By: Christa Meland
“The most important thing I want to say to all of you today is thank you.”
Those were the words of Interim Bishop David Bard as he addressed nearly 300 pastors at this year’s virtual Clergy Session, which took place May 27 via Zoom webinar.
“Thank you for sharing in the gospel during this incredibly and tremendously difficult time. Thank you for sharing good news. Thank you for feeding the hungry. Thank you for caring for the sick, the tired, those mired in poverty, the incarcerated, the lonely, the left out or left behind. Thank you for offering worship in hundreds of creative and sometimes maybe even a little crazy ways. Thank you for doing justice and building beloved community. Thank you for your compassionate courage in seeking to speak to difficult issues from out of Christian faith.”
In addition to hearing from the bishop, clergy attendees celebrated one another’s milestones, approved candidates for provisional and full membership, heard from a guest speaker, and had small group conversations by district.
After the past year of continual challenges, Bard reminded Minnesota clergy that Jesus walks with us and we’re not directionless. We have a Great Commission and a Great Commandment, which we have articulated through three missional focuses for our conference: grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world.
“We may not know all the steps along the way, but we have a compass pointing us to true north,” Bard said. “And even when we are at our most divided as Minnesota United Methodists…we all share that same direction.”
In the months and years ahead, as the denomination is likely to break apart into new expressions of Methodism, Bard urged Minnesota clergy to maintain love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
“Even if someday our paths might diverge, may we as best we can find shared unity in our mission together,” he said.
Celebrations and remembrances
At Clergy Session, those present voted to approve Rev. Amanda Lunemann for ordination and full membership as an elder and they affirmed recognizing Rev. Shawna Horn’s ordination in another denomination and receiving her as a full member elder. Additionally, they voted to approve two candidates for commissioning as provisional elders: Hyun Ah (Hannah) Choi and Jin Ho Hur. Rev. David Drager, a licensed local pastor, was also recognized for completing course of study. All of these individuals will be part of a Service of Commissioning and Ordination that will take place at 7 p.m. June 22 (streamed on the Minnesota Conference Facebook page) during Annual Conference.
Clergy attendees also recognized their peers who will retire this summer: Revs. Mark Bateson, Mike Dyrdal, Marci Jamison, Heather E. Klason, Suzanne Mades, Steve Manskar, Donna Martinson, John McBride, Loren Olson, Guy Sederski, Lora Sturm, Rory Swenson, and Lyndy Zabel. They will be recognized during a worship service on the morning of Thursday, June 24, during Annual Conference.
Clergy also remembered and honored their colleagues who have died over the past year: Rev. Adrian Francis Ledermann, Donald Rudolph Sather, Jean M. Ottensmann, Ralph Raymond High, Allen Clark Harris, James R. Nelson, Donald E. Day, Amanda M. Merlin-Molstad, Robert Neil Dunn, Alejandro “Alex” Manzano Ramos, Russell Gordon Minehart, Kenneth M. Rogers, and Daniel P. Almquist—and clergy spouses Annette Elaine Shauf Merry, Frances Rebstock, Vera Ovella Painter, Vera LeMasters, Dolores L. Keech, and Esther J. Schneider.
Learning and conversation
In the afternoon, author and speaker Tod Bolsinger—who wrote the books “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory” and “Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change”—led a teaching session on resilience. He said the time we find ourselves in now is similar to the Exodus when the Israelites started complaining and said they wanted to go back to Egypt. As the pandemic lifts, leaders are hearing people say they want to go back to how it was before the pandemic.
Go back to what, Bolsinger asked? Decades of membership decline? Droves of millennials turning away from the church? We need to go forward, and to lead people out of the wilderness, we will need resilience. Bolsinger used the image of blacksmithing to talk about the practices that leaders need in order to be forged and tempered so they can withstand the stresses of leading in such a time as this.
He pointed out that humans are the only creatures who go faster when they get anxious. In these anxious times, walk—don’t run, he advised.
To cap off the day, clergy met by district to hear from their superintendent and have small group conversations to reflect on the questions: How is it with your soul? How has the past year affected you? What have you learned? How has it changed you and your ministry? And what is stirring your imagination as you think about the year ahead?
View the Clergy Session guide here.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church