at The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Sessions in Wenatchee, Wash.
How are you going to bear fruit? And Why?
By Lauren Short | Photo by Amy Pazan
On Saturday night of this year’s session of Annual Conference, I attended the Commissioning & Ordination Service. For those that do not know, this is the time where those on their journey to becoming deacons or elders are either commissioned as a provisional member or are fully ordained. It is a time where the church affirms a candidate’s call to ministry. As a young person, it is always a time of great joy to see those whom I look up to take the next step in their ministry.
Those that were being admitted to Full Connection and Ordained Elders:
Ann Elizabeth Adkinson • John Michael Helmiere • Kathryn (Katie) Frances Klosterman
Those that were being commissioned in preparation for Order of Elder:
Emma Donohew • Henry (Hank) Heschle • Terri Jane Stewart • Lisa Marie Talbott
This year, the Rev. Dr. Craig Parrish preached from John 15:1-11. This particular text talks about being the vine and if abiding in the Lord, we will bear much fruit. In his sermon, “So you wanna bear fruit?” Parrish channeled his message from “Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future” by Peter M. Senge and C. Otto Scharmer. It was a resource suggested by Bishop Grant Hagiya. Through this resource and his own personal experience after 41 years of ministry, Parrish gave advice to those who are taking the next steps in their ministry.
Check your ego at the door, but not your self-esteem.
The part of you that screams “me-me-me”… check this at the door. The work of ministry is not your fruit, but something God produced through you, offered in a moment in time. Despite all of us having egos, it’s not about you.
Ask yourself “why” you want to bear fruit.
The “why” of our work is what starts people on their journey – it is because we have answered a call.
Develop a vision.
“Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World” is a good one. “Presence…” prompts us to consider: it is not what the vision is, but what the vision does.
You can’t bear fruit alone – you need the laity.
We all have gifts, talents, and abilities. But, we don’t have every ability. You need other people around you. Your colleagues and coworkers are not your enemies – despite some who may be controlling or obstinate. Empower your laity so that they may go out into the community to share stories and experiences in being Jesus Christ in the world.
Remember who you are and have clarity regarding crossing boundaries.
You have the power. There are times you may have needs, but the church must never fulfill those needs. People may attach themselves to you in healthy and unhealthy ways. You have the power to not cross boundaries. There may be times you may consciously cross boundaries, in particular those in the Book of Discipline. Members of your church may ask you to preside over their same-sex marriage – know who you are and whose you are. You will be defining the work of your ministry in your mission field.
Develop skills to become inter-culturally competent.
Learn about your culture and learn about others and their worldviews. People who may not look like you are also looking for a spiritual home, too.
Listen to other voices in your ministry.
There will be others who have different theological understandings than yours. In order to bear fruit, you need to listen to people and their wisdom.
As someone who is not on the path to ordained ministry, I still found points that are very important to my ministry as a lay person, like “Check your ego at the door, but not your self-esteem”. As a lay person, we can always take this to heart because although we make up a large portion of the church, we must also remember that we are here to minister to those outside of our church walls.
Along with his advice, Parrish encouraged us to “Remember who you are and whose you are.” We are children of God. We are also United Methodists and our goal is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. So when we are frustrated with our pastors, our church members, or society, remind yourself of this statement. We should approach everyone with love and grace.
While reflecting on this passage after Annual Conference, I am looking forward to applying this to the ministry I am involved in at Green Lake UMC and with the Conference Council on Young Adult Ministries.