Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Stained Glass Office

In my new study is a most beautiful pair of stained glass windows. The offices are built into the former sanctuary of Saint Mark, so I start each morning with some quiet time gazing at their beautiful light.

They feature two of the most common and ancient symbols of Christian faith. One is the IHS monogram, the abbreviated name of Jesus featuring the first three Greek letters of his name. The other is the lamb of God often associated with Easter, the "Agnus Dei". It's the symbol of Christ's resurrection victory through his sacrificial love.

These two symbols anchor my day and get me in touch with ancient Christianity. One is a reminder of the human character and story of Jesus in all his humility. The other is a christological statement of faith in Christ who is exalted in victory.

My prayer today is that these symbols also anchor my ministry. Every day, I can be reminded that it's all about Jesus and it's all about Christ. This work I am privileged to be doing is not about me at all!

I am feeling very much at home.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My First Day at Saint Mark UMC

Today was my first day on site as Senior Pastor of Saint Mark UMC. For me, being at this church is a dream come true!

I got to the office at 8:30 and heard that my office was going to be painted today, so I was prepared to work with the office manager for an hour or two on the bulletin and a little basic training, and then go home to work on my sermon. Once I arrived, I never stopped meeting people, talking, and learning until about 4:00! Finally I had to leave to check my email (my computer in the office is not up and running yet).

I can tell I'm going to enjoy it here. Moving to Saint Mark has been one of those experiences of feeling the Spirit has been at work in bringing us together. I look forward to the great adventure!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Annual Conference and a Special Bible and Chalice

It seems that whenever I attend Annual Conference on a year when I'm moving, it's a particularly "moving" experience in more than one way. I suppose this is because I am experiencing all the emotions of transition, the gratitude I feel for the ministry setting I've been in and the anticipation I feel about the new one. With all the ups and downs we experience together as a Conference, I love being Methodist and serving the body of Christ.

There are always highlights for me. This year, they were remembering some special saints at the Memorial Service, an outstanding ordination service, the new president of Birmingham-Southern's speech full of healing words, a good debate about race relations and new church plants, special prayer experiences led by the Asbury leadership, sending new missionaries into ministry in Malawi, celebrating the great turnaround of our beloved Sumatanga with their new director and chaplain, getting the opportunity to coordinate the Commissioning Service, getting a packet of genealogy from a clergy colleague I've just discovered is a distant cousin, and seeing my sister-in-law elected as an alternate to the Jurisdictional delegation for the first time (I was also elected alternate).

But the most memorable moment for me was, strangely, not about present ministry activities but about two special relics. There is something about connecting with the deepest aspect of our history that brings me great passion about the future. There was a large pulpit Bible at the ordination service that was brought over by Francis Asbury from England when he came to organize the Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 1700's. There was also a silver chalice from the hand of John We
sley himself, who gave it to Asbury to bring to found the new church.

They are held at historic St. George's UMC in the Philadelphia area and are often used at ordination services around the country. But I had never heard of them. I got to touch them. Kneeling before the Asbury Bible and laying my hand on it, and taking a drink from the Wesley cup, led me to a viceral, emotional response. In all the ups and downs of ministry, in all the hardship of preaching the gospel in this present culture resistant to the church, I'm reminded of the real root of who I am and what I'm about. It's not about monuments but about movement. It gives my life texture to know I'm part of something bigger than I am and am depending on a Spirit that goes well beyond my own abilities. Thanks be to God!

One of my direct ancestors, Rev. Levi Garrison, was ordained by Francis Asbury along with his brother. For all I know, he placed his hands on this very Bible. The thought of that gives me chills.

Pictured are the chalice and Bible from the ordination service.