The Ministry of Servanthood
Vocation and mission are essential to our church. This does not only apply to pastors, but to all of us: "We all are part of a worldwide servant community which is of particular importance now while many clergy are moving to a new appointment", says Bishop Rosemarie Wenner.
Many of our contemporaries are no longer comfortable with the idea of being "servants". They prefer "offering services", which, they think, should of course be adequately paid. Likewise, at a time when autonomy is regarded as a high value, being told where to work and what tasks to fulfill seems an unreasonable demand in the eyes of many.
In spite of this, I proclaimed the pastoral appointments in the closing worships services of our German Annual Conferences even this year just like my Bishop colleagues do year by year in their respective Annual Conferences.
In Germany, the times when pastors and their families were only informed at Annual Conference whether they would have to pack up their belongings and move to another church are definitely over. In the process of deciding whom to send where, we always do our best to also take into account the engagements of the pastors' spouses and the situation of their children. And yet: pastors do not choose their churches freely, nor do churches pick their favorite pastor or the pastor with the best reputation. Pastors continue to be appointed to their locations of ministry, where they will then serve the people in their neighborhood, in cooperation with the other congregations of their charge. This makes community or, in Methodist terms, Connexio" a top priority, even if it may not always be in line with current social trends.
In all places where there are Methodist congregations we want to join in God's mission. "Christian ministry is the expression of the mind and mission of Christ by a community of Christians that demonstrates a common life of gratitude and devotion, witness and service, celebration and discipleship. All Christians are called through their baptism to this ministry of servanthood in the world to the glory of God and for human fulfillment." These basic reflections on servanthood are to be found in article 126 of the Book of Discipline (2012 edition). Christ serves us and enables us to serve others. This is God's way of developing what God has placed in each one of us, so that we may become fully ourselves and at the same time live out what God has called us to be.
There are manifold tasks and vocations: Elders were empowered in their ordination to the ministries of Word and Sacrament, to providing pastoral care and executing leadership tasks. Deaconesses have accepted the call to a simple life-style in a Christian community. Youth workers are engaged in local congregations, reaching out to children and teenagers. Tent mission workers are travelling all parts of Europe. So-called lay people are active in their local churches and are committed missionaries in their "secular" work places. Not to forget the hundreds of volunteers who help prepare and facilitate our conferences every year: At the recent Annual Conferences in Braunfels (Germany North), Cranzahl (Germany East) and Oberursel/Karlsruhe (Germany South) we could once more witness one of the greatest assets of our church men and women who freely and wholeheartedly let themselves take into the service of God!
However, serving others also challenges our strength. Many pastors and their families who are moving during the next weeks do so with a heavy heart. Clergy as well as lay people feel exhausted at times. Will they find people who lift them up and strengthen them?
No matter whether we are already joyfully performing the work we have been called to do, whether we are still looking for the right place and task to get engaged in or whether we are still struggling to find a healthy balance between receiving and giving: We all are part of a worldwide community of servanthood.
Let us help each other to live our vocation!
Author: Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (translated by Silvia Koenig)