Over the past few weeks, as we are in the midst of what is known as ‘appointment time’ and time where we are working through a pastoral transition, I have often heard a phrase that, while understandable, often is overlooked and under appreciated – “That is the Methodist Way.”

Well, before we dive into that, let me share with you several ways in which the ‘Methodist Way’ is absolutely a joy in terms of connection and mission far beyond what meets the eye.

Last Friday, Rev. Kathy Pfleider and I, along with clergy from other United Methodist Churches in St. Tammany Parish gathered to celebrate the opening of the Family Promise Day Center next door to Christ Episcopal Church in Slidell. To look around the room and see clergy and laity from our various congregations involved not only in the local church part of the ministry but also in key positions of leadership within the Family Promise ministry was very rewarding. To know that so many from various UM churches shared the same commitment to mission and ministry and had a common bond through our connection before even starting in this ministry is but a gift from God. We’ve already had a taste of it with our sharing resources to enable Vacation Bible School at the various churches – it’s only natural that we would move into sharing ministry through this mission project as well.

However, the connection doesn’t stop there. In an email to the people of North Cross UMC following comments I made at the end of each worship service yesterday, I could not express how overjoyed I am that Rev. Chris Fryou is coming to be the next pastor of this fine congregation I’ve had the privilege of serving for the last four years. As part of a connectional ministry where clergy are bound to one another through our shared membership in the annual conference, and through our work together within the district and conference, friendships and respect are formed in such a way that even if we don’t know well who may come behind us, we know enough about each other that we can share the excitement and anticipation as we hand off this ministry to the next one to carry the baton, because all of us are, if you look at it, interim pastors.

After worship yesterday, a church member let me know about a good friend of theirs who is undergoing treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, and was wondering if I knew of anyone who could swing by and make a pastoral visit. Well, within 10 minutes of putting it on Facebook, one of my good friends from college who is serving in the Houston area said that she would be happy to help. Melissa and I met at another ministry of The United Methodist Church, the Wesley Foundation of Louisiana Tech, and developed a solid love and respect for one another thanks to the ministry established and sustained through the connection. I seriously doubt that Rev. Guy Hicks, who established the Wesley Foundation out of Trinity UMC in 1935, could ever have pictured 80 years later friendship would be made there that would facilitate an opportunity to provide pastoral care through friends serving five hours apart in two different annual conferences. (Not to mention that through the ministry of another UM church, our lay leader was in Melissa’s older sister’s class and knew Melissa from back in the day through that great church.) [Melissa’s wasn’t the only offer to help, either. What a joy to know so many are out there to share in the honor of being the hands and feet of Christ for one another.]

While no system is perfect, I’ll take ‘The Methodist Way’ over any other out there – for reasons including and beyond the highlights I mentioned above. Yes, there are some who may roll their eyes or get frustrated at our itinerant system, but I choose to look at it in terms of not better or worse, but opportunity. The opportunity to get to share seasons of life with more than one person, more than one voice, discovering and celebrating how God manifests divine grace through so many in so many ways. From the clergy perspective, it is rarely if ever easy to leave a congregation, for there are strong emotional bonds established during any time with a group of saints – however, while I miss and celebrate the friends made in every stop, I celebrate the fact that through our system, God gives me the opportunity to love and share life with another group I would never have gotten to know if I never, ever moved.

Shared mission, strong collegiality, being able to reach out in a time of need to another in a far-away place by drawing upon ties the connection facilitated 20 years ago, the opportunity to get to know different people in different places where I also get to discover God’s love in new ways…if that is ‘The Methodist Way’ I’ll take it every time.

Grace and Peace, Lamar