Saturday morning of the Annual Conference Session started with a Service of Recognition that honored newly licensed local pastors, people who have completed a Course of Study in the past year, and clergy who are retiring.
The preacher for the service was Hannah Shanks.
“Like most United Methodists, I’m not a reverend,” she explained as she introduced herself.
At first, she thought the email requesting her to preach for the service was a mistake, but she received assurance it was not, so she accepted the invitation.
“Although not a reverend, I’m a called layperson. I received all the authority needed in my baptism,” she said. “You all just got extra credit.”
Shanks noted that the people retiring have collectively given 723 years of service to the church. The Service of Recognition is a time of crossing, with responsibility going from those retiring from formal service to those entering it. Shanks asked people to pause and let the moment sink in, and take in the hopes of new beginnings.
She spoke of the “desired path” term that applied to urban planning and showed a picture of a clear path through the grass that people were taking rather than following the paved sidewalk. She said that as the church enters the future, there is no paved path ahead.
“We’re about to take all of United Methodism off-roading for a little while longer,” she said. “We’ve been running on the shoulders, and now we’re going on paths where the roads are not yet paved. I know people working on it night and day, but it’s going to be a while before we get there. There is no clear road ahead where navigating Sunday morning between the politics of Monday through Saturday gets easier.”
Shanks encouraged people to look around and consider where they want to go and not be afraid to build a desired path to get there.
“I believe that we will find each other on these desired paths because we are each other’s inheritance,” Shanks said. “If we can sing each other’s departure, we can sing each other whole.”
The service concluded with the traditional passing of the mantel.
“In the book of Kings, we read of the Prophet Elijah’s ministry,” Bishop Farr said. “The mantle, symbolic of submission to God, fell upon the younger prophet, Elisha, and the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha.
Rev. Sally Haynes, the representative of the retiring class, rose and placed the mantle on the shoulder of Rev. Jacqueline McCall, the representative of the new provisional class.
“I transfer this mantle from our generation to the young, indicating thereby that the responsibilities and dedication of the older generation will be caught up and carried on by the young, and the spirit of today’s Elijahs will rest upon today’s Elishas,” Haynes said.
McCall rose and turned to Haynes.
“We who come after you take up the mantle which falls upon us,” she said. “May we inherit a double share of your spirit.”
A video of the retiring class sharing stories and testimonies is available on the Annual Conference Session Vimeo channel, www.vimeo.com/channels/moac23.
The retirees for 2023 are:
John C. Harp
Sandy Monsees Davis
Gary Ponder Williams