Tuesday, February 07, 2006

introducing will

I had the joy this morning of introducing Bishop Will Willimon at a conference for United Methodist pastors in Greensboro. It was good to be at the church (Christ Church), where I served for six years. It is a wonderful place, and I have always loved the sanctuary. In introducing Will, I noted his election to the episcopacy, his leadership of 150,000 United Methodists and their 790 pastors in North Alabama, his service as Dean of The Duke Chapel and his teaching across twenty years in the Divinity School, his authorship of sixty books, which have sold in the millions, and his legendary reputation as a preacher. I acknowledged that many of his insights, experiences and convictions have found their way into our many of our sermons.

I also shared this experience. In 1981, twenty-five years ago, I was a student in Will's "Introduction To Christian Worship" class at Duke. At the time Will was serving Northside UMC in Greenville, South Carolina, and flying to Durham each Tuesday to teach two courses in worship at the Divinity School. I was fortunate to be in one of the two classes. After the conclusion of class one evening I asked Will how his church felt about him flying to Durham each week and teaching at Duke. I supposed inwardly I expected some kind of response related to the concept of teaching ministry, or connectionalism, or the link between school and church.

How did the congregation feel about it? Will responded, "Most churches don't know what their ministers do on Tuesdays!".

After the introduction Will preached. He was his usual profound, funny, theological, southern, irreverent and prophetic self. He gave a midrash about Nicodemus, from John 3, and the call of Jesus to church leaders to be born "from the top down", to be open to the pneuma, the spirit, that blows where it wills.

Twenty five years is a long time, between an off-hand comment after a seminary class and a few minutes to hear a sermon on a Tuesday morning.
The professor became a bishop. The seminary student became a pastor. The world along the way became more complex, more computerized, more secular, more religious. The future seems a little more unclear than it did at one time. And yet the important things remain: teachers, mentors, friendships, humor, the word, the wind, the necessity of rebirth, the call to hear the gospel and somehow to respond to it.


Blogger Questing Parson said...

Well said! And occasionally our faith is renewed when such people get elected bishop.

10:08 PM  

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