2015 Annual Conference Worship
2015 Service of Retirement
After a hot, humid, and at times rainy day at the 46th East Ohio Annual Conference the body of Christ gathered to worship. Despite the heavy rains, laity, clergy, and honored guests packed into Hoover auditorium in this special retirement service intended to honor the work of those who have faithfully served the church in ordained ministry as a part of the East Ohio Conference.
Each element of the service, designed by Steve Court, Director of East Ohio Connectional Ministry and Jane Ruggles of Ashland Christ UMC, drew those in attendance to reflect on how these unique people have shaped so many lives and how Christ calls each individual to live out a calling to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Assisted by liturgists David Kowaleski and Peg Welch, the congregation recognized the retirees, recalling through liturgy their work of transforming lives, leading worship, celebrating the sacraments, and ordering the life of the church.
Music provided by The East Ohio Conference choir also lifted the spirits of the congregation to celebrate these faithful servants under the direction of Asbury UMC choir director Robert Nims and accompanied by Bexley UMC organist Dixie Heck. The special music "Help Us be Like Them" as well as "A Song of Gladness" performed by the Union Avenue UMC Bell Choir drew the congregation to joyfully lift up the legacy of the those retiring.
The service moved into a time of responding to the word using a scripture reading from 1 Thessalonians 2:8-13 (The Message translation). This letter from Paul to the church of Thessalonica encouraged the highest character of those serving in ministry.
"We never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did. You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t’ have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you. You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we werent freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life."
Bishop John Hopkins, of the East Ohio Conference, offered a meditation on this "love letter" Paul wrote to a church he planted. Bishop Hopkins pointed out just how endeared a pastor can become to a congregation, especially when individuals need a person at the right place and the right time. Bishop Hopkins lifted up the ways pastors serve congregations as teachers, care-takers, organizers, evangelists, preachers, and friends. This dynamic relationship building reveals the beauty that unfolds when both pastor and congregation show Christ-guided love to one another. Bishop Hopkins thanked and expressed his appreciation for how these pastors have served, like Paul, as "love letters" to the congregations they have been appointed to lead over many years.
By the end of the worship service the East Ohio Annual Conference recognized 42 retirees. Each person on the stage represented a unique combination of gifts, talents, and strengths that have enriched the body of Christ. In the same way each person will uniquely live into this new phase of God's calling by being a grandparent, traveling, cultivating long-lost hobbies, continuing education, and simply having a season of Sabbath.
Thank you retirees and your spouses for all your work and service that has helped make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!
Jon Wilterdink, pastor at Hope Ridge and Mentor UMCs