29
Mar
22

Pray a Prayer of Peace

With everything going on in the world today, I know your prayer list is probably full to overflowing. 

But I wonder… can I coax you into squeezing ONE MORE group of people onto it? Just for today?

Please?

Can I ask you to pause a moment and say a quick prayer for United Methodist pastors and their families?

In case you don’t know, this time – from about February to late May – is an incredibly stressful time of year for this group of people. It is the time of year when they each wait on pins and needles for THE CALL. That is, the call from their Bishop or District Superintendent that begins pleasantly enough, (“Good evening, Russell! How are things with you and the family?”) then rapidly disintegrates into a conversation that can COMPLETELY turn their world upside down (“The Cabinet met yesterday and discerned the need for a change we’d like you to think about.”)

A quick primer for you non-United Methodists in the crowd: every United Methodist pastor is appointed to serve a particular church by the Bishop and the Bishop’s Cabinet. That appointment is always a ONE YEAR deal. 

Always.

Every December, the pastor, and a group of volunteer leaders in that church, begin a discernment process. The process is designed to answer the question: “Is this pastor still right for this church?” And conversely, “Is this church still right for this pastor?”

Hopefully, the answer is always YES by both. Hopefully that relationship continues blissfully on, year after year after year. 

But every United Methodist pastor knows there is always the possibility of the COSMIC CURVEBALL. By that I mean, a call that comes TOTALLY from left field from one of the Grand Poobahs of Methodism that utterly trashes your designs for the future. It’s the one that goes, “The Cabinet met yesterday and discerned the need for a change we’d like you to think about.”

I received two of those calls in my ministerial career. And let me tell you, few things have rocked my socks more than those phone calls did. 

On one hand, you know you are free to decline the offer and say “NO.” 

On the other hand, you know that when you signed up to be a pastor in the United Methodist tradition, you signed up to ITINERATE. That is, to GO when the Spirit (or her representative, the Cabinet) says, “GO!” 

You know that when (if) you say yes, there will be at least three months of “treading water” at your current place until you report to your new location on July 1. 

You also know that saying “YES” means you are facing a brand-new environment for you, for your spouse and children (if you have any), a brand-new set of possibilities and problems, a brand-new congregation, a brand-new house, a brand-new school system, a brand-new chance to FINALLY get it right, and a brand-new context for ministry.

So many “brand-news” in such a short period. 

So, in comparison to everything else roiling the world today, this probably ranks as a teeny-tiny issue in God’s eyes. But for someone who has been in these shoes, I can tell you; it is kind of an agonizing few months. You don’t completely relax until that Magic Methodist Moment (July 1) rolls around and the new ministry calendar begins. 

So yes, please… if you can spare a moment to pray a prayer of peace for those folks, I know they would appreciate it.

Thanks a bunch.

Abundant blessings;


5 Responses to “Pray a Prayer of Peace”


  1. March 30, 2022 at 1:18 am

    Russell, I will absolutely add the United Methodist Pastors and their families to my prayer list. Thank you for sharing about the process of the “discernment determinations”. I thank you for your years of serving/pastoring. It’s a position that impacts the entire family indeed. Abundant blessings to you and yours! Please stay safe and blessed!

  2. March 31, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    My husband served as a UMC pastor for forty years in six different churches. Yes, those pins and needles are uncomfortable! And during that time when WE knew about our upcoming move, but the congregation didn’t, proved very awkward. Four of our moves fit into the painful scenario you described here, creating challenges and tears aplenty. BUT! Difficulty fosters spiritual growth, and we saw God provide in astounding ways. As the saying goes, “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” And He always did.

    • March 31, 2022 at 9:45 pm

      AMEN! And it always turned out that the appointments I dreaded most and created the most apprehension turned out to be the very best ones of all. God is SOOO good!


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