By Patrick Scriven | Director of Communications, Young People’s Ministries
On a wet and windy Sunday afternoon, 80+ clergy and laity were greeted with warm hospitality as they arrived in the Great Hall of Olympia First United Methodist Church to welcome Bishop Elaine Stanovsky. This first Threshold Event hosted in the Pacific Northwest Conference was the third of eight being held across the Greater Northwest Area, each providing opportunities for people to meet the new bishop, ask questions, and offer mutual blessings.
The event began with greetings and prayers from Olympia First pastors Rev. Peter Perry and Rev. Ruth Marston and some singing by those assembled. Megan Kilpatrick, Tacoma District Co-Lay Leader, read Luke 10:1-9, a text on the sending out by Jesus of the disciples that would be referenced by Bishop Stanovsky in her remarks.
Next, PNW Conference Lay Leader Nancy Tam Davis offered an introduction. In her comments, Davis noted that Stanovsky’s reassignment to the Greater Northwest Area from the Mountain Sky Area was akin to a homecoming as she grew up and spent most of her ministry in the Northwest prior to her election to the episcopacy.
Organizers of the event designed the time in a way that matched the relational tone of Bishop Stanovsky’s leadership. The bishop shared both autobiographically and theologically as she introduced herself and her husband, Clint, who was also in attendance. On several occasions, Stanovsky noted her affinity for teamwork and the importance of listening and learning from the ministries of local churches.
Reflecting upon the times we live in, Bishop Stanovsky made reference to a recent blog post she had written. In it, she discussed sociologist Robert Bellah and the phenomenon he expounded upon of people increasingly choosing “to relate to people like ourselves” or as she put it at the event, “choosing our own news stations.” The bishop went on to remind attendees that, “Jesus Christ built community among people who were deeply divided from one another,” a value that she put before those in attendance at the Threshold Event.
Speaking about the church’s focus, Stanovsky suggested that we need to get better at communicating “who we are, what Jesus means to us, and how are we learning to take that message out to others.” Reflecting on experiences at Ocean Park Camp as a young person, and experiments in listening and engagement on airplanes, the bishop noted the importance of reconnecting our witness in the world, political and otherwise, with our experiences of Jesus in community.
The remainder of Bishop Stanovsky’s remarks were spent discussing the importance of starting vital new ministries to reach new people and revitalizing existing congregations, one part of the denomination’s Four Areas of Focus. She challenged the gathered leaders saying, “We all have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones to try something new.”
In addition to the aforementioned, the Four Areas also include: engagement in ministry with the poor, improving global health, and developing principled Christian leaders. Stanovsky noted that in the coming year, we’ll be exploring ways to integrate these four areas of focus in ways that promote the efforts and vitality of ministries across the Greater Northwest area.
A short break followed before a time of conversation. Written questions for the bishop were read by Rev. Cara Scriven who serves as Tacoma District Superintendent. The topics ranged from concerns regarding the potential impact of the Commission on a Way Forward upon the local church, the challenges of adapting to shrinking church budgets, and spiritual practices. In several of her answers, the bishop expressed a vision of the church that is highly relational, laity driven, and integrative of diverse voices. It is a church that responds to the challenge and opportunity of Jesus’ sending forth.
The event closed with a litany of covenant, a closing hymn, and a benediction offered by Rev. David Nieda, Vancouver District Superintendent. Bishop Stanovsky and many of those in attendance lingered after the closing for numerous informal conversations for as long as the cookies and coffee lasted.
If you missed this opportunity, there are five additional Threshold Events scheduled over the comings months across the Greater Northwest Area.
Saturday, January 21 – Eugene First UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 26 – Spokane Valley UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 – Edmonds UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 – Meridian UMC, Meridian, ID, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 8 – Moses Lake UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.