With one of the largest classes in recent years, the New England Conference welcomed 24 new clergy on Friday evening, June 14, 2019.
In his sermon titled “God
Called You” Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar congratulated the 13 ordinands and 11 commissionees on their “willingness and determination to join in navigating the ship called The United Methodist Church in such a time as this.”
To bring the Church safely into harbor will require “You will need to have excellent navigational skills – to be anchored by deep spiritual disciplines; to have courage to act in the midst of uncertainty; and to be willing to take risks for the sake of the gospel,” the bishop said.
Preaching on Isaiah 43:1-7
, which recounts Isaiah's prophesy at the end of the Babylonian exile, Bishop Devadhar said the Church is also in exile.
“I am talking about a church that has lost its passion to be the movement of God and a pilgrim church,” he said. “I am talking about a church that acts like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, who, rather than demonstrate divine love and grace, tried to block and confine Jesus with their legalism and trap him with their questions about the law.”
But in these times of uncertainty about the denomination’s future, Bishop Devadhar chose to focus on the prophet’s words of comfort:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God ... Because you are precious in my sight ... Do not fear, for I am with you ..."
The bishop offered the example of another United Methodist who demonstrated the ability to weather the waters of challenge and adversity: Bishop Forrest C. Stith.
Bishop Devadhar shared a story Bishop Stith told about being a student at the predominantly white University of Nebraska in the 1950s. He eventually became vice president of the regional Wesley Foundation – its only African American officer. When he was about to become the group’s next president, the body changed the rules and he was denied the chance to serve.
During a solitary walk, reflecting on his disappointment, Bishop Stith recalled seeing a small plant being buffeted by the incoming tide, which eventually overwhelmed it. When he returned to the spot the next morning, the tide had receded and plant was there – alive and sturdy.
Bishop Stith said: “From that moment until the present, whatever comes that seeks to destroy me, like that small vulnerable plant, I look up to Jesus who is my light, my fortress, and my redeemer, and sing with the old slave, ‘This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine …’”
The bishop told the ordinands and commissionees that he’s seen their “enthusiasm and ability to ask good questions.” He urged the laity to celebrate these new leaders’ gifts and partner with them in the work of the Holy Spirit. And to these new clergy he said:
“The church needs you ... not simply to keep us afloat or to keep the ship upright. We need you to help us fix our eyes on Jesus. We need you to help discern and proclaim the new direction to which we are being called. We need you to help us change our course, and if necessary, to abandon ship, so we can move into a new future – to a place of biblical and theological integrity; to a way that changes and forms us into the whole people of God. We need you to help us create a church that is righteous, true, and trustworthy – both inside and out.”
Read Bishop Devadhar’s complete sermon
Read the bishop’s closing prayer
Sermon and prayer combined
Commissioned as deacons
Kristy Erin Besada
Alexx Elaine Wood
Commissioned as elders
John Micah Baker-Streevy
Benjamin Dean Daggett
Kate Alliston Galop
Sara Taylor Garrard
Jordan Marcel Harris
John Herbert Lucy
Spencer Everett Shaw
Ordained as elders
Stephen Alan Dale
Rachel Elizabeth Fraumann
Marcelo Damasceno Gomes
SeungRi (Victor) Han
Zachary Lee Harrison Kerzee
Kim Elizabeth Kie
Jae Gil Lee
Myung Eun Park
Alecia Addie Reeves-Freeman
Wanda Monserrate Santos-Pérez
Lourey Middlecamp Savick
Matthew Franklyn Willis-Goode