Life has not been the same since that morning in March when Bishop Schnase called to invite me to serve as the superintendent of the Northwest District! There were many times early on, and in days since, when I looked in the mirror and said out loud, “What were they thinking?!”
However, I have been reminded that no one comes into a new role knowing exactly what to do – whether that new role is as pastor in a new appointment, a lay person serving as the new Ad Council chair, a 9th grader starting classes at the high school, my friends who just delivered their first baby, or a new district superintendent! If we are alive, there is always something new and exciting to learn and something that will challenge us in the day to day.
It is such a relief to know that we are never alone in the challenges. God has promised to be with us always. Isaiah 43:1-4 is one of my favorite scriptures. God promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned…” Notice that God says “when,” not “if.” We can always count on God’s presence and protection, especially in the most difficult of days.
And then there are those who come around us to offer guidance, support, and friendship. From the moment I first stepped into the Cabinet room, I have felt the warmth and collegiality of those who share the role of superintendency. We are in this together! The wisdom of experience is only a phone call away. And I am so grateful.
My circle of colleagues grew during district superintendent training in August. There were 79 district superintendents (DSs) and directors of connectional ministries (DCMs) from across the United States at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina to learn the expectations and details of our new roles. We came home with pages of notes about supervision and hearts full of ideas for leading our districts as “chief missional strategist.”
That is what excites me most about this new role, especially after spending time with pastors during evaluations this week. Bishop Schnase and our superintendents have been reminding us for years that pastors are appointed to a “mission field,” not just to a specific UMC. The pastors I spoke with yesterday really get that. They talked about the communities around their church buildings, specific needs of folks living there, and how congregations can network together to strengthen those communities.
Rev. Stephanie Moore at First UMC North Kansas City has led her congregation to partner with the North Kansas City School District, providing classroom space at the church. Relationships are growing, and First UMC is recognized around town as truly caring for and being a part of the community. Rev. Laura Murphy at Gashland UMC is leading her congregation to think beyond their church walls. One member recently asked if the church’s overgrown baseball field could be used again to give children a place to practice. The church said, “YES!” and volunteers from the baseball community descended upon the field to make short work of the clean-up process. The hungry, the homeless, and families are the missional focus of North Cross UMC led by Rev. Shawn Franssens. The congregation is looking to partner with other congregations and local ministries to help transform lives outside and inside the church walls.
It is an exciting time to be a part of The United Methodist Church in Missouri, and especially in the Northwest District. May God continue to let us be a part of what God wants to bless among us.