How We Got Here

Not everyone may be aware of how pastoral appointments are made in the United Methodist Church (UMC), so we thought we’d share briefly a little bit about the process we’ve gone through in the last couple of weeks.

In the UMC, bishops (and district superintendents) have the responsibility of making pastoral appointments. In our conference, there are nine district superintendents who work with the bishop in setting the appointments for more than 800 churches throughout central Pennsylvania. (We’ll say more about the UMC’s itinerant ministry in a future post.)

Around November/December of each year, pastors and Staff Parish Relations Committees (SPRC) are given the opportunity to offer input in the pastoral appointment process. The Bishop and Cabinet then take all of that input into consideration as appointments are made for the next conference year.

A couple weeks ago, we received a surprise phone call from our district superintendent, Rev. David Norris, informing us that we would receive a call from another district superintendent. A few hours later, we received a call from Rev. Dr. Pam Ford, district superintendent of the State College District. We scheduled a meeting for the following day where we discussed the possible moves to West Side and Centre Grove.

As we understand it, because of our family transition we were given the opportunity to accept or decline the move. We took about 48 hours to pray and think about the decision. While it was a fairly difficult decision to make, we ultimately decided to accept the new appointments.

On Sunday, April 20, we spent the afternoon and evening in Clearfield. We met with the SPRC at West Side in the afternoon. Then, after a tour of the parsonage and dinner with Pam Ford and West Side’s current pastor and friend, Jay Jones, we met with the SPRC at Centre Grove.

SPRC members are asked to not share/discuss the news about the new pastor with anyone before the appointment is publicly announced in the respective churches at the same time. In our case, announcements were made at the churches we are leaving and at the churches we are going to on Sunday, April 27.

The SPRCs at Manor Hill and 12th Street/Hope met shortly after the announcements — Sunday afternoon at Manor Hill and Monday evening at 12th Street — in order to put together their church profiles, which will be used in the selection of their new pastors.

In the next few weeks, the district superintendent will meet again with the SPRCs to introduce them to their next pastor. Once again, SPRC members will need to hold the information in confidence until the official announcement is made the following Sunday.

We are always grateful for God’s leading in our lives (see Randy’s previous post, Prayers for the Journey). In our denomination, part of that leadership is expressed through our conference leaders. We are grateful for the manner in which they seek to spiritually discern God’s will in the setting of pastoral appointments. This sense of knowing and trusting God’s leadership gives us excitement about the next chapter of our journeys!

More Transition

We’ve experienced a lot of change in recent weeks/months — bringing home a baby from Korea and becoming parents, and finishing our dissertations, and completing our doctor of ministry programs.

If that wasn’t enough transition for one year, we’re throwing in some more. As we announced this morning in our worship services, we are moving to new pastoral appointments.

We will be moving to Clearfield (in the State College District of the Central Pennsylvania Conference) in late June and the new appointments will take effect July 1, 2008. Joleen will serve West Side UMC and Randy will serve Centre Grove UMC.

While living in the village of Mooresville for the past 7 years, Joleen has served the Manor Hill Charge. During most of this time, Randy served the Petersburg Charge. After Alexandria and Barree (part of the Petersburg Charge) merged in 2006 to become Hope UMC, Randy continued to serve them as well as taking on 12th Street UMC as part of a realignment following Hope’s merger.

This transition impacts a lot of people — the congregations we’re leaving, the congregations we’re going to, the pastors we will follow, as well as the ones who will follow us.

In the coming weeks, we will write about the experience — leaving people we’ve come to know and love, moving on to new places of ministry and dreaming new dreams, and doing all of this with a baby we’ve only recently brought home from Korea.

No one can accuse us of doing things the easy way! 😀

“Disciples Transforming the World”

You may have seen my post earlier this week about General Conference 2008. The UMC is providing an opportunity to stay tuned in to what’s happening at a website devoted to the quadrennial event: gc2008.org.

An important part of General Conference is the Laity Address. This year, 60 manuscripts were submitted by various Conference Lay Leaders from around the world for consideration to present the Laity Address at General Conference. Lyn Powell, lay leader of the North Georgia Annual Conference was selected to present this year’s Laity Address called, “Disciples Transforming the World.”

