Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar held the first of his 2021 Days on the District in the Many Waters District, where he visited the UMC of Auburn, Maine, on Sept. 9, 2021.
The bishop and Prema Devadhar were welcomed by Many Waters District Lay Leader Carol Crothers, who presented Mrs. Devadhar with a bouquet on behalf of the district.
The evening opened with worship led by a team of Certified Lay Ministers in training who are in the first cohort working with Neighborhood Seminary
. Neighborhood Seminary is led by Rev. Elaine Heath, who has been a frequent guest preacher and speaker at NEAC events.
Cohort member Rich Hughen, who is also the interim Conference Lay Leader, explained they are part of an “18-month pilot program integrating the four modules of Certified Lay Ministry training with the Neighborhood Seminary core components of theological, missional, and spiritual formation.” Others in the cohort are Denise Ranger, Bill Hamm, Linda Cuddleback Keniston, and Claire Piddock. One of their instructors, Rev. Kathleen Decker-Szakas, also took part in the service.
Bishop Devadhar began his remarks by saying, “I am really, really excited to be with all of you. I really missed being with all of you in the past two years.”
But not everyone who was part of this event was in the room. This was a hybrid event, with many participating via Zoom, and Bishop Devadhar took the opportunity to talk about the important role video conferencing will play in worship going forward.
“Friends, the ministry paradigm is changing,” he said. COVID-19 brought tremendous pain and suffering, but it also made us rethink ministry, the bishop said.
“On a given Sunday, now, we are no longer a local church, we are a global church – we can be connected anywhere and everywhere,” Bishop Devadhar said. The bishop reminded people that he has asked Congregational Development Director Rick McKinley to place the emphasis this year on helping churches with all aspects of digital ministry
“Once we are back in church [in person], no matter what, we need to have hybrid worship services, because the people who are now joining you — who have never joined a worship service before — are still looking for that, but, also, we cannot lose the fellowship we have in person,” the bishop said.
“That is going to give us a new type of vision for ministry locally and internationally,” he said. “These are exciting times. As United Methodists we are really going to embrace what our founder envisioned, the catholic spirit … where we are all part of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
“I am not just saying this to please you,” Bishop Devadhar said, “the best days of the church’s ministry are ahead of us.”
The bishop then addressed questions from the in-person and online audience. The evening concluded with a prayer circle for the bishop and Prema.
The next District Day is Sept. 16 in the Commonwealth East District. Find the full schedule here