TAC Members Mourn the Loss of an Ordinand at First Virtual Ordination
By Lindsay Peyton
During Annual Conference, Bishop Scott Jones welcomed number of new pastors to the TAC – ordinands and individuals who earned their licenses – in the first ever virtual ceremony, designed to comply with social distancing guidelines. During the event, the entire TAC also mourned the death of one of the ordinands, Rev. Reggie Nelson, who died on July 21.
Rev. Morris Matthis, director of the Center for Clergy Excellence, explained that time is set aside during each Annual Conference to acknowledge those leaders who have passed during the year. For Nelson’s name to be added to that list was tragic.
“Reggie was so gifted in so many different ways,” Matthis said. “When you met him, you liked him. His passing has affected so many people, because he was so deeply loved by so many. His loss is extremely painful.”
Nelson’s daughter Christal Booker accepted Nelson’s stole, as well as the pitcher and basin, during the ordination ceremony.
Rev. Collin Powell, Nelson’s ordination classmate, said that all of the ordinands wore a pin with a cross and musical note in his honor.
“Reggie played piano, keyboards and was a great singer as well,” Powell said.
The two attended Perkins at the same time and would drive up from Houston, enjoying several long car rides, full of conversation.
Powell, who serves as a chaplain at Houston Methodist Hospital, also was also in the room, caring for Nelson after his heart attack.
“Pastors need a pastor too, and Reggie filled that role for our group,” Powell said. “He was our confidant. He was the person people went to. We wanted to honor his ministry and legacy.”
In his post as a chaplain, Powell understood the need to pivot the ordination ceremony online to protect health and safety of participants. He commended the Bishop and cabinet for making the decision to go virtual.
“They took a situation no one wanted and made something meaningful out of it,” Powell said.
Mentors were still able to attend, and the Bishop still was able to lay hands on the ordinands, which Powell said was especially meaningful. The ordinands also received a certificate of their lineage tracing back to John Wesley.
“That literal, physical connection all the way back to the beginning of Methodism was really powerful,” Powell said. “It was definitely an affirmation.”
This was the culmination of a nine-year journey to become ordained for Powell, who initially thought he would become a doctor, but chaplaincy called him instead.
A number of the ordinands, sharing the screen, also worked for years towards this goal. Powell became an ordained Deacon during Annual Conference. He was joined by the Revs. Wendy Heinemann and Jennifer Peimann Jordan.
Those ordained as Elders included the Revs. Kimberly Constant, Justin Mikulencak, Thomas John “TJ” Gabelman, Jr., Karyn Richards-Kuan, Mark Grafenreed, Shuler Sitsch, Marquice Hobbs, Christopher Waks, Joshua Lemons, Joseph Zimmerman and Michelle Manuel.
In a virtual clergy session in May, individuals approved for commissioning include the Revs. Jeremy Bass, Paul Meiller, James Calvert, Greg Morgan, Katie Eichler, Julia Riley, Jason Huffman, Timothy Turner, Cesar Martinez and Leigh-Anne Williams.
Bishop Jones also recognized those who obtained certification for specialized ministry: the Revs. Elizabeth Bucher in Christian Education and Children’s Ministry, Ann Cotton in Christian Education and Sarah Scott in Christian Education and Children’s Ministry.
The newly licensed local pastors were also announced. The class of 2019 included the Revs. Zach Anderson, Cameron Losoya, Amy Boriack, Sue Lyle, Joshua Bynum, Russell Martin, Scott Catchot, Lisa Mayhugh, Thea Curry-Fuson, Kevin McMachen, Cynthia Dreesen, Janice McMahon, Jennifer Gros, Sam McRae, Bryan Jody, Greg Morgan, Amber Jones, Randall Morris, Aaron Laird, Sandra Nieto, Mike Lauxman, Lisa Solomon and Kelly Long.
The class of 2020 includes: the Revs. Sterling Allen, Lauren Kruse, Katlyn Britton, J. T. LaRue, Kenneth Burns, Leo Lozano, Ingrid Clark, Sarah Odom, Emanuel Echols, Julie Paulick, Drew Essen, RaMona Riggs, Madison Garcia, Victor Robles, Clayton Hall, Ed Wandling, Michael Johnston, Madison Wentworth and Kale Kinchen.
Bishop Jones explained to the new pastors that Jesus modeled the concept of servant leadership – and then charged them to follow His example, to serve others and show love, while building His Kingdom.
Jones began his message with a prayer, asking God, “Open our eyes that we might see you, open our ears that we might truly hear your word and then, God, strengthen our hands and feet that we might be doers of the words and not hearers only.”
Then the Bishop delved into what it means to listen openly and move into action, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus for the transformation of the world.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. When Jesus gave these great commandments, he was bringing our attention and focusing our lives on love,” Jones said. “They’re simple. Easily understood.”
These commandments have become mantras, memorized and displayed on posters. “And yet, they seem simple until you decide to take them seriously,” Jones said.
He explained that devoting all of one’s heart and mind to God can become daunting. “Loving God is a lot easier if I do it one hour a week, or it’s even better one hour a month,” he explained.
But all the time? And what about loving your neighbor as yourself?
“What could that possibly mean?” Jones asked. “Let’s not even debate who’s our neighbor. Assume that our neighbor is everybody who God loves, which means everybody.”
With greater understanding, these duties become more serious and difficult. That’s why purpose, perspective and perseverance are essential, Jones explained.
“The purpose of your life is to love God with everything you’ve got, and we summarize that by saying it’s all about servanthood,” Jones said.
New ordinands are taking a vow, Jones explained. “You need to go deep into those promises and understand what’s meant by them,” he said.
Too often, he added, loving one’s neighbor and loving one’s self are placed in opposition. “Instead I want to offer you a different framework for interpretation,” he said.
Central to the Bible, its guiding principal, is God’s revelation in Christ, Jones continued. “When you are loving your neighbor, you are in fact, finding fulfillment, meaning and your true identity. That’s what the example of Christ was all about,” he said.
Like professional athletes and musicians, Christians can find themselves “in the zone” when serving others.
“You have to practice, you have to prepare, you have to develop your skills, but when performance time comes, being in the zone means you relax, you don’t worry about every little bit, you just take a deep breath and jump in and play,” Jones said. “When you are in the spiritual zone of being in Christ, serving others is no problem.”
The Bishop also spoke to the ordinands about the importance of self-care – and of practicing the means of grace. Reading scripture is another way to be spiritually nourished and seek to understand God’s will. Being in worship and joining small accountability groups are also important. In addition, the bishop stressed strengthening relationships with family.
For the ordinands, Jones emphasized the solidarity and solace to be found in other clergy members. “You are not in this ministry alone,” he said.
Everyone is yearning for a return to normalcy, to worship together and to be able to hug or shake hands again, Jones added. Still, he said, even before the coronavirus pandemic, there were problems.
“Before this all began in the spring, I have to recognize that world last year was an alternate reality,” Jones said. “It was a world threatened by the possibility of war. It was a world where nuclear weapons, aimed at the U.S., threatened to be launched. It was a world of racism and sexism, a world of poverty.”
God has a different world, the bishop explained, one without crime, death or hunger, one where all people are valued.
“We yearn for that, and we know God has promised it,” Jones said. “The question is, while we’re in this alternate reality, how do we serve the Lord and master of that ultimate truth and lead as many people as possible into it?”