I just read an article about the address and would encourage you to read it, too. You can read it here. I’ve included some of my favorite quotes from the article below.

Referring to leaders in the early church …

“These designated pastors did not do ministry themselves; they equipped the laity to go out and do ministry,” Powell said. The training, equipping and use of their spiritual gifts were so effective, that 2,000 years later Christianity is flourishing. “A few pastors could never have accomplished that alone. Only the laity, on fire for Jesus Christ, equipped by the pastors, could do such a thorough job of converting the known world to Christianity,” she said.

In the past 50 years, many lay members have “disengaged from the idea of having a ministry of any kind, much less a transforming one,” she said. She said that it was no coincidence that when the laity disengaged from the ministry, the denomination began its decline. Laity, she said, have become complacent and think it is their calling to receive ministry from clergy rather than be equipped by the clergy, with the clergy’s unique gifts and graces, education and training, to go out into the world, do ministry and offer Christ.

“Imagine the transforming effect on the communities around us” because new and exciting outreach ministries would bring more people into the church, she said.

Good stuff.

General Conference 2008

Delegates from all across the United Methodist Church have gathered in Fort Worth, Texas for 10 days of “holy conferencing” under the slogan of “A Future with Hope.” The UMC’s General Conference takes place every four years. Please pray that God’s Spirit will be evident at General Conference 2008.

You can follow the events of General Conference, including the latest news as well as some audio and video of some of the events here. You can also read petitions and track their progress throughout the 10-day event.

Joleen and I will be tracking Petition 81320, which, if passed, would appear to allow us to be ordained in 2009 instead of 2012. Well, we’re not holding our breath, but it will be interesting to watch. 😀 [EDIT: This petition did not pass, but a similar petition did, which changes the name of “probationary membership” to “provisional membership,” and more significantly, shortens the commissioning process from 3 years to 2. This means, if all stays on track, we will be ordained in 2011.]

Finally, you might want to read United Methodists seek change in tone at assembly. The article includes the following guidelines which were developed to provide an atmosphere where “holy conferencing” can take place …

  • Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable.
  • As you patiently listen and observe the behavior of others, be open to the possibility that God can change the views of any or all parties in the discussion.
  • Listen patiently before formulating responses.
  • Strive to understand the experience out of which others have arrived at their views.
  • Be careful in how you express personal offense at differing opinions. Otherwise dialogue may be inhibited.
  • Accurately reflect the views of others when speaking. This is especially important when you disagree with that position.
  • Avoid using inflammatory words, derogatory names or an excited and angry voice.
  • Avoid making generalizations about individuals and groups. Make your point with specific evidence and examples.
  • Make use of facilitators and mediators.
  • Remember that people are defined, ultimately, by their relationship with God – not by the flaws we discover, or think we discover, in their views and actions.

Good guidelines for all of us engaged in ministry together!

Striving Forward

Ethan continues to make great strides forward managing to amaze us.

Sunday, April 20 was our first Sunday back to our churches. Randy left a little after 8:00. I dropped Ethan off at Dick and Joann’s at 8:30 and went on to my first service at 9:00. Joann and Dick took Ethan to Faith at 10:00 for Sunday School and worship at 11:00, where I was reunited with him following the service.

Ethan handled the morning so well! I was nervous going into the 11:00 service, but he was fine. Dick and Joann are doing a terrific job with him. They were so kind to give their time in advance to get acquainted with Ethan.

Other updates …

Getting teeth. Ethan now has a total of six teeth. He had his lower two front teeth when we brought him home. His two upper outer front teeth came in after we got him. Now his upper middle front teeth are poking through!

Preparing to walk. Ethan is still preparing to walk. His balance has improved so that he can stand and dance with no hands. He also occasionally does what Randy calls “squats” to strengthen his leg muscles. He loves for us to take his two hands so he can strut his stuff from one end of the house to the other! It won’t be long until he’s walking on his own.

