By: Christa Meland
Bishop David Bard has sometimes thought that questions posed by two musicians could be a key to church renewal: The Marvin Gaye question, “What’s Going On?”—What’s happening in your neighborhood? And the Miles Davis question, “So What?”—So, what are you going to do about it, and how are things you’re doing having an impact on the people in your congregation and community?
In a sermon given Tuesday night, Bard noted the significant and lasting impact that Davis had on jazz, and he focused in on the question “so what?” asking: “In a time filled with unkindness, raging conspiracy theories, deep divisiveness, craziness of all kinds…in a world where war rages, diseases flourish, hunger abounds, climate is damaged, what does it matter what we are doing here tonight?”
It matters, he told more than 500 people gathered in-person and those watching online. We trust that God is at work, even when it seems the world is moving away from God’s purposes.
“The world needs the ministry of Jesus Christ through the church because it is the ministry of forgiveness and reconciliation and compassion and peace and joy and beauty and justice and building bridges and healing and love…This matters. Tonight matters.”
At a celebratory Service of Licensing, Commissioning, and Ordination on the first evening of the 2022 Annual Conference, Rev. Hope Bentley Hutchison was ordained as a deacon, Rev. Lee Miller was ordained as an elder, Revs. Nancy D. Ellis and Riva Tabelisma were commissioned as provisional members, and Revs. Tami Luckhardt and Jim Strom, licensed local pastors, were recognized for completing their five-year course of study.
Additionally, the following individuals were authorized to serve as local pastors in the congregations and ministry areas in which they are appointed: Cassi Betker, Kieu Ngan Doan, Scott Evenson, Kelly Figueroa-Ray, Sarah Green, Catie Levenick, Eric Pone, John Scheuer, Mark Schlasner, Sarah Schroerlucke, Jennifer Spickelmier, Russ Steele, and Jason Steffenhagen.
The worship service included celebratory music, such as a special compilation performed by a brass quintet and an upbeat version of “Bring Forth the Kingdom” after each group was recognized.
All of those recognized affirmed that God had called them to their work, vowed to be faithful in prayer and the study of the Holy Scriptures, and pledged to do their best to live in accordance with the teachings of Christ. Bishop Bard prayed over them and sent them forth to lead God’s people. As a deacon, Hutchison was given authority to proclaim the word of God and to lead God’s people in ministries of compassion and justice. As an elder, Miller was given authority to preach the word of God, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church. And as provisional members, Ellis and Tabelisma were sent to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to announce the reign of God, and to equip the church for ministry.
Bishop Bard ended his sermon by telling honorees that the church needs leaders not unlike Miles Davis who helped change jazz in 1959—those who know how to carry our deepest values and improvise around them with creativity and a measure of audacity.
“You have answered the call to be those kinds of leaders in the church so that the church can be who the church needs to be in this day and time if we are to be about the ministry of Jesus Christ,” he said. “That’s a pretty big ‘so what.’ And we celebrate with you tonight. And we pledge our support to you tonight. And we all recommit ourselves to being in ministry with you tonight…Tonight we claim again that God is up to something and we get to be a part of it. Tonight we claim again the gift and task of ministry. And tonight we welcome you in a new way as leaders of the church. So let’s do it. Amen.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church