The Rev. Jacquelyn Brannen says she’ll need to get a car that’s up to the challenge – and maybe some audio books – but she’s ready and eager to step into her role as Northern Maine District Superintendent.
said Rev. Brannen. “I’m thinking about the summer and being able to visit all the churches and the pastors, and getting to know my district and getting a
real flavor and feeling for what these people are all about. … I’m anxious to jump in and start traveling.”
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar announced her appointment on Jan. 24, 2016. Rev. Brannen currently serves the Auburn United Methodist Church in the Mid-Maine District. She’ll begin her role as Superintendent on July 1.
“It’s a big job. I’ve got a healthy amount of fear,” she said with a laugh.
But the woman who raised three daughters, all of whom she adopted from foster care, believes that God provides us with the strength we need to fulfill our calling.
Her daughters Angela, Nicole and Lauren were 10, 8 and 11 years old respectively when she adopted them.
“It’s not easy to take, in my case, three kids who had totally different families and lives before, and try to then say ‘now we’re going to form a family together,’” she said. “… When you take half-grown, traumatized children and try to love them, they are not always able to accept that love.”
But, she said, “It’s amazing what love and laughter and God’s grace can do.”
Parenting, she said, taught her something about God’s love.
“It was probably, for me, the most transformative experience I had,” she said. “Because I began to understand how God loves us unconditionally and there are many times when we, as humans, don’t love God back.”
Rev. Brannen was just 10 or 11 herself when she knew that adopting children was something she wanted to do.
“I read this story that was in Reader’s Digest titled ‘The Family Nobody Wanted.’ It was a true story about a pastor and his wife who for some reason couldn’t have children and started to adopt children who nobody wanted,” she said. “When I read that at 11 – today I might call it a sense of calling – but at the time I just knew this was something I wanted to do.”
Would she, knowing what she does now, advise her 11-year-old self to pursue adoption?
“Yes,” Rev. Brannen said, though she wouldn’t want that foreknowledge, she said, in case it scared her into missing out.
“In the end, no matter how hard something is, God gives you the grace to do it,” she said. “If you’re called to it, I believe God gives you the grace and the wisdom and the resources to do something.”
Asked what some of the gifts and resources she feels she will bring to the role of District Superintendent, Rev. Brannen said: “I have a big heart for God and for God’s people, and I love the Church, and I would like it to be a strong presence of Christ in the world.
“… when we are at our best, we Christians, and we as community of the Church, we can make a strong impact in the world so that hurting souls will find what they truly are longing for, and I’d like to encourage people and churches to embrace that vision so that they will be successful, and their communities will know the love of God.”
One way to ensure that success and share that knowledge, Rev. Brannen said, is to live out our spirituality.
“It is when we who are Christians, who are members of The United Methodist Church, really live our spirituality every single day and have a really strong relationship with God that we start to impact those around us and we start to build strong communities,” she said. “I think that makes a difference.”
“If we’re really drinking at well of God deeply, I believe that that’s going to shine through and we are going to be more loving to those around us; we are going to look different from other people,” Rev. Brannen said. “I think that’s attractive. When we build those strong relationships, I think they will come to our church.”
Building relationships with the pastors who lead those churches is a large part of a District Superintendent’s role.
Rev. Brannen said she wants the pastors in her district to “understand I want to be a support to them, an encourager, someone who can, perhaps, offer some resources to help them in their ministry so that they can do the work they’re called to – so we’re partners together in building these relationships and building the Church up.”
Rev. Brannen’s 11-year-old grandson Matthew lives with her. (She has five grandchildren and one on the way). After her appointment was announced, she took Matthew to see the parsonage where they will be living come July.
“He’s was really excited,” she said. “He loves moving. He loves embracing change. He does not find that to be threatening or scary at all – so he says. He’s a perfect pastor’s kid – at least a United Methodist pastor.”
Rev. Brannen said there are things she will miss about being a local church pastor – leading worship regularly, for example, and especially being with people as they experience births, deaths, marriages: “Those very intimate sacred moments of their lives when, together, we see God.”
But she, like Matthew, is eagerly looking ahead.
“I like traveling. I like new experiences, so I’m really looking forward to visiting all the churches and the communities and getting to share such a diverse experience of how they live out the Gospel,” she said. “Right now, that’s pretty exciting.”