Conference recognizes 36 pastors celebrating milestones in ministry

May 31, 2023
Bishop Lanette Plambeck places a stole on Rev. Jin Hur during his ordination. / Photos by David Haines

By: Christa Meland

“God has asked us, invites us, and in some ways compels us to devote ourselves to those we haven’t even yet met. That’s a big invitation. I wonder: Are you all up for it?...Are you ready to fully devote yourselves?”

Bishop Lanette Plambeck posed those questions to those being ordained, commissioned, and recognized as licensed local pastors at a Celebration of Life in Ministry worship service.

“You’ve been called to the very best roles of all: set-apart ministry,” she told the group. “You’ve been called to high days, low days, and the in-between days because God is planning on being a vessel of grace through you…I want to invite you to already begin praying for the ones whose faces you've not yet seen whose names you do not yet know that God is going to place on your path.”

Bishop Lanette told a powerful story about a man named Andy whom she encountered while pastoring in Iowa. Andy was a former soldier who spent time on the edges; his PTSD was so bad that he was unable to be in community with others. One day he came to her church asking for food, and the simple act of feeding him was the start of what became a transformational relationship. Andy started coming to church on Sundays, and each Sunday, he moved a little bit closer to the front of the sanctuary; eventually, he began taking Communion and found a home in the church.

“He had place to belong, a God to believe in, a community to be part of, and he was beloved community together with them,” Bishop Lanette said. “That’s my prayer for you: that you will lead others toward beloved community,” she told those entering a new phase of ministry.

The 2023 retirement class was honored for their many years of faithful service.

At this gathering concluding the first day of the 2023 Minnesota Annual Conference Session, those retiring from active ministry and those celebrating milestones in ministry were affirmed and recognized.

Clergy entering retirement were lifted up first: Revs. Karen Ashton, Jim Beard, Tom Biatek, Carolyn Doering, Kirk Doering, Dana Houck, Dan Johnson, Paul J. Marzahn, Martha Postlethwaite, Bill Reinhart, Bruce Ruggles, Wayne V. Swanson, Chris Kliesen Wehrman, and Judy Zabel. (Watch their reflection videos.)

Bishop Lanette Plambeck thanked God for the hundreds of years of combined service of this year’s retiring class: “May they know each and every day that you are with them, may they show each and every day their ongoing witness of your light and love, and may they go into retirement in the same spirit in which they were called into ministry—knowing that they never travel alone and that there is a body of people in the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church that would not be who we are without them.”

Meanwhile, Revs. Kevin Gregory, Jin Hur, Yolanda Yvette Williams, and Leslie Mills Zeek were ordained as elders, Revs. Kelly Figueroa-Ray and Katie Matson-Daley were commissioned as provisional members, and Revs. Paula Gaboury, Dawn Houser, and Kathy King, 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: Lisa Braun, Jojo Coffin-Langdon, Laura Cottington, James Crandall, Deborah Davis, Isiah C. Dennis, Jose (Angel) Franco, Jeff Goeldi, Tracy Lei Kennedy, Beatrice K. Mungania, Dean W. Roush, Victoria Hargrave Spyhalski, and Christy Key-Sturlaugson.
Bishop Lanette Plambeck washed the feet of each person being ordained.

The worship service included a mix of traditional hymns like “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and celebratory music, such as an upbeat rendition of “Halle, Halle, Halle” after the commissioning and ordination.

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 Lanette prayed over them and sent them forth to lead God’s people. As elders, Gregory, Hur, Williams, and Zeek were given authority to preach the word of God, to administer the sacraments, and to order the life of the church. And as provisional members, Figueroa-Ray and Matson-Daley were sent to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to announce the reign of God, and to equip the church for ministry.

“May you receive the great invitation to devote yourselves daily to the ministry that you have been called to, all to the glory of God,” Bishop Lanette told those being celebrated. “Amen.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

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