New Hampshire clergy and laity gathered to say goodbye and hello to their district superintendent.
On Sunday, July 24, 2016, the district held a worship service and reception at Plymouth UMC to say farewell to outgoing DS David Abbott and welcome interim DS Gwendolyn Purushotham.
Rev. Abbott is now the Director of Stewardship for the United Methodist Foundation of New England. He began his work there on July 1.
Rev. Purushotham retired in 2015; she will serve the district through June 30, 2017.
During the service, several folks shared their memories and their hopes for the future.
“Gwen, you have big shoes to fill – literally and figuratively – but we’re off to a great start and I’m looking forward to the memories you and I will make,” said Sue Faretra, district administrative assistant. “We’re very lucky to have you and Sam, and I know we’ll have a great year learning something new every day and ministering to the New Hampshire District.”
In sharing their memories, several speakers, including Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, remarked on Rev. Abbott’s sense of humor.
“It was David’s sense of humor – and his ability to laugh not at people but laugh with them – that earned the respect of his colleagues, clergy and laity in the district,” Bishop Devadhar said.
Saying that he and Rev. Abbott come from two separate theological understandings, Bishop Devadhar said:
“I have deeply appreciated and admired his ability to speak the truth in love, display an openness to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and it is in that spirit that David has led not only the district but also the Cabinet to honest dialog at every level,” the bishop said.
“David understands what it means to be a leader fully recognizing that he’s also a servant of the church – not only The United Methodist Church, but the church universal,” he said.
Any celebration of David’s ministry would be incomplete, the bishop said, “without recognizing the gifts and the graces Lisa has brought … Not only standing tall with him and supporting him but encouraging him to ask the right questions. Only Lisa could do that with a sincere smile on her face.”
Bishop Devadhar also welcomed Rev. Purushotham.
“We are also grateful to Rev. Dr. Purushotham who has agreed to come out of retirement,” he said. “We know that she’ll be a blessing to the district and the Conference. Please extend to her and Sam the love you have given to David and Lisa.”
In welcoming Rev. Purushotham, New Hampshire clergy and laity expressed their hopes for the district.
Barbara Brake, who admitted she had procrastinated in preparing her remarks on a hope of the district’s youth, said she would like to see the new DS get youth from around the state together to meet them and allow them to meet each other.
Her father, Pastor Clint Brake, expressed the hopes of a local pastor saying:
“Humor is a good start, but really, Gwen, teamwork; working together as a part of the body of Christ,” he said. “Working together as the living and breathing part of God’s Kingdom. Living in His story and not trying to fit him into ours.”
Mark Farnham, who had served on the District Committee on Superintendency, offered the hopes of a lay person:
“I hope that Gwen, and we briefly talked about this in our first meeting, is able to leverage the elders in the district to help the part-time pastors make things work. And continue David’s initiatives to figure out ways that 10 hours can be turned into a homily and care for a local charge,” he said. “I am hopeful that Gwen, in transition, will keep the ship afloat and help where help is needed …”
Rev. Purushotham gave the benediction:
“First, I want to offer a blessing for David and Lisa as they undertake a new road on the same journey that we’re all on together ... and pray God’s blessing on you for good health and fruitful ministry. And thank you for all that you have given of yourselves to the folks here and to the churches of this district.
“I offer a blessing to each of you. Actually, God has offered a blessing already. You each have a gift given in baptism and God can and will use it if you let God do so. May you go forth this day knowing you are God’s beloved and may we all be signs of God’s peace and love in this world that is so torn apart by violence and pain and suffering. Make us one in Christ. One with each other and one in ministry to all the world. …”