As we enter the month of October, I imagine there will be expressions of appreciation throughout the life and ministry of our United Methodist congregations. October is Clergy Appreciation Month, Church Staff Appreciation Month, Children’s Sabbath, and Laity Sunday. I hope congregations will be intentional about recognizing the lifelong call and service of our dedicated clergy women and men. In addition, I hope our congregations honor the powerful witness of the faithful lay women and men, with Laity Sunday on October 17. I hope through the observances and sharing of accolades, there is a sense of honor, and a reconnection to the call of God.
The understanding of God’s call, is best quoted by Theologian Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Additionally, I am reminded of 1 Peter 2:9-10 (The Message): “…But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do [God’s] work and speak out for [God], to tell others of the night-and-day difference [God] made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted…”
I have been in many conversations regarding the perceived shortage of clergypersons in the Indiana Annual Conference. Each year at Annual Conference Session, we celebrate large classes of retirees and small classes of ordinands. However, these are only the public recognitions. I would argue we do not acknowledge the continued conversations taking place in District Committees on Ministry meetings among those who are responding to God’s nudge and making faithful steps into the unknown of call. We do not publicly witness the hard work of our licensed local pastors who are, at times, juggling the demands of ministry, while taking Course of Study classes to retain their license, and maintaining another full-time job (much less caring for families and self). We do not acknowledge the faithful laypersons who are committed to their personal discipleship who are engaged in Lay Servant Academy. These are persons, called by call, and are essential to the ongoing ministries across our districts to ensure the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ moves forward.
So, Friends, if there is a perceived leadership shortage, it points back to us as Christ followers and members of the local congregation, and begs the question, “ARE YOU ENCOURAGING THE CALL?” Please remember, the persons who are serving as pastoral leaders, started as laypersons in local congregations and someone identified the gifts and graces for ministry. Those laypersons who are tirelessly serving as leaders of committees and teams, did not just appear, it was because someone encouraged the call by inviting them into service. The responsibility points back to members of the congregation asking young people are they considering a lifetime service to pastoral ministry. Or it comes around to the consistent commitment of inviting new voices/faces to the leadership tables, so they can lend their skills, gifts, and abilities to this Kin-dom work.
It is time that we reclaim the culture of call. It is time that we take on the challenge, collectively, to educate ourselves around the understanding of God’s callings for laity and clergy. It is time for us to open our eyes to see God’s abundance in our midst and respond in being one of the laborers in God’s service. It is time for the most seasoned to begin inviting and mentoring the
newer persons into leadership opportunities. And it is beyond time for the Body of Christ to pray for God to continue tugging at the hearts of God’s people, and for God’s people to obediently respond…” Here I am Lord, send me!”
Now is the time, and may we all, laity and clergy, be encouraged in courageously living our callings daily!!!
In Service and on Mission,
Rev. Dr. Aleze M. Fulbright
Here are additional resources for greater awareness: