by Rev. Nancy Cushman
West District Superintendent
This will be my last article to you as your District Superintendent and as an active pastor. As I thought about what last words I want to share, I keep coming back to John 17. In these final words of Jesus, he shares his prayer that we might be one with him and each other. His final lessons and message are given so that we can share completely in his joy. (John 17:13) As I approach this final month in this season of ministry, my heart is filled with gratitude and anticipation.
In my first career, I felt like a square peg in a round hole. I could do the work, but it wasn’t what I was created to do. When I stepped into the pulpit for the first time as a pastor at Haven UMC in Jerome and then the next week at Mountain View UMC in Cottonwood, I knew I had found my true calling. I felt like a square peg in a square hole – a perfect fit. Investing my life in Jesus and in his church has been a joy that has enriched my life beyond measure. Serving him by serving others has not only brought meaning and purpose to me, but it has allowed me to work alongside some wonderful disciples. And it has allowed me to accompany so many people through their joys and sorrows which has created deep and lasting bonds of love. It has expanded my understanding of family to include children and staff in Ethiopia, colleagues in ministry, lay people in places where I have served, young people in the foster care system, and United Methodists across the world. The truth is, in Christ we are all family. For me it all boils down to Jesus’ commandment in John 15:12, “This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.” My final prayer for the churches of the West District and beyond is that you continue to grow in your ability to love. Not just loving each other but loving everyone as Christ loved. In a time when there are forces seeking to divide us – remember that Christ’s love is our bond. It is his love for us and our love for him that draw us together and will hold us together. We do not have to think alike to love alike. I have seen this in my ministry, and I have also seen that like Peter in the storm (Matthew 14:30), we sometimes lose confidence that we can do it and we start to sink. Jesus’ command to us is clear, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
While my time in pastoral ministry is ending, I know that Jesus will show me new places to share his love. My husband and I plan to spend precious time with my parents, our children, and grandchildren. We are anticipating the birth of our tenth grandchild in October. We are looking forward to attending family events, school activities and sports that we haven’t been able to attend in the past. We will do some traveling while we still have the health and ability to do it, exploring the thought that travel can be a spiritual discipline. I will increase my volunteer work at Trinity Opportunity Alliance supporting employers who hire young people who are or have been in the foster care system. My husband and I look forward to serving on the Disaster Relief Committee and serving on Early Response Teams. I am also feeling a deep calling to something related to racial equity. We’ll sink roots into a local United Methodist Church and become active servants. I will also spend more time quilting, researching our family history, and pursuing new interests.
O Lord, God of Mystery and Awe, your choice of servants still amazes me. You could have chosen from among those much more wise and talented, yet you called upon me. Thank you for the 28 years of pastoral ministry you gave me allowing me to be your servant by being of service to my brothers and sisters. In your invitation to serve, I have been drawn into a special relationship with you, my Lord and my God, as I loved in your name. I pray for our bishop, our new district superintendent, Rev. Javier Olivares, the rest of the cabinet and staff as they lead our conference. I pray for my brother and sister clergy as they continue to feed, tend, and send your people. I pray for my brothers and sisters of the laity that they will continue to grow in love with you and each other and that they may make you known in word and deed. May all that we are and all that we do spring from your perfect divine love. Help us all, I pray, to do your will in your way wherever you call us to be. I offer this prayer in your holy name. Amen.
 Adapted from Father Edward Hayes, Prayer for the Servants of God, p. 70.