Learning to chew. We have been trying to teach Ethan to chew. He sometimes makes big chewing motions while he’s eating his baby food (usually with his mouth open). Gerber Graduates Finger Foods were recommended because they easily melt in the mouth. In fact, the Banana Puffs were part of the success in our travels to Asbury last week (he started chewing two days before the trip!). Ethan was so excited to pick up a Puff from my hand and get it into his mouth and chew! This kept him quite occupied while we traveled. (He is a bit confused, though, when we read one of his books that has a “choo choo” in it. 🙂 )

Mom and Dad are making strides too. Ever since we’ve been home from Korea we have been keeping a running journal on what and how much Ethan eats and when and how much Ethan sleeps. We stopped keeping track of his eating a couple of weeks ago, thinking we pretty much have that down now. We are now ready to stop recording his sleep. His night sleep is pretty standard (10-11.5 hours). His naps are more sporadic. He takes a late morning nap regularly. We are considering letting go of the afternoon nap — he doesn’t always go to sleep and it just makes mom and dad more tired trying to get him to sleep.

Day at Greenwood Furnace

A couple of weeks ago, on one of the earlier nice spring days, we spent an afternoon at an area state park, Greenwood Furnace.

Here are a few images from the day …

Successful Defenses

Good news: we both successfully defended our dissertations!

Over the course of 84 hours, we drove to and from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY (nearly 20 hours roundtrip), and met with our dissertation committees:

  • Randy met with Russell West (mentor), Chris Kiesling (second reader), and Milton Lowe (D.Min. team representative).
  • Joleen met Russell West (mentor), Stephen Martyn (second reader), and Tony Headley (D.Min. team representative).

We showed up at the appointed times for our hearings, then the committee members went into a closed room for 30 minutes to get their heads together. That time was the most nerve-racking part of the whole experience.

The defense hearings went well and were very affirming. At the end of the hearings, our committees sent us out to make their decisions. Fortunately, that part of the process only took about 60 seconds or so.

We came away with mainly minor changes to make in the next week or so. Following those changes, we will submit copies of our drafts for one final technical edit. After making those corrections, we will print and mail our final copies (due May 9).

We have been referring to our dissertations as the “projects that never end.” Thankfully, they are finally coming to an end!

Setback

Ever since we brought Ethan home 9 weeks ago, we’ve wondered how this trip to Kentucky would go, mainly because Ethan doesn’t always handle the car seat very well.

But Ethan traveled surprisingly well. He got a little tired and fussy toward the end, but that was understandable — it was a long trip, and a long time to spend trapped in the car seat. Thankfully, the trip didn’t take us much longer than it normally does.

However, while we focused so much on the drive here, what we did not expect was how Ethan would react to a strange hotel room.

After we arrived at the Asbury Inn, we went for a walk. By the time we got back to our room it was Ethan’s bed time (which we sometimes refer to as EBT).

We gave Ethan his bottle and tried to put him in the pack-and-play crib, but he resisted and cried — loudly. As it turned out, he fought sleep (amazingly well, I might add) for the next 3 hours. We finally put him in bed between us (at home, he always sleeps in his crib).

Ethan had a short, restless night. He tossed and turned a lot — it was rather dangerous as we both took shots to the body by Ethan’s flailing feet and hands.

I think I got about 5 hours of interrupted sleep, then had to get up and review/prepare for my dissertation defense, which thankfully was scheduled for the afternoon (we plan to report on both defense hearings Friday or Saturday).

Today, Ethan did pretty well, but as EBT neared, he began to fight sleep again. Fortunately, though, he went to sleep (in our bed) a little earlier tonight (10:30 pm).

The experience here reminds us that Ethan is still in transition. Though he is doing incredibly well, “the takeaway” has left a mark (whether he remembers it or not). While we expect him to grow healthier in time, it will take a lot of love, understanding, and patience on our part, especially when we experience an occasional setback.

Well, we need a good night’s rest tonight — Joleen’s dissertation defense is scheduled for 9:00 am and we will be driving home after lunch.

Here are a few images from Asbury …

Ironically, I remembered today that the last time we were here, we learned that this little guy existed and was going to be ours. As we wrap up this part of our journey, this place holds a special place in our hearts. As challenging as the last 24 hours have been, we’re glad Ethan gets to experience this place with us (assuming the rest of the night doesn’t go too badly 🙂 ).