The last order of business for Annual Conference 2016 was the ordering of ministry service on Saturday morning. Special music was provided by the Edenton Street UMC Choir and Brass Ensemble. Bishop Ward was the preacher and used the biblical text from John 20:19-29 as the foundation for the sermon. It was in this encounter with the risen Jesus that he breathed on the frightened disciples and told them to “receive the Holy Spirit.”
As part of her ecumenical ministry, Bishop Ward is the presiding bishop for the Methodist Initiative in Vietnam and during a visit there in February, she heard the
story of a woman who had been born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and an American soldier father. As an infant, she was turned over to an adoption agency, which brought her to the United States. She grew up in America.
As she grew older, she began to long to go find her birth village and possibly her birth mother, realizing that the search would be very difficult with so little information. She traveled to Vietnam and with the assistance of a guide, she visited several villages with no luck. But one day, while sitting and drinking coffee, she looked up and saw her guide running towards her with a woman, and not only one woman, but the whole village, was running towards her. Her mother embraced her and the whole village embraced her, telling her they had been longing and praying for the day when she would come home.
“Can you imagine a whole village running towards you in welcome? … What if the Church of Jesus Christ ran toward the world the way that village ran toward that woman as she came home? That is our calling. That is our challenge. That is our joy and that is our destiny because we are lovers of the one with nail-print hands and feet and gashed sides, who is alive forevermore and who says to us on this day, ‘Peace be with you! Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Ninety-two persons were recognized, blessed, and sent out in ministry during this service – 20 lay missioners, one home missioner, one deaconess, 37 licensed local pastors, two ordained deacons, 17 provisional members, and 14 elders in full connection.