Mohawk DS encourages: Abide in Christ, stay close to the source of life
Click here to view photos of the installation service.
Mohawk District Superintendent the Rev. Abel Roy has put a few miles on his car. When he accepted the appointment this spring as one of the newest Upper New York Conference district superintendents, Rev. Roy began a transition from the Niagara Frontier District – specifically Springville – to the Mohawk District office in New Hartford, just over 200 miles as the crow flies.
To acclimate to his new surroundings, Rev. Roy has been traveling around the Mohawk District this fall, reminding him of an important Biblical lesson: staying close to the source of life.
“This is harvest season, and you can see the fruits of your labor,” Rev. Roy said. Pumpkins, eggplant, cabbage and, perhaps most poignantly, grapes remind him of the parable Jesus shared about staying connected.
Rev. Roy shared the parable during the Mohawk District’s Installation Service held in his honor on Oct. 25 at the New Hartford United Methodist Church. The 200-plus in attendance gazed around the room at 10-foot tall banners featuring different fruits and vegetables of the harvest as Rev. Roy recounted the importance of the vine and staying connected to it.
Judea, he said, was surrounded by vineyards. So when Jesus spoke about vineyards, vines, and pruning, the people of the time could not only understand but also identify with the metaphor.
There is something else these listeners would most certainly have known: that a vineyard was the symbol of the nation of Israel.
“In America, we might think of amber waves of grain, but in Judea they thought of their nation as a vineyard,” Rev. Roy said. “It was a kind of national identity. Over and over again in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God.”
Jesus calls Himself the vine and His disciples are the fruit-bearing branches. God, also depicted as the farmer, is the one who cultivates the farm.
God has watered and tended the soil, and God has pruned the vines so they can produce more fruit, and “for the past 2,000 years, this vine has produced so many branches all around the world,” Rev. Roy said, “and it has produced fruit. But my question this afternoon my friends is: ‘Are we still producing fruit?’ Yes, we did; we did produce fruit. But it seems like the branches are now a little tired. We might have been disconnected from the true vine. (After all,) it has been 2,000 years.
“Are we, the Church, still producing fruit? Are we an empty vine? If we, the Church, are not producing fruit, we would fall under that category, wouldn’t we?”
Rev. Roy makes an important distinction. The job of the vine is not to produce fruit, but to bear fruit. The production comes after the fruit has been borne. And the only time a branch will not bear fruit is if it becomes disconnected from the vine.
“You cannot force a branch to produce fruit. You can’t command a branch to produce fruit. That is why nowhere do you find Jesus ever telling us to go out and produce fruit. Our job is not to produce the fruit; our job is to bear it. And the way you bear fruit is by staying connected to the vine … Stay connected to Jesus,” Rev. Roy said.
There are more opportunities now than ever to stay connected to the true vine, through small groups, online discussions, webinars, self-guided Bible studies, worship retreats, and experiences. And the list goes on.
“If we are connected to the true vine, we will bear fruit,” Rev. Roy said, “no matter where we are.” Whether it is assisting with the Africa 360 initiative, fostering the growth of the Christian church in China and India, or responding to disasters around the world, “we need to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love to our neighbors in all places,” he said.
One way the installation service attendees fostered the connection was through an offering to Utica’s The Neighborhood Center. More than $1,230 was collected to support the center’s response to human needs, such as providing early childhood education, youth development, adult services, anti-poverty programs, job training, and adult education.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb reiterated several of the key characteristics that he looks in a potential district superintendent.
“I’m looking for someone who is owned by the mission, for someone who has proven to be fruitful in their ministry setting, someone who has helped the congregations they serve,” he said. “Someone who is respected by their peers, their colleagues. And someone who is committed to The United Methodist Church, who believes that despite any difficulties that we might share, our best days are ahead of us.”
Another item on that list is prioritizing family.
“There is one thing I can say with absolute certainty,” Bishop Webb said, “they are in ministry together.”
“They have made some sacrifices,” he added. Rev. Roy and his wife, Rebecca, have two daughters: Abigail, 17, and Priscilla, 11. As a senior in high school, “Abbey” – as Bishop Webb referred to her – has remained in Buffalo to stay and graduate with her class.
“This is your first priority,” Bishop Webb said, pointing to the three women. “The church will try to squeeze out every bit of your energy and talent, but these three beautiful ladies need to be first. … And I hope that you will help hold him accountable.”
Earlier in the service both daughters performed, Abbey on trumpet and Priscilla with her voice. Offering up his own musical talent, Bishop Webb said this could be the start of a small combo, featuring the two Roy sisters, Bishop Webb on trombone, and Crossroads District Superintendent the Rev. Nola Anderson’s son on violin; Rev. Anderson was celebrated during an installation service on Oct. 11 at the Cicero UMC.