I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God, our Creator, and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
As I write this article in mid-October, I have completed visits to five of the nine districts in the Dakotas-Minnesota Area (two in Minnesota and three in the Dakotas) and meetings with the respective conferences’ Boards of Ordained Ministry. At every stop, my wife, Char, and I have been overwhelmed by your hospitality and readiness to engage together in ministry.
I am also learning a great deal about the Minnesota Conference. After I complete all nine district visits, I plan to share my observations, insights, and reflections in a series of Northern Light articles on where I believe God is leading us.
One observation is already fully evident. The Minnesota Conference is blessed with committed and gifted clergy leaders. I have already observed prophetic imagination, visionary leadership, passionate proclamation, courageous mission engagement, soulful prayers, tireless sacrifice, and evidence of life-long learning. It will be a blessing and honor to be your bishop!
One of my greatest joys as a bishop is occasionally receiving copies of letters of appreciation sent by congregations to their pastors during October, which is Clergy Appreciation Month. They are poignant testimonies to the faithful servanthood and spiritual leadership of often unheralded clergy and lay ministry professionals. As I read these treasured words of encouragement, I am always filled with hope and pride. I am grateful to the laypeople who thoughtfully fashion and lovingly send cards and letters to their pastors. Even if you are reading this in early November, it is not too late to express appreciation to your clergy leaders and lay ministry professionals!
There is a wonderful story from a missionary about a boy who gave her a beautiful shell from the seashore. She was stunned by the beauty of the shell. “Thank you so much for the shell,” she told the beaming boy. “But how did you get it? We live so many miles from the shore!”
The proud boy replied, “The walk is part of the gift.”
The walk—the journey with individuals and families—is part of the gift pastors give their congregations and communities.
I look forward to joining this walk—this journey—with the clergy and lay leadership of each of our 367 United Methodist congregations. I am already grateful for your early, and unearned, gift to me of your trust, support, encouragement, and willingness to step out in faith and respond to the leading of God’s Spirit.
I am excited about the future of the Minnesota Conference. Imagine the Gift that awaits as we live out, and live into, our biblically and Wesleyan-inspired mission of “making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” And here is the best part: the walk—traveling together and traveling with Christ—is part of the Gift.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough is episcopal leader of the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church