I often begin my sermon for stewardship Sunday by saying that it’s my favorite day of the church year, the day that the congregation decides what kind of church it chooses to be next year: a church of scarcity or a church of abundance. It’s not about the money, it’s about the ministry that will be possible. So that’s my favorite Sunday of the year, unless my anniversary, my wife’s birthday or the Browns Super Bowl debut happens to fall on a Sunday.
But today was my favorite Wednesday of the year (see disclaimer above re: anniversary et al). Commissioning and ordination night, much like stewardship Sunday, tells us what kind of church we will be. Will we be a conference comprised solely of follicley challenged older men or will we also have young women to speak the truth if it is so? Will we have both progressive and conservative theologies represented? Will we attract the best and brightest?
On second thought, forget those questions. Only one matters: would I want that person, that ordinand, that provisional member, that elder, that deacon, that man or that woman to lead my church? And by my church I’m talking about the one at the corner of Royalton and Webster but also that one across East Ohio or the one that came together in Portland last month.
You can ask future pastors to write all the papers you want, answer all the questions, jump through the hoops and lie about not being in debt so as to embarrass themselves all you want. But that’s what it boils down to.
Do I want that person leading my church?
While I never miss an ordination service I rarely attend the retirement service. I’ve only had one pastor, one very very dear man retire from a church where I worshiped. And in my Foundation work I’m far more involved in the folks on the way in than the folks on the way out.
I’d rather see the fresh faces of men and women excited to start ministry. They’re weathered a bit from the process and in the case of ordinands from the provisional process. But they’re excited energetic and ready to lead. It’s as if they’re saying “Give me a church to lead, Bishop then get out of the way and let me amaze you.”
I have worked with young clergy enough to know there are two things I am not allowed to say to them. The first is that we’re counting on them to save the church. The second is that they’re the future of the church (they are, afterall, the present of the church as well).
So instead what I will say is what I saw tonight and in preceding Favorite Wednesdays is encouraging. We are, indeed attracting and developing leaders who can lead us to a better place and while they are certainly the present church they represent a very bright future church as well.
For the last month I have reflected a great deal on whether I am optimistic or skeptical about the church a decade or five down the road. My favorite part about Favorite Wednesday is how I am overwhelmed with optimism.
I can’t wait to see where these new leaders take our church.
Photo: Reverend Amy Price is ordained a Deacon in Full Connection. Credit: East Ohio Communications.