By Jesse N. Love with Scott Klepach, Jr.
Photos by Aaron Pazan
Call the Sabbath a delight. But call it something we need to take seriously. Keeping Sabbath is about hope and renewal for our faith community.
That was the overarching theme of the opening worship of the 2016 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Sessions’ message Friday morning, June 24 in Puyallup. Bishop Grant J. Hagiya of The Greater Northwest Area presented the sermon, thanking many in the Northwest area for being on the front lines of hospitality, Hagiya shared that his contemporaries expressed that General Conference 2016 was the most hospitable they experienced.
Hagiya did share some of the known challenges of General Conference 2016. The lengthy time legislating through difficult issues began taking a toll on delegates and attendees, which prompted Bishop Hagiya to coin the term, “Therefore Go…Home” – a variation on the conference’s theme that was met with laughter from the crowd.
“You can’t legislate your way out of great problems,” added Hagiya.
The Greater Northwest Area consists of three annual conferences (Alaska, Pacific Northwest, Oregon-Idaho). It has the largest square footprint in the Church. But, by coming together and sharing resources, the strengths of laity and clergy are shared across the Area. Bishop Hagiya reassured the Conference that a merger with another Conference will not happen, but recognized we are still working together in ways that are remarkable.
For instance, the Ministry Fund Drive has concluded even as there is still time to donate. That drive established and expanded the Tuell Center and the starting of new churches. The Tuell Center will continue serve the entire Greater Northwest Area, with the possibility of extending out into the Western Jurisdiction. The Greater Northwest Area leads the jurisdiction in creating 14 new church starts with 10 of those based in The Pacific Northwest.
The Imagine No Malaria campaign is another example of successes from the Ministry Fund Drive. Julia Frisbie was recognized for her charisma and positivity which helped guide the INM campaign to exceed its goal of reaching the $1 million mark in the Area (with $500,000 coming from The PNW Conference.)
Even with all of these programs and ministries in place and evolving, Bishop Hagiya said we are encouraged to embrace Sabbath through three avenues: Resting, Rejoicing, and Returning.
Fatigue has set in as leadership has pushed hard to innovate in their ministry. Bishop Hagiya acknowledged that with much hard work going into our various ministries, he in his position has pushed many of those he works with to exhaustion. Citing Walter Brueggemann’s book, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Bishop Hagiya talked about how we are doing more with no end in sight, and he came to a realization.
“I am Pharoah,” he lamented, by pushing staff and leadership to the point of exhaustion. “You’re killing us, Bishop,” Hagiya continued, paraphrasing sentiments of one staff member and acknowledging that demanding schedule cannot be sustained. He added it is difficult to think of oneself as Pharoah, though he said he had to come to terms with the consequences of his actions.
Hagiya announced a change of direction – Rest. “It’s time to set a more sustainable schedule. Sabbath is one way,” but on an intentional and continual basis for cabinet, clergy, staff, and laity.
Hagiya encouraged us to rejoice and to have joy and to make our Christian lives fun-filled. “If you are not having fun at your church, you are not living into the fullness of this Christian life. Have joy!”
Bishop Hagiya continued his message with a focus on Returning. Hagiya shared that we are to restore justice, repair church systems, and become better architects of church paradigms. “It is on us. This is our church.”
He then asked if we are being faithful and suggested we are not. However, even though we are all falling short of being what God wants us to be, in working towards our goals we make God smile.
Bishop Hagiya then addressed the question if he will return to serve in the PNW. In the midst of speculation, he shared that the decision is on the Western Jurisdiction’s Episcopal Committee, which will convene in July, but more so it is God’s decision. If we are to be faithful to God, each of us must accept the decision to be made.
After Hagiya’s message, the body shared special prayers: for those who fish this land, for Japanese-Americans who were sent to these grounds to be interned, for mass shooters, for those in trouble, for the world and its leaders, for peace, and for leaders in mission.
Today’s offering was dedicated to mission in Honduras, an area affected by economic and social challenges.
Watch Bishop Hagiya’s Opening Worship message here: bit.ly/ac2016-openingworship
Jesse Love serves as the Graphic Designer and Print Manager for the PNWUMC. Scott Klepach, Jr. serves as the youth director for Yakima: Wesley UMC. Aaron Pazan is a student at Central Washington University and attends Bothell UMC.