On this day 10 years ago, Bishop Moncure placed his hands on my head and other hands joined his. The hand of my District Superintendent, the hand of the Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, the hand of Rev. Kathleen Baskin my mentor pastor, the hand of the Order of Elders, so many hands. My husband Lee put his hand on my back as our almost two year old daughter sat in the congregation. My family had gathered, friends were there, and church families from Oak Lawn UMC and Krum UMC. As I knelt down and the Bishop ordained me, those who loved me stood in support and love of me. And the Bishop said these words:
"Kerry Sumpter Smith, take thou authority as an elder in the Church to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments."
I remember that the weight of those hands was so heavy. And then the hands lifted and the weight was gone and I stood and turned around to be greeted with a Communion cup from my Intern Pastor, Dr. Justin Tull, from Oak Lawn UMC. He was retiring and I was just beginning.
It has taken me a long time to comprehend the enormity of that moment.
Being a pastor has been such a joy and such a responsibility. As a pastor I am granted the opportunity to be with people at the liminal moments of their lives. When they receive the cancer diagnosis, when they share the news for the first time that they are transgender, when they have had a child, when they have lost a child, when they are being welcomed into God's loving arms as they join the company of the saints. To be able to baptize someone and welcome them into the Christian Church and to say this prayer over them, "May the Holy Spirit work within you that having being born through water and the Spirit you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus the Christ."
A few weeks ago I confirmed my daughter. My daughter who was almost two when I was ordained. My daughter who has grown up in the Christian Church. And to say that prayer to her made me think about what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus the Christ. "May the Holy Spirit work within you that having being born through water and the Spirit you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus the Christ."
What does it mean for me to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ? What does it mean for me to take thou authority as an elder in the Church to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments?
For me it means that I am called to love and learn from everyone. Everyone. EVERYONE.
For me it means that I want to be on the journey with everyone together. I don't have all of the answers, but I know that I can walk alongside people as we seek God's presence together.
God called me into ordained ministry because I wanted to make a difference in the world. God called me into ordained ministry because I love Jesus and I want to share that love so that everyone knows that Jesus loves them too.
We are all called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the transformation of the world (Matthew 28:19).
Maybe on this day that I remember and celebrate the 10th year of my ordination, maybe I am embracing the idea that I am only me. I can only be me. And maybe the weight that I felt that day wasn't a bad weight, maybe it was a good weight. Maybe each hand that was on my head, maybe each person that stood was showing me that I am never alone. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Monday, June 6, 2016
Ten years ago today I was ordained. At the time those who were being ordained had the opportunity to address the General Conference. This is what said on 6-6-06 and yes... at the end I had nearly 700 people singing!
Bishop, Members of the North Texas Annual Conference,
It is only by the grace of God that I am standing here. My calling to the ordained ministry began before I was even born. My mother attended a Methodist Church in her little town of Pennsylvania and when she was a youth, they received an ordained female pastor. This was not long after female clergy were granted the same rights afforded to male clergy fifty years ago on May 4, 1956. Growing up I found in church a haven of love and acceptance. As I got older, I participated in everything that I could at Chapelwood UMC in Houston. I was President of the Youth Group, President of the Youth Choir, and even preached on Senior Sunday when I graduated from high school! When I went to college I thought that I would take a religion class because it would be easy, so I took Biblical Studies and I made a B! Maybe there was more to this Bible stuff! I took a class called Religion in America and visited a different place of worship every week. One week I took my boyfriend who is now my husband, Lee, to a small Presbyterian church that was filled with white headed people. Out bounced a young, blonde woman, and I turned to Lee and said, “I could do that,” and he said, “Yes, you could.” I went to Japan to teach English for a year after college and while I was there my call to ministry continued to grow. I told my non-church going friends there that I was feeling led to be a pastor and they didn’t think I was weird, they started calling me Reverend. I started at Perkins at SMU when I came back home.
It is only by the grace of God that I am standing here. It is because of the love of the church family at Christ UMC in Plano where I served as a youth minister for a youth. It is because of the love of the church family at Oak Lawn UMC in Dallas where I served as an intern and then as an Associate Pastor. It is because of the love of my husband who went with me to England for a year while I pastored three small Methodist churches and discovered the joy of being a pastor in charge. It is because of the love and the patience of the Krum United Methodist Church who has seen me grow in the past 4 years.
A few years ago Reid Fade stood up here and talked about the ordination process as being like a tilt-a-whirl and over the last 9 years the ordination journey for me has had highs and lows and many times when I have felt out of control, just like on an amusement park ride. I give God thanks for sustaining me over those 9 whirling years, through the Walk to Emmaus movement, through the churches I have served that have loved me, and through my family that have encouraged me and supported me.
I am glad that God has been with me every step of this journey to ordination and Bishop, I can not wait for you to pray that the Holy Spirit will pour upon me for the office and work of an elder in the United Methodist Church. I cannot wait for you for hands to be laid on my head, as Bishop Moncure says, “Kerry Sumpter Smith, take authority as an elder in the Church to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments.”
It is only by the grace of God that I am standing here. Jeremiah 29:11 shares, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Praise God for that promise. Praise God for the United Methodist Church and for the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination of Women. Praise God that in 1980 Marjorie Matthews was elected as the first female Bishop in the United Methodist Church. She was the first woman elected Bishop in all of Christendom! I know that I am using my gifts to fulfill the call of God completely. I give God thanks that I am a part of a church that allows, invites me, even encourages me to live out my calling and use the gifts that God has given me for the good of the Kingdom of God!
Will you join me in singing, “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.” Amen!