January has been a season of reflection on church leadership as elders and deacons have been ordained and installed during worship at SJPC over the past two weeks. On the first Sunday of January, we focused on beginnings, as we listened to God’s word to us through the story of Jesus’ baptism. Then, on the second Sunday of January, we opened our hearts and minds to that which the Holy Spirit says to us through the story of God’s call to Samuel.
Outside of the sanctuary, I have been meeting with officers-elect to be sure that they fully understand and appreciate the promises that they make when they agree to serve Christ’s church with energy, intelligence, imagination and love. The basis of such reflection is Scripture, The Book of Confessions and The Book of Order.
God calls men and women throughout the biblical narrative to do great things, and by “great,” I mean unconventional, super-scary and courageous things so that God’s love may be experienced by all of God’s children. God still calls us to such humility and boldness today, and the allusions to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ministry in Sunday’s sermon were shared to remind us of this calling and to inspire us to bravely line into God’s dream for us all.
Reading that which The Book of Order says about serving as an elder or a deacon in and for the church of Jesus Christ is enough to intimidate women and men who are called to serve in one of these capacities. According to The Book of Order, “The ministry of deacon as set forth in Scripture is one of compassion, witness, and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lost, the friendless, the oppressed, those burdened by unjust policies or structures, or anyone in distress. Persons of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly and sisterly love, sincere compassion, and sound judgment should be chosen for this ministry” (G-2.0201).
Meanwhile, The Book of Order says this about women and men who are called to serve as elders: “…congregations should elect persons of wisdom and maturity of faith, having demonstrated skills in leadership and being compassionate in spirit. Ruling elders are so named…because they are chosen by the congregation to discern and measure it fidelity to the Word of God, and to strengthen and nurture its faith and life. Ruling elders, together with ministers of the Word and Sacrament, exercise leadership, government, spiritual discernment, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of the congregation as well as the whole church, including ecumenical relationships” (G-2.0301)
Thanks to Lindsay Grubb, Christy O’Neill, Melissa Shunk and Barbara Whitmire for saying “yes” to God through the voice of this year’s Nominating Committee as they accepted God’s call to serve as deacons. Thanks to Susan Asbury, Craig Bonebrake, Gerard Cooke, Natalie Grubb and Tom Pursel for their willingness to serve as elders.
Thanks again to the members of the Nominating Committee for their service to the church. Thanks to the commission of the Session who examined the newly ordained and installed: Mitch Durham, Bert Foster and Liz Roman. Thanks to Barbara Hughes, who, as Clerk of Session, helps us to do everything decently and in good order, and thanks be to God for the courage to live into our common calling one step in the long march to freedom at a time.