By Bethany Wood
With vibrant music bounding through Hitchcock auditorium, Messiah College, on Friday evening June 11, the congregation of the Susquehanna Annual Conference was invited to worship and share in a celebration of ministry. Ordered in themes depicting the journey (word, sacraments, order and service, and the often overlooked journey), the service began with praise, and with a hug.
Rev. Jennifer Deutsch Thomas offered a word of encouragement. Powerfully, she proclaimed the message of hope found in the third chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. “Now to him who through the power within us is able to do more that we can ask or imagine ….” Come with joyful hearts for what God has done in ministry, and hopeful hearts for what God will do. God is the celebration!
Rev. Thomas spoke of the hopeful ways the church is revitalizing the life of communities where our congregations are poised for ministry. From the north and south, east and west, she lifted up the outreach, the blitz, of holy power that has gone beyond worship and into true transformation.
Are these churches making a difference? They sure are. But she was clear that this does not happen without turning to the source, which is, hands down, God. Only through God’s power working through us can we experience the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ.
Paul’s words in Ephesians draw us back to the source. There are times when we think that we can get through the “far more” on our own. There are times when we do forget and yet we’re drawn back to the source. Looking at our day planners, we sometimes gaze on the all the great things we’ve done. However, it is God’s power within us that gets the work done. Not by ourselves, but together in God’s Spirit. As the good guys, the super heroes, are we so focused on our own skill sets that we dismiss the gifts of others? We have to get together, honoring that great power of ministry, because the need is now. The urgency of the gospel is now. Maybe, Thomas suggested, we could become a Susquehanna Conference super hero group: let’s call it “The Evangels.” The church was and is made up of those who believe in the power of God. We are to transform the world through Christ, period. There are those in our midst who are considering the call to ministry. The message is: Be encouraged that God is calling you. God is always calling forth those to serve God’s purposes. May the church be welcoming and innovative in receiving the gifts of those he calls to ministry, in whatever generation they respond.
Addressing the retirees, Thomas reminded them that each one can testify to the way God has used them in ministry. “You’ve been here and have been faithful in sharing your life with the people of the annual conference. We thank you for your gifts.” She acknowledged those from many other places of ministry, thanked them, and welcomed them home. She went on to caution the temptation to become a “lone ranger” in ministry, relying on ourselves rather than embracing the input and support of our colleagues. We are better together.
Rev. Thomas then stepped from behind the pulpit to share her personal testimony of growing up in a loving, faithful Christian home, and the legacy that her dad, a pastor, passed to her. She spoke movingly of how the laity of the churches he served were instrumental in also drawing her to the source of God’s power. They helped keep her connected to that source. Concluding, she blessed the assembly by calling on the name of the One who saves us, the One who can do and accomplish abundantly far more.
Those retiring were called to the stage where they were greeted by Bishop Jeremiah J. Park, and acclaimed by the congregation in gratitude for their service in ministry.
Representatives of the retiring and ordination classes passed and received the mantel of ministry. Park then posed the “historic examination for admission into full connection” to the five candidates for ordination. The service ended with the benediction given by retiree Rev. Thomas Maurer.
To view the video and full transcript of Rev. Thomas' presentation go to http://susumc.org/index.php/component/content/article/51-media/susumc-videos/1373-2015-ac-celebration-of-ministry-service-sermon-far-more
|The ministries and service of the 2015 Class of Retirees (pictured, with some spouses) were celebrated on Friday evening, June 12 at the Susquehanna Annual Conference.|