Mountain Sky Conference: Where You Belong More
Submitted by Gary Geiman
Retired Clergy, Yellowstone Conference of The United Methodist Church
On the occasion of my ordination as elder many years ago in the South Dakota Annual Conference, my bishop, William Lewis, gave me a book as a gift. On the inside cover of that book was information he had gathered which detailed how the mantle of leadership had passed from John Wesley to me through all the connecting links in between. Names like Richard Whatcoat, Thomas Vasey, Thomas Coke, Francis Asbury and William McKendree became more real to me, even though I had heard of them in Methodist history class. And names like Edmund Janes, Isaac Wiley, Frank Bristol, and Charles Brashares were introduced to me for the first time, and I felt more connected to my faith history.
Through that line of succession—from John Wesley to each succeeding bishop—the mantle of leadership was transferred to me. That information made a big impression on me, and I realized I had big shoes to fill. But I also realized that I stood on the shoulders of those earlier Methodist pastors and bishops, and there was a rich tradition of leadership to draw from and to lean on, as I framed my own style and idea of leadership.
Today the mantle of leadership passes to you. I rejoice in your willingness and readiness to assume your place among the leadership of our Church. As you take up the stole which is a mark of your leadership, do so with humility and grace. Listen to the people placed in your spiritual care, listen to their stories, to their pains, and to their joys, and whether you agree or disagree with their political positions or their inconsistent ideas about faith and life, love them and shower them with grace as the humble servant Jesus did with his followers, because as Jesus demonstrated in his ministry, every life is sacred and we are all valued in God’s eyes.
As you step into full connection, we welcome you as sisters and brothers of a very special order. It is special not because of the honors you will receive or the salaries you will be paid, but because of the honored place you will assume in the lives of people at the very highest and lowest points of their lives. Step gently, with humility and grace, for you are treading on holy ground and moving in sacred space. Every human life is sacred – including your own – always bring honor to yourself and others. And as you share the good news of Jesus Christ, let God’s grace truly abound for all God’s children.
Prayer: Holy God, bless all these men and women as they step into full connection in The United Methodist Church, as they take on the role of pastor, and take up the mantle of leadership. As they receive your holy word, make them bold in proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and make them humble in acknowledging their own need for your saving grace. Strengthen them in their witness both inside and outside the walls of the churches they serve, and may they share God’s saving grace with all. Amen.
Written by Pam Everhart
Pastor, Oak Island United Methodist Church, Oak Island, Texas
“Breathe New Life,” a joint memorial service of the Mountain Sky Area, was held Thursday evening, June 7 at Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogen, UT, led by music worship leaders Daryl J. Walker and Sheryl McCallum, preacher Rev. Walter “Skip” Strickland and baptismal remembrance celebrant Bishop Karen Oliveto.
During the singing of the opening hymn “Shall We Gather at the River” and liturgical dance by Zandra Lee, representatives from the Mountain Sky Area’s districts brought forward bowls of water that had been brought from ministry locations around the Mountain Sky Area.
Nancy Boswell, RMC, John Daniels, YAC, read the names of those faithful clergy and their spouses who have died in the past year from the two conferences. The service also remembered those churches that have closed in the past year, after having served their local communities faithfully for many years: Blue Cliff UMC, Trinity District and Midwest UMC, Wyoming District
Liturgist Zach Bechtold read Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Valley of the Dry Bones, as the sermon text for the evening. Retiring District Superintendent Rev. Strickland’s sermon “Deep, Dense, Dynamic Memory” included a memory from his college days about a parachute jumping experience. He reflected that no matter how much he practiced it, the moment of stepping out onto the peg of the airplane to jump was when he really woke up to what he was doing. “All of a sudden I realized I had to do it.” And suddenly, he recounted, he was in free fall, then the parachute opened, then he floated to the ground.
He said that a moment like that is known as an exigent, an intense event that demands a response. He shared that in the Ezekiel passage, the children of Israel are experiencing an exigent because they are in exile, after having been promised children of the covenant. How does God respond to an exigent? Rev Strickland asked. Through memory, he said, because in these stories we are reminded that God does not forget. God is the one who remembers first, and God always works through humanity; God works with us and through us.
Rev. Strickland reflected upon the lives of some of the deceased clergy and the impact they had on his life and on the lives of those they had served in their Annual Conferences. Rev. Strickland closed his sermon by leading the congregation in singing the old gospel favorite “On the Wings of a Dove,” and concluded with “sometimes its not about what we do, but who we are.”
The Memorial Service Offering goes to Blackfeet UM Parish youth equine training program. Members of the Blackfeet Nation were on hand to share about this parish, the people of Blackfeet, and their needs, and offer native song and prayer.
Bishop Oliveto led a ritual of remembering our baptism through the symbolic pouring of water, and litany about the power of baptism to renew, revitalize, repent, and live as people of God. District superintendents took the water out and sprinkled it upon all those who attended the service so all could remember their baptisms and be thankful.