I treasure the journal of my great-great-great-grandfather, who was a circuit rider in Illinois and Missouri. He writes of moving from church to church each week, staying in the houses of people he had never met, hoping that they will give him food for his horse.
He was dependent on the lay leadership to continue the worship life of the churches while he rotated on the circuit, and on one occasion discovered that in his absence the church building had been used to house animals, was full of tobacco stains, and had spider webs covering the sanctuary. He preached a rousing sermon about not desecrating the house of the Lord and then dropped them from the circuit.
He describes the good meals he shares, the hospitality he experiences, and the opportunities to witness in the homes where he is staying. Other times he writes poignantly of the several-week-long trek to his annual conference session. Along the way, he would visit family for the first time all year. And when he arrived, he did not know where he would be assigned to pastor at the close of the conference session.
For the past two weeks, I have participated in the Missouri Annual Conference and West Virginia Annual Conference sessions. I am a non-voting observer of the Missouri Annual Conference (because I am delighted to pastor University UMC in St. Louis!) and a voting member of the West Virginia Annual Conference (where I was ordained). Fortunately, when I arrived at annual conference, I knew that I would be reappointed to University UMC!
At the close of this second annual conference session, Adam and I are taking a roundabout way to get home to Saint Louis. We’re stopping for a week in Kentucky, where the UUMC Mission Trip Team will happily serve from June 15-20 with the Appalachia Service Project! I am very excited to spend this week with our UUMC youth and adults. Serving in mission is core to our Christian identity, our United Methodist heritage, and my own call to ministry. I would not be your pastor today without the many gifts of adults who poured into the spiritual formation of my youth group through mission, service, and Bible study. I’m thrilled to be able to pass this gift on to others!