By: Curtis Schofield, Spiritual Insight
Why the talk among many of the delegates at the April 24–May 4 General Conference of the United Methodist Church for the need to restore the personal caring of Methodism’s presiding elders?
In March of 1960 while I was on spring brake from classes at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., I was preaching a youth revival at Asbury Methodist Church in Chattanooga. During that week Dr. Ed Berwanger, the pastor of Asbury Church, took me to see his presiding elder, Dr. Clyde Lundy, the Chattanooga District Superintendent. Before the visit ended I was the new pastor of Sand Mountain Methodist Church, Dade County, Georgia.
I said to Dr. Lundy, “It took me eight hours to drive from Wilmore, Ky. How am I going to be able to finish the new Spring Quarter and be the pastor of Sand Mountain Church?” Dr. Lundy responded, “I can make arrangements for you to leave your car at Dr. Berwanger’s home. You can ride the passenger train back and forth on weekends to and from Wilmore.
A week from this coming Sunday I will follow you to the Sand Mountain Church. I will introduce you as the new pastor. Be prepared to preach and be prepared to get to know the people as we enjoy a church covered-dish Sunday meal. I will leave after Sunday diner, but I have arranged for you to stay around to get to know the new shepherd’s sheep. Make sure you get to know all the leaders of the youth, the children’s division, and the teachers of Sunday school. Ask for volunteers who are able to go with you on Saturdays to meet other church members in their homes or at their places of business.
When you preach follow the advice my dad gave me when he first trusted me to feed the cattle. “When you have something good to share, give only what they can handle at one time, and always put some where the little ones can get access.”
On Saturday morning visit in the homes of families who do not go to church anywhere. Give special attention to the children. Just like you, the children like to be called by their names. Parents, who are not interested in going to church themselves, appreciate anyone who recognizes the value of their children. If the parents say they cannot come to church on Sunday, offer to come by early on Sunday morning to pick up the children. When needed find some trusted adults who are willing to visit the families with you.
When you set the example before them, some will be pleased to build a trust relationship with the parents and children. As your district superintendent I will meet with you and your people every three months for prayer and evaluating the work. When you visit hospitals in town come by. Sometimes when I am busy planning with an older pastor it will be okay for you to just come in and listen.”
Curtis Schofield is a retired minister residing on Sand Mountain. Contact him at (423) 413-5653.