While most of our class seized the opportunity to take the required sexual ethics course during the week at Annual Conference, Brother Al Ammon and I had to take it last Saturday at Lon Morris due our work schedules. While I’ve never had the joy of being at Annual Conference I don’t think that I would have traded even that for my experience taking the class at Local Pastors School last weekend.
Much of the school environment was familiar to me, like the schools coordinator, Rev. Dale Chance, who is also senior pastor of Brenham 1st UMC, the “hub church” for Chappell Hill. Likewise, the intensity of commitment exhibited by the 25 or so appointees in the class was reminiscent of the atmosphere in our CLM classes. These folks all demonstrated the identical passion for service that we have. The only difference between their service as clergy and ours as laity, that I could see, was what they were willing to give up to be in service. And, from what I’ve learned recently, it’s considerable.
Because of this, I detected slightly different perspectives shared by members of the class than our own and I couldn’t help but feel that I had been immersed into a unique culture. Part of this was due to the intensity of what they had committed to. Unlike our one-day classes, they had committed to a 12-day intensive study and only allowed one free evening. I was just there for one day and then I got to go home - small wonder that I felt like an outsider.
But during our breaks I made some friends and we were able to converse and share our views of ministry during lunch. I received number of surprises when I learned that many of these new pastors and I share counter cultural perspectives for mission focus and building community beyond the local church. I came away from the experience with a renewed sense of hope that, given the caliber and commitment of these new pastors, maybe there is brighter future ahead for the church. We need to be supportive of not just these but all of our pastors and remain in prayer that the Lord will guide them.