Psalm 91: 9 – 16
Isaiah 53: 4-12
Hebrews 5: 1-10
Mark 10: 32-45
[Jesus said to his disciples, ]
“You know that among the Gentiles
those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them,
and their great ones are tyrants over them.
But it is not so among you;
but whoever wishes to become great among you
must be your servant,
and whoever wishes to be first among you
must be slave of all.
For the Son of Man came not to be served
but to serve,
and to give his life a ransom for many.”
-Mark 10: 42 – 45
On Saturday, October 13, I enjoyed participating in the Fall Meeting of our Shenandoah Association of the United Church of Christ. Delegates came from Winchester, Charlottesville, Blacksburg and points nearer. We were led by Association Council President Rev. Steve Wood, who serves Trinity UCC at Basye (west of Mt. Jackson, by Bryce Resort). Our Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Audrey Price and our Acting Conference Minister, Rev. Dr. Roddy Dunkerson brought us news of the Conference and wise counsel.
Since the death of Rev. Dr. John Deckenback in July of 2016, our Conference has not had a long-term Conference Minister. This year, a search committee worked and found a candidate for the position, possibly to begin service with the new year 2019. The candidate is Rev. Dr. Palmer Freeman, who has served as an Associate Conference Minister in the New York Conference. He plans to be in Harrisonburg on November 16th so we can meet him and get to know him a bit.
Our Acting Conference Minister sends us this plea:
I am opening my piece by putting in a very blatant commercial: Please make every effort to attend the Special Conference Meeting on November 17th at any of the three churches where we will meet to elect the Reverend Freeman Palmer as our new Conference Minister!
So, I hope I can be forgiven, but, if we don’t get a quorum, I am in deep trouble at home. All are welcome to attend, but, voting lay delegates are selected by local churches. (All clergy serving churches who have standing in an Association are voting delegates.)
This business of how we do business is a deep part of our history.
Once upon a time, the world believed that certain people were called by God to make decisions for us.
We come from people who said that we needed to listen to each other. God works through us collectively. Having been a Conference Minister for a while, I have occasionally made decisions for the Conference. But, it goes against the grain of my being. I really do believe that God wants me to be in dialogue with others. I really do believe that we best discern God’s will in community.
When I have worked with Search Committees, I have always talked about the competing duties of the individual members. On the one hand, if their gut is screaming “NO”, they need to say it out loud to the group. On the other hand, they must listen to why others have a different perspective. In those committees, I believe in consensus. That means everyone has to say ‘yes’ even if they say it quietly. Even one definite “NO” means moving past a candidate.
When the Conference gathers, the rules change. We don’t need to be in complete agreement, we need to be in substantial agreement.
In all cases, we need to understand that we are discerning the will of God. To discern the “will of God” is an awesome task. It means that God is Still Speaking and we are witnesses to God’s speech.
We do not mean that we must wait for letters to write themselves on a wall. We are listening for more subtle speech. We are listening to our history of interaction with the scriptures and with our communities of faith. We are paying attention to our community of believers and to our conscience. The “still small voice” is important. The commitments to justice that have formed us are important. The “calling” of the future for which we are created is important.
Your voice is important.
Together, God gives us the strength and imagination to build the future.
Let us listen for God’s call and let us be the church. Roddy