What are the ideals that you live by? What are the ideals of faith to which you aspire? The foundation scripture for Annual Conference is found in Colossians 3:12-15. In the midst of a community in conflict the author of this important letter lets us know in very clear terms that the Christ follower is clothed in attributes that are part of every day life.
Colossians 3:12-15 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
As I read these words today I am mindful that Paul Browning is ending his time as our District Lay Leader. For the last five years he has attended almost every church conference. He has worshipped in all of your churches. He has taken time to meet with local church lay leaders. He has given his heart and soul to serving and encouraging and blessing the people and churches in the East District.
At Annual Conference 2017 Paul received the honor as being named recipient of the Bishop’s Award, given for his service to the Conference, District, and Desert Foothills UMC – his local congregation. If we tried to name everything that Paul has done we would write page upon page. Perhaps the best way to pay tribute to Paul is to simply say that his life and work is a marvelous example of what we read in Colossians. Paul lives the highest ideals of his faith, each and every day.
As the call of the District Lay Leader transitions to a new servant, we know that there will not be a good way to really replace Paul. Perhaps the best way to honor all that Paul has done among us is to follow his example, to be clothed in the attributes of grace that we find in the words from Colossians. And perhaps, because of Paul, we have many reasons to be thankful.
In the days ahead of us, join me in letting Paul know just how important his ministry has been.
Thank you, Paul, for being the authentic servant leader that we all need in this world. As you step into this new time in your life, may you continue to find great joy in your local church, and in having more time to be with your wife, your children and your grandchildren. We are all truly thankful for you, and all that you have done to strengthen the East District.
Be blessed, for you have blessed us richly.