On Saturday, July 11, 2020, at First United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa was the first of two Ordering of Ministry services being held in person and live-streamed as part of the 2020 Iowa Annual Conference.
The service began with the Recognition of Common Ministry and the Reaffirmation of Baptism.
Bishop Laurie Haller was the preacher, and her sermon was based on a reading from Acts 8:26-40
“Today, we are here because there are those among us who have felt God’s nudging to offer their lives to Christ and the church through the ministries of The United Methodist Church,” said Bishop Laurie.
“They are here in the midst of one of the most difficult times in the history of our country and our world. The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed everything for us. It has changed how we are able to be present with one another. And it’s changing how we work, how we play, and how we worship. We will be forever transformed because of COVID-19,” she said.
Watch the live-streamed video of the Eastern Iowa Ordering of Ministry Service.
Those to be Commissioned, Ordained, or Recognized were present along with a small amount of immediate family, church, and conference staff who were seated six feet apart from other families and remained masked for the entire service.
“These individuals who have come to be ordained, commissioned, and licensed understand the servant ministry of Jesus that led to the cross. Yet they have heard the call of Jesus and have said, ‘Here I am, Lord,’” said Bishop Laurie. “And because they have said, ‘Yes,’ there is nothing preventing them from feeding their flocks.”
See a gallery of images from the Eastern Iowa Service for Ordering of Ministry.
Elizabeth Ann Bell, Courtney Renee Dake, Lisa Donita Schroeder, Derrick Festus Nii Okai Okine, and Benjamin Alan Wedeking were ordained as elders.
Keith Orland Pitts, Melinda Sue Stonebraker, and Melody June Williams were commissioned as provisional elders, and Patrick Henry Mulloy was commissioned as a provisional deacon.
Jennifer Lynne Seylar was recognized as an Associate Member, and Christy Lynn Ehrle, Neil Everett Hofer, and Mark W. Morehouse were recognized as Course of Study Graduates.
“My friends,” Bishop Laurie said, “does God ever urge you to go beyond normal limits to love God and neighbor through the nudgings of the Spirit? I wonder. Does God ever appear in your way and say, ‘They, too, have received the Holy Spirit. There is nothing to prevent you from welcoming them into the family of faith.’”
“And so, I ask all of us this afternoon,” said Bishop Laurie. “What’s preventing us from embracing those who are different than we are and inviting them to follow Jesus? What’s preventing us from getting outside our churches and engaging in mission to our communities? What preventing us from claiming the call of laity to be leaders in the church, just like Philip? What’s preventing us from advocating for the poor and the outcast? What’s preventing us from reaching out to our farmers whose fields are flooded or our friends who are struggling with mental health issues, or those who have lost all hope? What’s preventing us from fully accepting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters as children of God? What’s preventing us from listening to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit and moving beyond our comfort zones? What’s preventing us from being who God called us to be? What’s preventing us from being strong and courageous rather than cowardly? What’s preventing us from encouraging others to be baptized or receiving communion, or making a difference? What’s preventing us from assisting the immigrants in our state, many of whom live in constant uncertainty and fear? What’s preventing us from embracing the radical inclusion that Philip embraced when everyone else said about the eunuch: wrong nation, wrong religion, wrong job, wrong sexuality, wrong everything. What’s preventing us from drawing the circle so wide that it can include grace and reconciliation?”
“Is there anything that would prevent anyone from being baptized upon confession of faith and becoming a full participant in the life of the church? NO! NOTHING!” Bishop Laurie concluded.