Believe it or not, we have managed to make it through our first month as pastor and congregation! (Yay!) The weeks have flown by as we have been getting to know one another and adjusting our expectations and assumptions. So many of you have worked tirelessly to help us feel welcome and provide hospitality. It has been a good first month for Mike and me, and we thank you all.
Changing pastors and congregations is never easy. We just all do our best to try to make the transition as easy on each other as possible. One of the things that can be especially challenging as United Methodists is that we use an “appointment” system.
There are basically two ways the majority of denominations change pastors: the “call” system, and the “appointment system.” The former looks familiar to most of us, because it shares many parallels to how we find jobs in the secular culture. The appointment system, however, has often reminded me of what it might be like to be part of an arranged marriage. Guess which one the United Methodists use?
Yup. Since the time of Wesley, we have used an appointment system. Back in the day, the matchmaker was always John himself. His preachers would meet yearly for reporting, and would then be reappointed to new circuits. Later, Methodism in America followed much the same pattern. The preachers would head for conference in June, while their wives back home were packing up in anticipation that they would be moving. (Parsonages came furnished back then.)
The system has loosened up over the centuries. The cabinet generally listens to both parties to see what kind of a match might be desirous to both partners. But the long and short of it is—we are still matched up by the cabinet of the conference. Exciting, huh? The great unknown!
Just so you know, in my experience, the persons who serve with the bishop as part of the cabinet, are persons of great integrity, and faith. They prayerfully look at potential matches and try to line up gifts, graces, values and personalities as best they can. And I have often been amazed at the depth of their insight in helping churches and pastors find each other.
So, in July every year, we meet at the invitation of the matchmaker for the first time as a new family. It would be cool if there was a way to acknowledge in some flashy way this strange moment when we go from strangers to “one household.” And we try—there are even liturgies for leaving and coming. But, I’m thinking more along the lines of those gloriously colorful litters with the silky drapes—you know the ones? where the family carries the bride on their shoulders to present to her groom? What do you think? No? Ah well, a pastor can dream.
The arranged marriage between Pastor Nancy and the Madras UMC, went as follows: Pastor Nancy met with the leadership of Madras UMC online (I wonder what Wesley would have thought of that?). We talked, we asked questions of one another—I read your paperwork, you read mine. We prayed. And the D.S. pronounced us a match! Fast forward a few months, and here we are!
I couldn’t resist matching the newly married couple pictured above with this essay. We may not have felt quite as awkward as those two our first Sunday. But, I am guessing we could admit to sharing a feeling of trepidation as well as curiosity. How is this going to work? Will we be a good match? Will things work out? Will we grow to love one another?
We still have those questions. In the weeks ahead as we grow to recognize one another through our stories, quirks, strengths and goofiness, I am guessing that we will find our way. There will be bumps. We won’t always agree. (sorry) Sometimes we will not feel understood (just like a marriage). We may even get cranky with each other from time to time. But I believe that God is with us, and the adventure is just beginning.
Blessings, Pastor Nancy