There are so many reasons I'm proud to be from the Southwest Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (Bishop Schnase was in my father's youth group in Del Rio!)...but one of the big ones is Covenant Connection, which is what we call our process of the provisional membership years. There is so much support built into it, so much community, so much useful continuing ed and some really great feedback that I believe helps form and shape incredible ministers. I think that the fact that we're one of the smaller conferences in the Jurisdiction and yet have managed to produce some excellent leadership has a lot to do with the way we start our pastors out.
I say this because I just got back from our 3rd Covenant Connection retreat of Year 1 (this is supposedly the last class that will be three years, something that many of us regret, since our process aims to create community and it's difficult to do that in the 17 months that a 2 year process will give them). The skill sets of the provisional members are evident, but it's also clear to me that many of them are figuring out that this can be a place where they can admit their own struggles and the places that they would most like coaching and feedback. It's not just gatekeeping--it's continued instruction and a safe place to learn how to be colleagues both with each other and with the greater orders of elder and deacon.
So hooray for annual conferences that aren't just letting people hang around and occasionally meet for the time between their commissioning and ordination. Hooray for annual conferences who are taking seriously the fact that this time that we are given is a gift--to help us become more effective and receive affirmation and continued feedback and advice!
May we not be so anxious to get to the goal that we miss the richness of the journey and thus become poorer for it.
Intangible Religious Benefits
3 weeks ago