Rev. W. Lea Harding speaks at Extension Ministries Luncheon
The Rev. W. Lea Harding, Director of Pastoral Care at United Methodist Homes’ Hilltop Campus in Johnson City, spoke at the Extension Ministries Luncheon on Wednesday, May 27, at the 2015 session of Annual Conference.
She emphasized that her role is not to ensure all residents are professing Christians before they die, but instead to lead Bible studies, offer worship, and provide services to anyone who wishes to come. She illustrated extension ministry through two personal examples from her role as chaplain for United Methodist Homes.
She recalled one Jewish resident who came to service each Sunday night, only to be whisked away upon her husband’s arrival. One day, the husband sat down and joined his wife at worship, and eventually he arrived on time for each service.
“I could claim both of them as a friend by the time Sarah (the Jewish resident) died,” she said. “It was about bridging that gap between who we are as Christians and who they are as Jewish couple.”
Rev. Harding also shared that she is not only the chaplain for the residents and their families but also for the staff. She officiates weddings or funerals for her staff, but one time she received a unique request: to baptize a staff member’s children.
The staff member was not a congregant, but Rev. Harding agreed to the baptism so long as the children came to worship on Sunday evenings. That family has since joined a United Methodist Church in Binghamton.
“It opened a door to a conversation to encourage them to become a member of a congregation,” Rev. Harding said. “There are plenty of opportunities for us to be disciples of Jesus Christ ... I still encourage all of you, as difficult as it sometimes is, to live out that call to create disciples.”