The 2012 Session of the North Georgia Annual Conference is over.
Over 2000 people gathered each of the three-days. They heard good preaching, participated in worship, celebrated ministries, enjoyed fellowship, adopted a budget, passed resolutions, received video and verbal reports, contributed to two offerings, memorialized loved ones and leaders who died since last session, recognized retirees and set apart others for licensed, commissioned, and ordained ministry.
The last item on the agenda was the reading of the clergy appointments and the Service of Sending Forth. Itinerant ministers are appointed annually by the bishop, and then on a set day they all relocate.
This coming Thursday is Moving Day. On June, 21 United Methodist pastors all across the northern half of Georgia will leave one place and move into another. Pastors are appointed to a "charge" of one or more churches. Every church/charge that receives a full time pastor must provide housing for that clergy person and family.
Historically, a church owned house (parsonage) has been the norm. That meant on the morning of Moving Day one parsonage family would vacate the place where they had resided and that afternoon the newly appointed pastor would move in. However, in recent times, many churches/charges provide a housing allowance and the clergy person secures their own housing.
Yesterday approximately 100 United Methodist preachers in the North Georgia Conference said goodbye to the congregations they had been serving. Regardless of the housing arrangement, newly appointed pastors will be greeted next Sunday by the congregations in their new locations.
I am among those who will be moving--but not really. I will not have to leave the house that I have lived in for the past 11 years, but I will "move" to a new appointment. My physical move will be very short--from the third floor of the United Methodist Center to the second floor. I will vacate the office of the Executive Assistant to the Bishop and will move into the office of New Church Development.
For the past five years my responsibilities have been varied and much of my work was with the retired clergy and their families. In my role as the Director of New Church Development, my new "congregation" will be mainly new church pastors and the folks that they shepherd.
I have never started a new church but I have strongly supported those efforts throughout my ministry. I was so excited when the conference created the Office of Church Development in 1987 and even thought about applying for the job. Although I had the passion for this ministry, I knew I did not have the experience or skill to do the work. Charles Barnes was appointed to that new focus, and he pioneered the work of starting new congregations in our area. Three other directors have built on the foundation that Charles laid and North Georgia is recognized across the denomination as the leader in church development.
I am excited about my new appointment. I am eager to get started and learn as much as I can as quickly as I can (yes, I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks). I will do my best and with the help of many others we will maintain the momentum of creating new places for new people and at the same time help shape the future for this vital ministry. I look forward to the many challenges and opportunities in my last year as an itinerant elder before retirement at next year's Annual Conference session.
The responsibilities I have carried for the past five years have been assigned to other people. Among them is this weekly commentary. Ed Tomlinson originated this effort, and I have been privileged to continue it.
Next Monday, June 25, will be my last time to write Monday Morning in North Georgia. Thank you to the many people who have written, called, and spoken words of encouragement to me for my efforts. Writing each week has been difficult but helpful for me. I want to continue that discipline. You can read it here each week on Day1.org.