Commissioners and Ordinands inspired to chase God
On the sunny Saturday, of June 19, 2021, 10 United Methodists filed into Cicero United Methodist Church, over two hours before visitors arrived. These 10 individuals were about to fulfill their call to ministry by becoming commissioned to the work of deacons, commissioned to the work of elder, ordained to the work of deacon, or ordained to the work of elder.
At 3:00 p.m., the Service of Ordination and Commissioning, as part of the 2021 Upper New York (UNY) Annual Conference, began. This service was by invitation only due to COVID concerns and it was also livestreamed for people across the Connection to watch.
Upper New York Area Resident Bishop, Mark J. Webb greeted the crowd, stating, “We come together to praise God, to hear the Holy Word, and to seek for ourselves and others the power, presence, and direction of the Holy Spirit.”
The Rev. Heather Williams, UNY Co-Chair of the Order of Elders presented the three individuals who had been elected provisional members to be commissioned for the work of an elder: Olga E. Gonzalez, Santiago Sherry Lynn Mahar, and Jennifer K. Piatt.
The Rev. Carrie Wolfe, UNY Co-Chair of the Order of Deacons presented the person who has been elected provisional members to be commissioned for the work of deacon, Deborah M. Coatsworth.
Rev. Wolfe also presented the two individuals to be ordained for the work of a deacon and who have been elected full members, Brian P. Lothridge and Jessica Faye Glaser.
Rev. Williams also presented four individuals to be ordained for the work of an elder and who have been elected full members, Cheryl Ann Brown, Jongdeok Park, Cindy L. Schulte, and Rachel Erin Stuart.
Standing with warm smiles in front of the room, facing Bishop Webb, these candidates proudly exclaimed “Yes!” to all the historical questions and answered all the general examination questions with confidence.
In a deeply inspirational message, Bishop Webb reminisced about his elementary school days, when children chased each other as a way of affirming that you liked the person you were chasing. He stated the fact that God is always chasing us all. He said, “we celebrate that our God is a God who chases us! Our God is a God so in love with us, so passionate about us. A God who has always, is now and will forever chase after us that we might know fully the unconditional, saving and transforming love offered through Jesus Christ!”
Bishop explained that through grace, God will not give up on the chase. He said, “No matter who you are, no matter what you have done or not done, God passionately and unconditionally loves you and will never stop chasing you with that love! If nothing else is heard or experienced in this time of worship today, I pray that each of us will believe the truth, experience the reality, and say yes to God’s radical love. I pray that we give up, stop running and allow the love of God to fully capture, overcome and overwhelm us.”
He then encouraged the commissioners and ordinands to chase God back in their new roles. He said, “As we recognize the truth of God chasing us, we must then through grace and faith make a choice to chase God back. We must become people who are known as God chasers!”
Bishop Webb explained how when these candidates received a call to ministry; it was God’s way of inviting them to chase after him.
Bishop described three ways for these candidates to chase Jesus:
- Pursue a knowledge of Jesus.
Bishop Webb said, “Pay attention to how you are going deeper, wider, higher and longer in your love, connection and pursuit of Jesus! Put your spiritual disciplines ahead of your preparation of sermons and Bible studies. Practice and engage in worship before you lead worship. Spend time in your prayer closet before you lead the people of God in the discipline of prayer.
- Pursue your position in Jesus.
Bishop Webb said, “Your standing is not defined by what you do, how many people attend your worship services, whether you are this or that. Your identity is anchored in your position as someone who has said yes to following Jesus.”
- Pursue the power of Jesus.
Perhaps the most encouraging news Bishop shared with the candidates, was, “There is nothing that God is calling you to today or that God will call you to tomorrow that God has not already equipped to accomplish. You will be tempted to look to your own knowledge, your own strength, your own power to determine whether or not you can be faithful in the call God has placed upon your life. Pursue the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit in you. Trust that power – lean on that power and watch what God will do in you, through you and in spite of you.
Once commissioned and ordained, these 10 members of the United Methodist Church were literally welcomed with open arms by a crowd of vaccinated members of the UNY Conference.