A MOMENT FOR MISSION
"Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love." —Psalm 31:16, NRSV
In "The Leading Women," Bishop Judith Craig recalled the 1980 election of the first woman elected to the United Methodist episcopacy.
"With those words," Craig wrote, "United Methodist history changed forever. For the first time in post-Reformation history, a woman was elected to the office of bishop in a major Protestant church. Diminutive Marjorie Swank Matthews, barely 5 feet tall, was almost carried by two escorting bishops to the platform of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. It was late on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the Service of Consecration was to take place. Hearts pounded and huge sounds of elation soared. She stood before us, so small in stature, yet so huge in presence. The moment was like gushing up a new spring that would stream out into a great river of history."
Matthews died in 1985. Craig, who with Leontine T. C. Kelly was elected to the episcopacy in 1984, died earlier this year. They ushered in a great cloud of witnesses that today includes women bishops in the U.S., Africa, Asia and Europe.
Traditionally, United Methodists celebrate Heritage Sunday on Aldersgate Day (May 24) or the Sunday preceding that date. "Heritage Sunday calls the Church to remember the past by committing itself to the continuing call of God" (The Book of Discipline, Par. 264.1).
Let us give thanks for the people, both women and men, who continue to shape our church and our world today.
Loving God, your servants come from all times and places. Whether we are laity in a tiny congregation or a bishop shepherding many people, bless us. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Palm/Passion Sunday — Holy and Loving Creator, you are a generous giver; and that's what we strive to be in our tithes and offering, in our sharing of time and talent through the ministry of the church. We know that's where the similarity ends. We give a portion, a token; you gave your son Jesus; you offered us forgiveness and redemption from a lifetime of self-absorption and disobedience. "He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross." We dedicate these offerings to you, the greatest of all givers, unworthy servants but for your grace and boundless love. In the name of him whose name is above every other name-- in Christ, we pray. Amen. (Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 19:28-40)
On Heritage Sunday, we celebrate all of God's servants who continue to break down barriers, sharing their faith and their God-given talents throughout the world. "The day provides an opportunity for reflection on heritage, celebration of where the Church has been, how it understands itself as it shapes us today, and the meaning of Christian conferencing" (The Book of Discipline, Par. 264.1).
Last year, The United Methodist Church celebrated 50 years—a jubilee. Heritage Sunday is an opportunity to remember our legacy. It is an ideal time for local churches and annual conferences to develop programs and projects reflecting the importance of history in congregational formation and casting the future.
Staff of the General Commission on Archives and History believe and experience daily the power of history, not merely as remembrance, but [also] active engagement, the past pointing to purpose, the DNA that makes us who we are, forming how we live into the future.
—Adapted from General Commission on Archives and History website