A Season of Firsts
By Lynn Dyke
This is the “appointment season” in the United Methodist world, for we have a rather unique way of naming seasons. We skip over the traditional “winter, spring, summer and fall” for our own “seasons.” Charge Conference season – Advent – End of the Year statistic season (that’s thankfully short though painful) – Lent – Appointment Season – Moving Season … and then we start the whole thing over again! This is the season of “appointments” – that season when many sit on the edge of their seats, and the lives of churches and pastors are disrupted to begin something new.
A year ago I joined those moving as I moved to be district superintendent in a new district. There were 98 new churches (and two second sites) and all their pastors to meet. I knew a little bit about the Ozarks, yet districts had combined and, as you know, much changes in four years. It’s been a year of something new.
Then, last June, my clergy colleagues elected me to serve on the General Conference delegation – something else that is new and truly humbling. In preparation for actually voting at General Conference, I am reading and learning about things I have not spent much of my ministry ever considering. The pre-conference reading arrived first by email and I downloaded 1488 pages! Then the actual books arrived. I have worked my way through “the delegate information” book, and am now in volume one of the reports and proposed legislation. I’ve learned that there are a few people who write a whole lot of petitions! I’m learning about suggestions to the global structure and a suggestion that the United States be its own central conference. There is legislation around issues people see with the current jurisdictional structure and even a proposal to realign jurisdictions where Missouri would be in a jurisdiction with Alaska. There are thoughts about the paths into ministry (always!), thoughts about re-structuring the church (remember last quadrennium?), and many petitions that will legislate our way through our stands on homosexuality, same sex marriages, electronic cigarettes, the end of life, rights of immigrants and so much more. I’m about one third through the reading, so I expect to be saddened, surprised, and learning about so much more in the coming months. Most of the delegation flies to Portland May 9 to begin our work together, representing Missouri United Methodists we know and love. Your prayers are appreciated.
And somewhere along this season of firsts, God began tugging at my heart. There is a long story, yet the short story is that I was endorsed as a candidate for the episcopacy by the Jurisdiction’s Women’s Leadership Team – an endorsement that the Missouri Conference delegation supported. While that means all sorts of things, specifically that has meant that Bob Farr and I have spent weekends interviewing with other delegations. In five fast weekends we each met with delegations of the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, Northwest Texas, New Mexico, North Texas, Central Texas, Rio Texas, Texas, Louisiana, Great Plains, and Missouri Conferences. In those 45-60 minute conversations, folks asked us every imaginable question about what we might do if we were elected bishop, what we believed, what our experiences had taught us, how people would describe us, and any other question they could come up with. It was a whirlwind, it was a gift, it was humbling, and it opened my eyes in so many ways. For so many prayers, I am thankful.
My season of firsts is winding down. Yet before I get to Annual Conference there are many new appointments for the Bishop to make. And then someone else (and probably lots of someone else’s) will begin a season of firsts in new places.