At the conclusion of yesterday’s closing worship of the Annual Conference gathering, the Bishop fixed the appointments for the coming year. With his power and authority, he cemented the bonding that had begun months before at Cabinet meetings with all the Conference District Superintendents and himself. Clergy are matched with appointments, local churches and beyond. Congregations receive those sent in ministry to serve and lead, to love and challenge. We are bonded together, joined at the hip for the next year.
This means that we have one another, and will journey together on the path of discipleship, the road to social holiness. All over the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church space is being made for transformation. The clergy that arrive will not be as they were when they left. We pray that we will be perfected in love and pushed to grow beyond ourselves. The congregation too should change, reflecting the glorious work of the Holy Spirit in them and through them for the glory of God. Appointments mean connection and change. Just as Jacob held on to the man, the divine being that acknowledged his struggles with God and humans, we cling to each other. As Jacob’s hip was knocked out of alignment, we too shall have our scars from the struggle for social justice, reconciliation, and carrying our cross. The glory of sent ministry, where the Bishop sends clergy to their place of leadership and service, is that the clergy are not wholly autonomous. We cannot serve only our interests and passion for ministry, for we are accountable to the episcopacy above and the laity below in the hierarchy of the Church. Congregations receive these clergy under all conditions and circumstances. The only thing that can make these matches, these connections work for the coming year is God, because it will be by the grace of God that we can thrive in ministry together, grow the Body of Christ, and bring the Kingdom of God closer for the communities in which we find ourselves.
On July 1st, our work for the coming year will begin in earnest. Our bonds will be knitted together through contact and conversation, through worship and fellowship, through struggle and celebration. We are becoming more by becoming closer, and not always with people we might have chosen for ourselves. Despite any reservations on the part of the congregation or the clergy, here we are, in this together. So let us make the most of this, the fruit of the itinerancy. Let us embrace one another as we have been embraced by our Lord. Let us look with wonder at what we can become together, even if we have been together over the previous year and beyond. This is a new day, which the Lord has made. Let us be glad in it, and one another. May this year be one of incredible blessing, so much so that we are left to marvel at this new thing the Lord is doing to us and with us for the world.