It’s back-to-school time and children and churches are gearing up. Church newsletters I’ve been reading have been advertising backpack drives or blessing of the backpack celebrations. Children and teachers are going back to school and life will soon be moving into a “normal” rhythm. The programming year of our local churches is either beginning this month or preparing to begin early next month. As I look forward to this time, I have been thinking about my hopes and expectations for the coming year. What do I hope and pray for the churches and pastors of our district? What can I do to support the mission and ministry of our west district churches? What can we do together as a district? How can I support our mission and ministry as a conference?

My hope and goal for every church is that they are a vital community of faith where, to use our Conference mission statement, each is a Courageous Church, Loving Like Jesus, Acting for Justice, United in Hope. My prayer is that Christ is embodied in each church, but also in us together, united as a district, as a conference, and as a worldwide denomination. Paul speaks so beautifully of us as the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31,

“Christ is just like the human body- a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.”

Each church, each district, even each conference will look different for each community has its own setting (for example demographics of the community and of the congregation). God has placed different passions among the people, so in our combined ministries we might serve all. God has placed different opportunities for us to serve, to witness, and to share Christ’s love. I am so excited to travel to the churches of the district this year learning the distinctive callings and characters of each church. I can already see the beautiful variety that is part of God’s creative character among the churches I have worshiped with this first month of being your District Superintendent. One of my main goals this first year is getting to know the pastors and churches of the district. I want to appreciate the God-given variety that makes up our district and learn how I may support each part of the body. Over the coming months, we’ll be planning Charge/Church Conferences, holy huddle times together, and leadership trainings. I will pray and work for them to be fruitful times when we are united in hope being nourished to be a courageous church.

Let us begin this new programming year with prayer:

Lord God, you who know the hidden parts of our hearts, come now and fill us with your spirit as we dedicate ourselves anew to you and to service within your kingdom. Lord, we desire to serve you and others with a totality of heart, soul and strength. We strive to live the way of Jesus, open and obedient to your voice and righteous and whole in our loving and our living.

Lord, we dedicate ourselves anew to the vows of our Baptism, to a life of prayer and worship of you. We re-commit ourselves to being servants to the needs of those around us and to the needs of all the world. May we find your gifts of holiness and salvation here, in this place and at this time, where you, O God, have placed us.

Lord, we marvel that you, in your divine wisdom, have chosen us to be your servants and your instruments of grace. May our ministry, complete with failings and stumblings, be leaven for your kingdom to rise in our world. It is our fervent prayer, O God. Bless us now with your unfailing love, as we strive to be your disciples and holy servants. May we live out this dedication and commitment in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. (Adapted from Father Edward Hayes, Prayers for the Servants of God.)

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