The Celebration of Ministry worship service opened with the traditional singing of the triumphant hymn, “Lift High the Cross,” as Cross, Christ Candle and Holy Bible were carried forth in Hoover Auditorium. Those being commissioned as provisional Deacons and Elders followed as the congregation sang with great expectation for this sacred hour in the lives of all gathered. Banners displaying colorful designs and meaningful scripture paraded down the aisle followed by each Ordinand and their families. Bishop Gregory Palmer and Rev. Kathleen Brown were final participants in the holy procession of those being commissioned and ordained for ministry in The West Ohio Conference.
Bishop Palmer brought a greeting to the congregation followed by calling all present to remember our common ministry and to reaffirm our Baptismal vows. Chair of the WOC Board of Ordained Ministry, Rev. Dr. Brian Law, continued the service as the 2019 retirement class of 43 ministers were honored for 1,223 years of cumulative ministry. Bishop and Mrs. Cynthia Palmer individually greeted the retirees and their spouses. The celebration of their service was followed by the singing of the doxology. The preaching scripture text, Titus 1:1-5, was read by Rev. Miran Lee from the 2019 retirement class. This was followed by special music from Rev. Chris and Samantha Ciampa and Mr. Chuck Bell, a jazz gospel version of “Is Your All on the Altar.”
Bishop Palmer’s sermon, “For This Cause…” was from the Titus text. The Bishop began by challenging the ordination class to always remember that “there is no perfect Church.” The Church all around this globe is challenged because there is concern and despair in every place. Bishop Palmer said that when we read the New Testament, we will be reminded that there has never been a perfect church. Those serving in this set-apart ministry will go through times of mumbling, stumbling, and grumblings, but there are moments when God’s Holy Spirit blossoms in us – those high and holy moments, those holy pivotal moments when we know that God is working within us, that God can be trusted. Society, said Bishop Palmer, “is intoxicated with the notion that we have to know everything that comes down the pike.” God can be trusted when we don’t know what is coming next: “Your knees may shake, your lips may quiver, but God can be trusted.” The “mercy we need is already poured out in our midst,” the Bishop said.
No matter where appointed, the pastor will encounter challenging people and good people. Bishop Palmer reminded those being ordained that those in the retiring class know something that they will come to understand: something of God was already good and established before they arrived and that they go into each setting – just as the young Titus did – to set the house of God in order. And that in the power of the Holy Ghost, as we roll up our sleeves and cast our lots in that setting, we will work as best we can, but our work is never complete. Bishop Palmer ended by quoting Theologian Reinhold Neibuhr: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.” God closed the gap by grace and mercy and nothing that we set about is finished. We are saved by hope knowing that God is making all things Holy.
Following his sermon, candidates for ministry answered the General Examination followed by the commissioning of ten provisional Elders and two provisional Deacons. Twenty-one Elders and Deacons were ordained into full membership by Bishop Palmer. Following their ordinations, members of the retiring class of 2019 bestowed symbols of ministry – Bible, chalice and plate, bowl and towel, and the Book of Discipline – to the 2019 ordination class. The service ended with the closing hymn, “Lord You Give the Great Commission,” with dismissal by a newly ordained deacon and elder from the 2019 class.