In a Word - December 2012
The World Still in Need
I think it somewhat fortuitous that the last sponsored Endorsing Agency event I would attend as Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agent (my quadrennial service will end at the end of this year), was the recently held United Methodist Convocation for Police, Fire, and Crisis Responder Chaplains. This is a group and ministry too little known by our denomination, as is the term, “crisis responders.” That is, until last Friday, December 14th!
When the unthinkable occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in tiny Newtown, Connecticut, the nation’s attention was drawn to this community. The news accounts of the tragic and violent deaths of 20 grade school students and 6 school staff members, was peppered with references to, “first responders.” These law enforcement officers, fire fighters, medical staff, and others, were the first to respond to the crisis and arrive at the school.
They saw firsthand the horror of tragic violence. In Newtown, veteran law enforcement officers and other first responders could not hold back the tears; some described it as the worse scene observed in their years of service. Professionals all, they performed their difficult task heroically, even as they experienced their own sense of grief and pain.
Many acknowledged they would forever see the wounded and dead children and the bodies of the adults who attempted to protect them.
Sometimes these brave men and women are overlooked, so accustomed are we to their doing their job as a matter of course. But we forget they have been wounded as well. They will require pastoral care as well as the family of the victims.
Enter chaplains to first responders, like those United Methodist clergy, who gathered in the convocation, in Nashville. Most were pastors of local congregations who volunteer as chaplains to police and fire departments. Others are able to serve in disaster relief organizations full time, and have acquired additional training for this specialized ministry.
In the recent Convocation stories and stresses were shared and helpful suggestions made. The participants compared notes about their similar ministries in different contexts. Imagine a ministry in which you are called upon only at a time of disaster and crisis, often accompanied by danger or violence.
I concluded it requires a special kind of person to be engaged in such a ministry. I acknowledged, I did not possess such a gift.
I suspect, in Newtown, there were clergy who provided pastoral care to those first responders, and will no doubt continue to do so, in the days ahead. Indeed, I now remember them with profound admiration and appreciation.
I invite you in our special community of the “endorsed” and “approved,” to join me in prayer for these our colleagues engaged in this special and unique ministry.
So as I close, I am thankful for the privilege of serving as the Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agent, these past four years, and to be a part of such a special community of 1616 approved and endorsed ministers throughout the connection who provide a presence and ministry in settings where The United Methodist Church might otherwise be absent. Like Mr. Wesley, the world is your parish! I am sure he would be proud of you! I know I am!
So to you, your families, and unique “congregations,” I wish you a blessed Christmas and a New Year of continued service and ministry to a world still in need of His:
Until next time.
Bishop Woodie W. White