With some help from singer/songwriter Danny Gokey, Rhode Island/Southeastern Massachusetts District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Andrew L. Foster III told the RISEM District: “You've come so far, keep going. Oh, here comes the comeback.”
Speaking to the “RISEM Clay” – or “clergy and laity that are being molded and shaped for the benefit of God’s kingdom,” Dr. Foster told those gathered for his welcome service on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, at Faith Community Church in Plymouth, MA, that this is their comeback:
“We serve a God who is going to do a new thing in our district. The former things were great and mighty, but you ain’t seen nothing yet!”
Quoting Isaiah 43:18-19, “But God said, ‘Do not remember the former things; I am doing a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?’” Dr. Foster said:
“I don’t believe the Lord is telling us not to remember how he has blessed us, but I do believe the Lord is saying, ‘If you think I blessed you before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.’”
The new thing for the RISEM District, which Dr. Foster preached about from the floor of the sanctuary rather than the pulpit, will be revealed in a number of ways.
“We can see it, when we see a group of Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts churches begin to reignite the fire we once felt,” he said. “We can see it when we gather across our district and discover we have more in common than we are different. We can see it, when small, medium and large membership churches recognize the importance of moving from ‘silo’ and ‘Lone Ranger’ mindsets to being a stronger missionary mindset connectional church; because one church can do great ministry but hundreds of churches can do greater ministry together.”
And while it is good to remember the blessings and lessons from our past, Dr. Foster said, it’s important not to get stuck living on “Remember When Road” or “Good Old Days Highway.” It’s important, he said, to live in the N.O.W.
“N.O.W. is significant to the growth of our churches,” he said. “N for Nurture, O for Outreach, and W for Witnessing.”
“If we truly want a comeback,” Dr. Foster said, “If we truly want to advance the kingdom of God, the new thing for our district must focus on the N.O.W. We must intentionally and strategically nurture our relationships with each other; we must engage in outreach beyond the walls of the church, and we must witness to this sin-sick world.”
Dr. Foster encouraged the RISEM Clay not to be doubtful about their comeback. God provided what the Israelites needed when they needed it, he said.
“When they were thirsty, he provided water. When they were hungry, he provided manna from heaven. When they could not see at night, he led them with a fiery spotlight.”
“Sometimes, we don’t see the new thing or our comeback because we have forgotten that the Lord has made a way out of no way,” Dr. Foster said. “RISEM Clay, people of God, I still believe the Lord will do the impossible.”
He told the RISEM District their role is to “live in the present with a hope for the future.”
In introducing Dr. Foster, Bishop Devadhar said he possesses all of the qualities the RISEM District Committee on Superintendency was seeking in a new superintendent, namely, someone who is: “gifted in administration and spiritual nurture as well as one who understands and embraces cultural diversity and draws out the strengths and gifts of all while equipping the district with the resources to excel.”
Dr. Foster comes to New England from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
“I asked Bishop Peggy Johnson [who leads the Eastern PA Conference] to bless our Conference through the leadership of Dr. Foster,” Bishop Devadhar said. “Bishop Johnson graciously agreed to do so, and indicated to me that if she had another DS to name in that Conference it might have been Dr. Foster.”
Connecticut/Western Massachusetts District Superintendent David Calhoun welcomed Dr. Foster on behalf of the Cabinet.
“Andrew is a man with excellent skills for ministry, a very logical mind, and a large fund of knowledge. He’s not a ‘know it all,’ but he knows an awful lot,” Dr. Calhoun said. “Andrew is also a very caring and compassionate individual, and it has been great to get to know him.”
But even with those qualities, Dr. Calhoun, told him, it will be important to remember: “You will not be able to do this ministry by yourself. But be assured, you will be surrounded by the bishop and your colleagues on the Cabinet, who will help resource you along the way with prayer and discernment for strength and guidance, so lean on us, and we will lean on you.”
District Lay Leader Dan Genannt and former Lay Leader Debbie Humm led the covenant service. Clergy and laity in the district then presented their new superintendent with the signs of the office: a Bible, water, bread and cup, a hymnal and a Book of Worship, towel and basin, a stole, a Book of Discipline, and a globe.
Dr. Foster is a native of Philadelphia who comes from a family of United Methodist pastors. His wife, Lorraine, serves Epworth UMC in Pawtucket, RI. The couple has four children and five grandchildren.