Bishop Encourages Mutual Relationships
By Melissa Hinnen*
August 22, 2013
DENVER — Building on John Wesley’s three simple rules, Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky’s welcoming message to the 2013 School of Congregational Development encouraged those in ministry to “enter relationships without doing harm” so that we “may have the rare opportunity to do good.”
Stanovsky, who leads the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, invited Charles Brower to share his story as “a voice of witness, a voice from the mission frontier.” Brower is a new local pastor in Nome, Alaska. He is an Inupiat Alaskan native who at age 10 was forcibly “removed from a loving family and put in boarding school,” where he learned that his “heritage had no place in dominant culture.”
Brower recalled that being forced to assimilate in school created doubts about his family. Children were stripped of their cultural clothes, language and traditions. When Brower returned home to Alaska following his service in the Vietnam War, he noted that the churches were hurting, lacking leadership on Sunday and unable to pay an ordained pastor to share the sacraments.
“Please keep in prayer those hungry communities,” Brower told participants. “I stand before you with hope.”
Acknowledging that those who were gathered for the School of Congregational Development had heard God’s call to share the gospel, Stanovsky urged them to keep Brower’s voice in mind and recognize that “through history, people not so different from us have gone out full steam ahead in ways that have left many trails of tears.”
She told the story of the Sand Creek Massacre, a slaughter of women, children and elderly Native Americans. The attack was under the direction of two Methodists in 1864 and led to a 15-year war. “I can’t welcome United Methodist Christians intent on planting churches to Colorado without telling our local cautionary tale,” Stanovsky said.
Emphasizing that the key to mission is building mutual relationships, she suggested that the intent of blessing a home has a different tone than “offering them Christ.” Basing her message on Luke 10, the bishop outlined the guidance Jesus offered for “our evangelistic task.”
According to Stanovsky, Jesus shared that “the miraculous abundant harvest of faith sharing happens when we enter the mission frontier and put ourselves at the mercy of the generosity of others, to offer blessing, share their lives and be a healing, life-giving presence.”
Leading participants into a time of Communion, she asked them to approach mission as an embrace: opening, waiting, embrace and release. She then invited them to share the peace of Christ in a careful, measured and intentional invitation of mutuality, using the “small embrace” — a handshake.
Following Communion, she sent them out, saying, “Peace be to this house. The kingdom of God is at your doorstep. Jesus came that you might have life abundantly. We are on the edge of a new way of being church.”
About the School of Congregational Development
Nearly 500 people gathered at the Marriott Denver Tech Center for a four-day event sponsored by the General Board of Discipleship, Path 1 and the General Board of Global Ministries. Through intensive workshops, dynamic plenary sessions and local teaching churches, United Methodists are learning how to create and develop disciple-making faith communities. The 2013 theme is “Encountering God on the Edge.”
You can read Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky’s welcoming address here.
*Melissa Hinnen is the Director of Content and Public Information for Global Ministries.
Pastor Charles Brower of Community United Methodist Church, Nome, AK, during his address at the 2013 School of Congregational Development event in Denver, Colorado.
In her address, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, who leads the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, emphasized the importance of building mutual relationships in mission, and looked to John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules.
Pastor Charles Brower and Bishop Elaine Stanovsky lead participants in a time of Communion with the sharing of the elements.
All photos: Cassandra Zampini