July 01, 2017

Thirty years ago, Bob Farr and Ron Watts were on the stage at the ordination service, both of them being ordained elder. Now Bishop Bob Farr is the one doing the ordaining, and Rev. Ron Watts was the preacher for the sacred service of ordination on Saturday night.

Watts started La Croix in 1988 in Cape Girardeau with one family. When they were big enough their house of worship was a rented movie theater. A church was built in 1995, and has been added onto four times. The church now averages 2,200 in worship attendance.

This was mentioned in Watts’ introduction, but nothing about growing a great big church came up in his sermon. Rather, his sermon went the other way- talking about greatness and how we as a society get it wrong. He told how Forbes magazine will run annual list of the top celebrities, based on their wealth, or the most powerful people in the world, based on their political offices or positions of influence. He told the ordinands that they probably wouldn’t make it on one of the Forbes magazine lists.

“That is OK. Jesus calls you to be great,” he said. He went on to say how the temptation to want to be recognized is very real, and it came up several times with the 12 disciples. He referred to the scripture of Mark 10, where James and John were jockeying for positions of authority and favor and with Jesus.

Their request for privilege positions and the arguments that ensued led to Jesus explaining to them how the first would be last and the last would be first in the kingdom of heaven.

“When something kind of stupid would happen Jesus would use it as a teaching moment,” Watts said.

Watts gave examples of greatness that inspire him, from within his own church. There is the couple that started a cleaning company who try to provide employment to single mothers, the Mary Kay lady that does nails and hair at the shelter to help women prepare for job interviews, the husband who overcame his squeamishness to provide wound care on a daily basis to his wife for several months and the woman who has poured  herself into her role as a hospice nurse and inspired others to do the same.

He turned to the ordinands and told them that were about to be ordained into Christian ministry, but they were also being received into a covenant community.

“We thrive in community,” he said. “We shrivel up and die when it becomes about us and what we’re going to get. That brings jealousy and envy.”

When he looks back on his own early years, he realizes now that he was more competitive with people in his covenant community, rather than helpful. He has a different perspective now, trying to be helpful, but also receiving much help. He is in a covenant group with fellow pastors Mike Wondell, David Israel and Fred Leist that he values greatly. He recently visited his friend Jim Preisig, pastor of The Summit church Lee’s Summit, a fellow member of a covenant group of pastors of like-sized churches.

“It was a Monday, probably not a good day for a pastor to be visiting, and Jim saw crisis in my eyes, and spoke courage into my heart,” Watts said. “I left there saying, ‘I can make it.’”

Watts mentioned that looming before everyone is February of 2019, when a special session of General Conference will address issues of human sexuality in the Book of Discipline. Some fear the issues could result in church division. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know that through it I’m going to walk arm and arm with my brothers and sisters in my covenant community,” he said.

Following Watt’s sermon, Bishop Farr examined each group of candidates for ordination, and laid hands on them as they were ordained. Deacons are called by God to a lifetime of ministry of word, service, compassion and justice. There persons lead the church in relating the life of Christians to their ministries in the world, interrelating worship in the gathered community and service to God. Those ordained deacon were Winter DeGraaf Hamilton and Hank Allen Jenkins.

Elders are called to a lifetime ministry of service, word, sacrament and order. Servanthood is expressed by leading worship and prayer, administering sacraments, exercising pastoral supervision and leading the church in mission to the world. Those ordained elders were Shelia N. Bouie- Sledge, Michael Warren Cassidy, Donna Lea Clark Fuller, Stephen George, Matthew Perry Kerner, Cheree Trent Mills, Laura Murphy, and Norma Alicia Hickman De Villagrana.

Ordained clergy from another denomination may have their orders recognized and be received as full members of the United Methodist connection. Those whose orders were recognized were Jim Day, Kathryn C. Nix and Brian Smith.