At the 2018 Service of Ordination and Commissioning Friday, June 15, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar told New England’s new clergy they must be willing to “drop their nets” and trust God so that they can take risks in their ministry.
Recalling, as a youth in India, seeing fishermen caring for and carrying their nets, Bishop Devadhar said he learned now vital the nets were to those who made their living from the sea, and how difficult (yet essential) it was for Jesus’ disciples to leave their nets behind in order to follow him.
“My dear Ordinands and Commissioners,” he said, “you have been asked to leave your nets behind in order to respond to the call to set-apart ministry. Your decision to accept this call has far-reaching implications. It is a risky and costly business. It will demand much more of you than the nets you have already left behind. Tonight is just the beginning.”
Even so, Bishop Devadhar said, clergy do not do the work of ministry alone:
“In order for us be faithful in ministry we must work as the whole body of Christ,” he said. “Pastors must invite laity to use their God-given
gifts and talents for the mission and ministries entrusted to all of us. It is not for clergy to dominate or do the ministry while laity sit on the shoreline as spectators. A shared ministry is not only richer and fuller, it is the only faithful way to fulfill the mission to which all are called in baptism.”
He acknowledged that the journey these new clergy would take would be much different from his own and from many who have gone before them. He pointed to their ethnic diversity as just one measure of change.
“Our retiring class is all Anglo, and our incoming class is rich in the diversity of race and theology,” he said. “May we pause and celebrate that!”
But that was not enough; Bishop Devadhar called on laity to “open their hearts further.”
“We as a Conference have much to celebrate in how far we've come to embrace the fullness of God's beloved community,” the bishop said, “but we are also challenged to open our hearts further to changing cultural and social realities. The gospel calls us to let go of assumptions, prejudices, and even our own comfort, so these servants of God, called for such a time as this, can blossom for the glory of God and demonstrate their gifts and graces to their fullest ability.”
The Conference commissioned two as provisional deacons and five as provisional elders, and ordained seven as full elders.
The bishop encouraged the commissionees and ordinands, saying: “As you undertake the ministries to which you have been called and sent, do not allow fear, anxiety, or a sense of inadequacy to dominate you. Boldly claim your faith. Celebrate your roots. Share the unique gifts you bring to ministry from your own culture and experience, so you may fly for the glory of God.”
Bishop Devadhar ended his sermon with a question for these new clergy:
“The one who walked on the shores of Galilee is calling you and each of us to join him on a journey to new places, possibilities and ventures, where our nets will do us no good. We are called to drop the nets upon which we rely and do a new thing, trusting that God will be with us for the journey. We are called to take risks. Are you willing to jump into this exciting adventure of faith without a safety net?”
Also participating in the service were special guests United Methodist Bishops Susan Hassinger, John Innis, Clif Ives, and Jane Middleton; the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragen, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts; Boston University School of Theology Dean Mary Elizabeth Moore, and Bishop Young-Hwa Kwon, Samnam Conference of the Korean Methodist Church.
Bishop Kwon and the Rev. Seok-Jae Jang, secretary of the Samnam conference, are guests at the 2018 Annual Conference session.
The New England Conference and the Samnam Conference are working on a creating a sister conference relationship. Members of the Samnam Conference visited Annual Conference in 2016. Bishop Devadhar and a group from New England will again make a pilgrimage to South Korea this fall.
Joining Mark Miller and his band in providing music for the service was the Crossflame Youth Choir. Crossflame is a joint project of the music ministry and the youth ministry of St. Luke’s UMC, Hickory, NC.