Commonwealth East District welcomes new District Superintendent

September 19, 2023


We need to be grounded in the Word. We need to be grounded in the love of God so there will always be a spring of living water that is pouring out of us, so that our story can continue. — Commonwealth East District Superintendent Nizzi Santos Digan

The Commonwealth East District welcomed Rev. Nizzi Santos Digan as their new District Superintendent with an Installation Service on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023 at Wilmington UMC.
Bishop Peggy A. Johnson described Rev. Santos Digan as someone who “loves Jesus,” and her mission, the bishop said, “is to let people know and experience the grace and love of that Jesus.”
“I chose Rev. Digan as superintendent on the Commonwealth East District because of her vast experience in the Boston area,” Bishop Johnson said. “She represents the office of bishop, and I am confident that she will do amazing work here among you. 
“And I call on all of you to give her your utmost support and prayers as she gives leadership in these unique and interesting times.”
Green Mountain District Superintendent Rev. Jill Colley Robinson, who serves as Dean of the Cabinet welcomed her new colleague on behalf of the superintendents. 
“Nizzi, you walk the walk,” Rev. Colley Robinson said. “You are a champion of the downtrodden.
You are a careful observer who sees others. You are a great team player and a great asset to this team. You are the epitome of a servant leader.”
“In my own words and those of my colleagues on the Cabinet,” Rev. Colley Robinson said, “we name a few of your gifts that we witness and celebrate in you: 
            Your joy, compassion, generosity, exuberance, and loving care
            Your passion for justice and care for people on the margins
            Your deep faith and spirituality 
            Your obvious grounding in fervent prayer that adds reverence to our interactions
            Your strength and courage firmly rooted in God’s grace
            Your wonderful and sometimes mischievous sense of humor
            Your thoughtful observations and deep, attentive listening
            Your patient approach to understanding before you speak
            Your asking questions that deepen conversation
            Your delight in learning the stories of others and sharing your own
            Your commitment to church and family
            Your tenacity with new technology — a sometimes struggle that will never interfere with your commitment to relationship building    across the district.
Rev. Santos Digan had many family members attending the service, who represent, she said, “the Pilipino diaspora.” She joked, “I said I will cook lobster, and they all came.”
“I remember growing up in the Philippines we would gather in the kitchen,” she said. “In the Asian family, the kitchen is the most visited, busiest place in the house – where eating happens and where storytelling happens.”
“Young and old are welcome to the table; and we learn from the stories of our mother and grandmother,” Rev. Santos Digan said. “These are the moments of laughter, of tears and also of lessons to be learned. When telling stories, there are always lessons to be learned.”
In her sermon titled “Our Story Continues,” Rev. Santos Digan offered some of the lessons in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31). 
Rev. Nizzi Santos Digan
There are three Hs in the story, she said. The first is hurt. The father and the older son both experience loss and hurt, she said. 
“Because we are Christians we are not excepted from that hurt and pain,” Rev. Santos Digan said. “Hurt and pain is real.”
The closing and disaffiliating of churches, the churches that have not recovered attendance after the pandemic, are part of the pain. 
“All these isms,” she said. “Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia cause hurt and pain.”
The story of the prodigal son is the story of hope, Rev. Santos Digan said. When the younger son envies the pigs their food, he has a “come to Jesus moment.”
“The younger son came back to his senses,” she said. “There is hope when we reach those moments when we are between a rock and hard place.”
The third H, she said, is healing, when the family’s broken relationships are restored.
Referencing “The Wounded Healer” by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Rev. Santos Digan said that while we all hurt, we can all be healers. 
“Healing is happening – it can happen in our broken lives,” she said. “… through us, by the grace and the healing that comes from God, we can offer that healing to others. We are the wounded healers.”
Speaking of the 2023 Annual Conference session, Rev. Santos Digan said that while it was difficult to hear churches explain why they wanted to disaffiliate and it made many want to “close your eyes and block your ears” …
“Giving them that moment of hurt and pain – the disaffiliation vote passed so smoothly,” she said. “My siblings in Christ, healing is happening in the midst of our woundedness. We are moving forward.”
Looking toward the future, Rev. Santos Digan said that she’s been asked my many Commonwealth East District clergy about her vision for the district. 
“For somebody who came from the Philippines, visioning is not part of our lives,” she said. “We live a day at a time. A moment at a time,” but she did offer some of her hopes for the district: 
“The Commonwealth East District is the most diverse district in New England Annual Conference,” she said. “Let us continue to be intentional in encouraging, equipping and empowering people of color in leadership positions in our churches. 
“We have so many gifts to share to build this Body of Christ in our district. Let us empower them and equip them. Put them in a position then leave them alone? No. Let us equip and empower and train them, and they will bring out their gifts to share with us.” 
Let us stop saying, ‘Racism does not happen in our church. We’re inclusive; we’re not racist. We welcome everyone.’”
“Instead,” Rev. Santos Digan said, “accept the fact that it is happening. If it is not happening in your place, it’s happening somewhere else.”
And referring to a book being read by the Cabinet, “The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations” by Robert Livingston, she said “we need to be engaged, to be in conversation, and to act – ECA.”
“Let us continue to act as hubs, as churches, as a district and a conference … let us try to eradicate this in our midst,” she said. 
“The Commonwealth East District is where thinking about how to be a church is happening,” Rev. Santos Digan said. 
“Let us continue to find ways to combine resources and gifts to maximize the use of resources, to be more efficient and to be better stewards of God’s resources,” she said. “We are creating cooperative parishes that will meet the needs of our times.”
The traditional signs of district superintendency were presented by the youth, and Rev. Santos Digan made a point to talk about them.  
“I’m so happy to be able to see the youth, the children, the young adults in our midst,” she said.  “Look around you, this is the church. I am committed to seeing our youth have a place in our church for them to grow. For them to find a deeper meaning in life.”
Rev. Santos Digan pointed out that we don’t get the whole story in the parable – when don’t know how the older son responded to his father’s urging to welcome his brother. 
But “our story continues,” she said.

“Let’s continue that story here in the Commonwealth East District. Let that story not be the story of inflicting harm, but the story of giving hope to this hurting and broken world. Let this story be a story of giving hope where there are situations that are hopeless. Let this be a story of healing.”
“In healing, there is that the drawing of the circle wider. In healing and in having hope, people gather together to form a larger circle, right?” she said.