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by Rev. Matt Ashley, South District Missional Strategist and Superintendent

A year ago, I was participating in the United Methodist Church’s online training camp for new District Superintendents in the United States.  Our meetings went for five days from 6-9 am Pacific Time (those in the Eastern Time Zone got to sleep in) and covered a range of topics, from key issues in the Book of Discipline to Supervision.

As I write this, I’m praying for my friend and colleague, Rev. Javier Olivares, the new West District Superintendent, who’s currently going to this year’s training camp.  In my training camp experience, we were flooded with information and I’m sure I’ve forgotten much more than I remember.  I took about forty pages of notes; I should probably go back and review them before my schedule gets busy again in September.  Maybe I can compare notes with Javier.

Figuring out how our South District is structured has been a more informal process of figuring it out as I go along.   I’m grateful for our Administrative Assistant in the South District Office, Cynthia Holly, who has helped me immeasurably over the last year.  Cynthia also works with the East District and so she stays pretty busy, but she is always glad to help our South District pastors and churches when assistance is needed.

Another key leader in the South District is Deb Williams from Sierra Vista United Methodist Church, who serves as our District Lay Leader.  Just as the D.S. works with the pastors in the South District, Deb communicates with our local church lay leaders and supports their work.  She also comes with me to as many of our fall church conferences as she’s able and serves on our district committtees.

Speaking of District Committees, we have several that do key work.

The District Committee on Ministry walks with those who are discerning a call into ministry. For many people, that journey confirms that they are called to continue serving as lay people in the local church.  Some go on to serve as Certified Lay Ministers; some are approved for licensing as local pastors; other are certified as candidates for elder or deacon.

The District Building & Location Committee works with local churches who want to build a new building, renovate an existing building, purchase property, sell property, take on a new mortgage, or refinance an existing mortgage.  The Book of Discipline requires the approval of the District Building & Location Committee for those kinds of capital projects.  The committee  is a valuable sounding board that ensures that the plans local church leaders are making have the support of the congregation and serves the local church’s mission and ministry.

The South District Builders’ Club (also known as the District Union) is a separately incorporated non-profit organization that approves disbursements from the South District’s endowment fund.  The purpose of the endowment fund is to assist churches, particularly small churches and those in rural or low-income areas, with funding for maintenance and improvement projects on their church campuses.  Most recently, the Builders’ Club provided funding for Community UMC of Bowie to perform some roofing repairs.

The Leadership & Superintendency Committee supports the work of the District Superintendent in the oversight of the district’s ministry and administration.  They consult with the D.S. and help the D.S. to set priorities, similar to the relationship between a pastor and the local church’s Staff-Parish Relations Committee.  They also work with the D.S. to recruit leaders for the district committtees.

We haven’t had a functioning District Committee on Youth Ministry for some time, but we do have an organized group of pastors and youth directors who work together to plan district youth ministry initiatives.  Please watch for publicity for the upcoming Kick-Off Event for middle school and high school youth.

I am grateful for the ongoing work of the South District Lay Servant Ministry, the South District UMW, and the South District UMM.  These organizations facilitate cooperation and offer leadership development opportunities for our local churches and their ministries.

Most years the South District holds an Annual Meeting, often with a speaker and training opportunities. The event was cancelled in 2021 due to Covid19, but I am hopeful we will be together early in 2022.  I am looking forward to singing a classic Wesley hymn together:

And are we yet alive, and see each other’s face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give for his almighty grace!

Thanks for listening –
Matt

 

 

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