Posted by: morgan1965 | June 30, 2011

Starting In A New Pastoral Appointment

I have fond memories of my first appointment as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. My first appointment was to the St. Mary Street United Methodist Church in Burlington, New Jersey. I was a second year seminary student, single and young. This appointment experience helped to shape my ministry in a positive way until this day. The congregation warmly received me, they nurtured me, they cared for me, and they loved me as a child of God.

When a congregation is receiving a new pastor, it is important that the people warmly receive their new pastor. The new pastor needs to experience a warm welcome. A new pastor should come to the appointment with joy, appreciation, respect and love.

One of my mentors, when reflecting on the experience of a new appointment shared a cogent insight. He said: “I am as happy to be here as you are to have me.” The beginning of a new appointment requires mutual participation on the part of the pastor and the congregation. There is a need for mutual cooperation in the work of ministry and mission. Ministry is a partnership between pastor and congregation, with God at the helm. Together we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Looking back over my years of ministry, I note that I was warmly received in all of my appointments as a local church pastor, district superintendent and resident bishop. When I arrived in West Virginia, the conference members lay and clergy warmly welcomed me and graciously received me as the new episcopal leader.

In all of my appointments and assignments, I have been nurtured in a variety of ways. One manner of nurture is the lay spiritual leadership where I have been privileged to be on the spiritual path with other lay and clergy people. What a joy it is to grow in Jesus Christ together. Also, I have been nurtured as a leader, in that I have been afforded so many opportunities to learn and grow as a leader.

In every congregation, the lay people are the guardians of multiple skills and talents. Pastors can benefit from this vast pool of resources by being in partnership with the laity at all times. In every appointment, not only have I learned from the laity, I have been nurtured by the laity.

The question is sometimes raised about the care of the pastor: “Who will care for the pastor?” In my experience, I have found that the congregations for which I had pastoral responsibility, cared for me in so many abundant ways. First, the folk provided a warm welcome and a haven of love. Second, the congregation always provided a comfortable home and respected that abode as the home of the parsonage family. Third, congregations have cared for me by encouraging me to take care of myself, spiritually and physically.

When a pastor goes to a new congregation, or continues in the current appointment, he/she must love the people. The congregation too must love their pastor. When there is mutual love, it opens the door for vital ministry. Jesus loved his disciples and they learned to love him. The result was that in mutual partnership and trust they engaged in vital ministry.

I give thanks to God for congregations that welcomed me, nurtured me, cared for me, and loved me. The key, of course, is that I also had to warmly engage the congregation, nurture them, care for them and love them.

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