Recently I saw a study of “successful aging.” According to the study, the number one factor in whether or not a person ages gracefully experiencing "the joy of being a ifetime learner" . . ,” There really is something to the old adage that we older adults must “learn something new every day” in order to stay youthful in spirit.
Perhaps that’s why I have so enjoyed my role as Bishop – I am forced, by the demands of this job, to learn something new every day. It’s rather amazing that I could say that – after all, I spent over two decades working at a university before coming here. And yet, it’s true. This job has been the most demanding educational experience of my life.
Recently I spent a day learning from a group of our assembled clergy and laity who were convened by Dale Cohen to discuss the state of the church, to label what we’ve learned and what we’ve achieved, to note lingering problems, and to give me my job description for the next four years. It was a great day, a gratifying time in which we claimed what has been done and we named that which is yet to be done to make our church more faithful to Christ’s mandates.
After the day was over, I listed my major learning from the discussion:
1. A great deal has been changed in our Conference that moves us from a culture in which decline and loss are normal into a culture in which growth and forward movement are planned for, evaluated, and expected.
2. There seems to be widespread understanding and enthusiasm for our Four Priorities as a way of focusing our work and moving us forward for the Kingdom.
3. There is much encouragement, particularly from the laity, about more attention to results, particularly growth in our churches.
4. There is a need for, and much encouragement of, greater accountability among our clergy and churches that is specifically linked to growth.
5. Many note and appreciate the changing role of the District Superintendent as a coach, mentor, and supervisor. As I noted, one of our slogans on the Cabinet is that the D.S. doesn’t only “make appointments” but also “makes appointments work.”
6. There is real pride that our Conference has become a leader in starting new communities of faith.
Thanks to all of you who are teaching me that our beloved connection can have a future, that God has great things in store for us if we will take risks for God, change lives, and grow more disciples (Conference Vision Statement).
I am so grateful to have been given another four years among you.