When God said to Moses and Aaron, This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you (Exodus 12: 2), the powerful and enduring Passover tradition was born. In the Methodist tradition, July 1 marks “the first month of the year” for us. New pastoral appointments begin. Continuing appointments are affirmed. In some churches, lay leadership teams discover new levels of giftedness and service to Christ. All of this is in God’s time and purpose.
What rituals do you practice around this Methodist “New Year?” When serving church & community as a pastor, I announced and celebrated my re-appointment each year as an opportunity to keep the itineracy in sight and to remember that our life together is framed by God’s purpose.
On an individual level, in the weeks after each year’s New England annual conference I spend some time with the ordination service bulletin, remembering and reexamining, reliving and recommitting to the covenant I entered in 1998. The “General Examination” (found in the ordination service liturgies) offers a rule of life for ordained UMC pastors. Reexamining it annually always surfaces things I’ve let submerge and affirms others I’ve held fast. It begins with the declaration of collaborative ministry that I hold dear:
My kindred, sisters and brothers in Christ, as commissioned or ordained ministers, you are to be coworkers with bishops, elders, deacons, local pastors, provisional members, diaconal ministers, deaconesses, home missioners, supply pastors, and all the people of God.
What a powerful group of co-workers! The words that bind that group together and help us become more like Jesus each day are found later in the liturgy in an invitiaotn to commit to what gives us life:
Will you give yourself to God through the order or fellowship,
in order to sustain and build each other up in prayer, study,
worship and service under the rule of life set forth in the vows you take this day?
It is absolutely vital that our fellowshipping include these practices: prayer, study, worship and service, if we are to become more like Jesus than we were when we began so that the world may be transformed into God’s full vision of love and justice. And isn’t that the point of discipleship? And isn’t that the point of the Methodist movement? We are seeking to grow as disciples whose lives will do nothing less than change the world around us. Perhaps this new year is good time to review and renew the practices of your covenant group, Sunday School class, or other discipleship group.
In this year’s ordination service, the General Examination was preceded by a powerful solo performance of Song of the Open Road (setting by Mark Miller).
Allons! The road is before us
It is safe, I have tried it
My own feet have tried it well
Be not detained
Whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
I did not know I held so much goodness!
Congratulations on whatever beginning or re-beginning you are part of in July 2017. May the goodness God gives you grow and flourish.
Your Partner in Christ, Karen
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.