Last Sunday evening I had the opportunity to preach at South Dade Haitian Mission for a service where they were commissioning lay servants for work in their local church. It was a very special evening for those being commissioned, as well as for me. As I rose to preach, I was touched by the number of children who were present. It was a 7:30 p.m. worship service on a Sunday evening and it was significant to me that so many families were present for worship. I asked the children to stand and offered a blessing for them. I told them that it warmed my heart to see them in worship because I myself had spent every Sunday evening of my childhood in church. Growing up as a preacher’s daughter in Mississippi meant spending Sunday mornings, evenings, and Wednesdays at church! (Many of you know what I mean.)
So, Sunday evening I felt a special tug to recognize the children in worship, to thank them for being there, and to encourage them to be aware of God’s activity in their lives. It was when I was about their age, eight or nine years old, when I first felt a call to ministry and began to express a desire to be a pastor “when I grow up.”
Well, now I am all grown up! I feel I know a lot more about the calling to the pastoral life now than I did then. However, I often feel I am still working on what it means to be a child, a true child of God. In all of our callings, and in all of the ways that we serve as lay and clergy in this district, we are first called to embrace our identity is God’s children. That means learning from God as a child learns – eyes wide open, lips full of questions, ears ready for something new.
I am so looking forward to serving with you in the South East District for the transformation of the world. I feel a great sense of excitement for the continuation of what we are doing and the new things that are springing forth. Yet, I want to warn you up front that in these first weeks, I have felt a bit like a child back in fourth grade. I have questions. I am learning. I am making new friends. I want to invite you to embrace with me the ways that God calls us back to the basics of childhood lessons in order for us to continue growing and learning, even in the midst of new challenges.
Allow me to share with you one of my favorite prayers. It was written by Michel Bouttier, a pastor in the Reformed Church of France who wrote the small but powerful collection of prayers called Prayers for my Village while serving the parish of Saint Laurent d’Aigouze in southern France. Pray with me:
Lord, let me today be docile in Your hand
and at the same time spontaneous;
faithful yet constantly on a new way.
Grant me fullness of obedience and fullness of freedom;
total dependence and total independence;
full submission and full release.
Being out front and behind in that,
following You, I will walk before You.
Let everything in me be
response and responsibility,
gratitude and initiative,
imitation and discovery.
Father, let me be Your child!
With prayers and anticipation for all that is ahead for us,