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Transitions, Part 2

On July 1, in my annual conference of the United Methodist Church, new appointments begin. I began ministry June 1, 1982 when appointments began June 1. Today, I officially begin my new appointment as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. I posted about this surprise move in an earlier blog, Transitions . I say “official” because I have spent this last week moving my office and preparing for Sunday morning.

I am aware that no transition is easy or clean. First Downtown is the church I grew up and so there is a familiarity to the building and the space. There are people from what I jokingly call “my former life” and others are new to me and I to them. So I am going home in some ways and in other ways this is all brand new.

In the midst of joy, excitement and a little fear in this new beginning, there is also a sense of awe, humbleness and gratitude. The pulpit ministry of First goes beyond the walls of the physical space through live television and online streaming. Ministers that have gone before me are some of the “best” preachers in the United Methodist Church. As a historic downtown “tall steeple” church, the expectations are real. In its 146 year history, I will be the first woman senior pastor. Other women broke the barrier as associates as far back as the 1970’s, but I am aware of how honored I am to be appointed to this church that has such  an important place in my heart and in the hearts of others.

I am grateful, because I am not here because of who I am, but because of the hard work of many other women before me. This year at General Conference they celebrated the 60th anniversary of women’s ordination.

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Now first of all, I need to note that this is INCORRECT!!!! This is the 60th anniversary of women in “full membership.” One might think that the question that those in process gets asked the most (what’s the difference between ordination and membership) might not be misrepresented at the top level of the church. Sigh. In my blog from a couple of years ago, I mentioned one of those wonderful foremothers who broke the ground for me and so many others Rev. Portteus Latimer. Portteus or “Preach” as she was known was ordained BEFORE she was a full member.

What that meant was that she had to “find” her own appointment and if a man was found to fill the pulpit she had to leave. What that meant was that when she attended annual conference with her lay member (who happened to be a woman) her lay member was allowed full voice and voting right and Preach was not. She was ordained, but NOT a member. Those membership rights 60 years ago MEANT that in theory at least, women could vote, could be elected to attend General and Jurisdictional Conference as clergy delegates and could even become a bishop! She shared about being a pastor without being recognized as fully equal. Without her mentoring me and caring for me in those first five years of ministry, I am sure I would not be the pastor I am today. I am so grateful for all those women who went before me that paved the way for me to serve God in so many ways.

On May 31, 1988 I was ordained an elder in the United Methodist Church. Preach laid hands on me in the moment that was so blessed. On that day I received two gifts, one a red stole placed around my neck after I was ordained and a small gold dove, engraved with my ordination date by my family.

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Each year at Annual Conference I wear the dove and if I participate in the ordination service I wear this stole. It is part and parcel of the history of those who went before me and I pray for the ministry in which I am now engaged.

So the new adventure begins. Downtown Wichita is part of who I am, from when I was a child, to the choice I made ten years ago to move back to the heart of Wichita, where I grew up and where I attended school and where I thrive. To be part of Life.Downtown. was a surprise blessing. I look forward to coming full circle and being in ministry at First.

I am graced to serve.

 

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Giving Up for Lent: Retirement

I have taken on the challenge to blog each of the forty days of Lent (taking Sunday off, because Sundays are not counted in the days of Lent.) The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd posted an article on forty things to give up for Lent and it seemed a good thing to write a blog about the list. That is, it seemed a good idea until today, which is only day five! Today’s challenge is to give up “retirement.”

Since I am not retired, and probably won’t be for a few years, this seemed odd to write about. I also would not want to presume to tell retired people about retirement. Here is the statement from the article:

5. Retirement – As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. Our work is not always tied to a paycheck.

I agree with the sentiment, all of us have a purpose and that is usually not tied to a paycheck, but this seems a bit critical. Perhaps it is wrong of me, but I am looking forward to retirement. I would like to have more space in my days to spend with family, to do some of things I have always wanted to do, to volunteer more with organizations I believe in. Many of the retirees I know are just as busy now as they were during their “working” years.

So, what does it mean to give up “retirement” for Lent. I decided to reformulate the question. Are there things in my life and spirit that I have, for lack of a better term, retired from? Are there causes or beliefs that I have retreated from sharing because I am weary or tired or so over the “battle?” It seems that sometimes I get tired of the arguments that don’t seem to go anywhere, the letters and e-mails that are ignored or worse yet, sent a form letter response that has nothing to do with the content of what I had written.

So it isn’t about paid work or unpaid work that challenges me. It is that I don’t want to retire from life itself.
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The truth is I will retire from a paying job someday. When I do, I want my life to still count for something, to make a difference in my community and in the world. Life, like retirement, is a journey and the journey can be amazing. I don’t want to withdraw from the world, I want to continue to be engaged and involved. I want to continue to support those institutions and ministries I believe transform the world and change lives and spirits. When I am no longer “working” for a living, I want to dream new dreams and have new visions and participate fully in this amazing life and world God has given.

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So, on this fifth day of Lent, I am blessed to be working at a job I love and am challenged to not let myself retire from the people and the causes I believe are important. It is enough to walk with God, know I was created for a purpose and loved by God more than I can imagine. With that knowledge, I am graced to serve.

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