Written by Rev. Dr. Clarence Brown, St. Lukes UMC, Virginia Annual Conference
It’s that time again! The season of connectional expression called appointment making. Bishops and Cabinets across the connection have prayed and discerned which clergy will go to which mission field. For the clergy, the season of transition is accompanied by many challenges: leaving a beloved community; anxiety and anticipation of the new; the exhaustive process of moving physically; adjusting to a new ministry context. Each and all of these challenges test the coping skills of even the most seasoned pastors among us.
There is, of course, the additional challenge faced by those who offer themselves for appointment to cross-racial/cross-cultural (CR/CC) appointments. As one who has engaged this ministry for some time now, I pray for this new part of your journey of service and offer these thoughts as you move forward.
Our Discipline speaks to the “open itinerancy” (par. 425), and further speaks to “cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments (being) made as a creative response to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the church and in its leadership…” (par. 425.4). It goes further to say that Bishops, District Superintendents and the General Church are to provide consultations, training and resources to prepare and support such ministry engagements. The General Commission on Religion and Race is and has been leading in the development of such resources. The Commission is here to support you, and this communication is an initiatory outreach to you in this regard.
First, as you engage this appointment, be very self-aware. What is your narrative? Where are your wounds? What strengths and growth points do you bring? This ministry requires a certain amount of resilience and transparency as you – and the congregation – grow together.
Second, where is your support? How is your relationship with the supervisory arm of the church (D.S., Bishop, et al)? What training, resources, and undergirding are you being supplied with? What work has been done with the church prior to your arrival? How might your family be cared for? The answers to these questions are essential to fruitful beginnings.
Third, what is the narrative of the congregation you will be serving? What is their history? What are their cultural norms? What is their discerned mission? What is their posture regarding race and reconciliation? Where do your gifts and their mission coincide?
These are among many questions to be asked and answered over time, too many to be surfaced here. The good news is that the Bible records a coherent narrative of how the Gospel of Jesus Christ encountered and overcame geographical, cultural, and racial barriers of every type in a creative synthesis we call beloved community. You are being prayed for by many as you proclaim the good news in a new environment.