Christ brings life out of death, healing out of hurt, the bishop said. “Some of us belittle the Christ within us,” Bishop Matthews said, “so much so that we need a microscope to see God.”
That can happen, he added, when clergy grow content in their life and stop learning, stop being challenged in their ministry. “I get upset,” the bishop said, “when I hear clergy say that they have done it all, that they’re content in their ministry, when they stop growing, when they get stuck in their own local church.”
So, again, the bishop asked, “Who is fit for these things?” Answering his own question—and providing a roadmap for the candidates for their future ministries—Bishop Matthews outlined several key aspects of ministry.
“Love the people,” the bishop said. “If you just simply love the people, 51 percent of your work is done.” However, that love has to be genuine, he added, saying that if you don’t love yourself, and know the love of God in your own life, you can’t do this.
Next, the bishop said that everyone who is fit for the tasks of ministry have had a personal experience with the risen Christ. “You ought to be able to articulate that God touched you,” he said to the candidates, “and that you are a changed person as a result.”
The bishop then raised a caution about becoming too comfortable in our own settings. We live in the richest nation on earth, he said, and most clergy in the United States serve in a place of beauty and comfort, especially when compared to the rest of the world.
“Would John Wesley feel comfortable in your setting?” the bishop asked. He noted that while we are prosperous, children go to bed hungry in our society every night; poverty is on the rise; and the rising cost of medical care is a growing concern.
“We are some of the best-prepared clergy the church has seen,” Bishop Matthews said. “We have tools to preach the Gospel that others could only dream about: computers, Facebook, Twitter; you name it, you got it.”
And yet, the church continues to lose members, he added. “We ought to grieve as a church. People need to hear a word of hope from the Lord.”
In closing, Bishop Matthews comforted the candidates by agreeing with the biblical witness that nothing can separate them from the love of God in Jesus Christ. “I am glad that you are choosing ministry,” he said. “You will need the confidence of knowing that God is with and for you. No structures…can ultimately stand against you. If you, if we are on the Lord’s side, Christ will lead us in triumphant succession.”
During worship the Detroit Conference Clergy Choir, under the direction of the Rev. David G. Gladstone, with Conference Organist Naki Sung Kripfgans, offered two anthems: “Lord, Here am I!” written by John Ness Beck, and “Kanisa Litajengua (O, Who Will Build the Church Now?).”
Note: Erik J. Alsgaard is the chairperson of the conference Commission on Communications and pastor at St. Ignace UMC in St. Ignace, Mich. He is a former conference communicator for the Baltimore-Washington and Florida Conferences.