Taking on the mantle


Ordination rites open conference

By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Calling on them to recognize both the power and humility of their calling, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward ordained 17 new deacons and elders into the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The service Sunday night marked the opening of the 19th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.

“Wear this mantle humbly because the power is in God and not in ourselves,” Ward told the group, “but wear it confidently.”

Opening the conference with the ordination service marks a departure from the past several years, when the service was held on the final night. However, the intent of the change was to set the tone for a conference-long celebration of ministry.

Preaching from the text of Isaiah 61:1-6, Ward said the song challenges those whom God has called to provide “the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.”

“It’s a good thing to know God’s call upon our lives,” Ward said before an overflow crowd. “It’s good to be overwhelmed by the goodness, praise and grace of God on our lives.

“As we celebrate the Service of Ordination, we place on these a stole, a symbol of something much greater than we are or will be.”
Maxine Bolden, who was ordained an elder in full connection, said the scripture resonated with her. “It reminded me very much of the people who have affirmed me through candidacy, through the seminary experience and the different congregations that have allowed me to learn through them,” she said.

Bolden, who serves Greer Chapel UMC in Flowood, said her learning hasn’t stopped. “I’m still learning what it means to take on the authority (of God) and balance it with compassion, humility, mercy and grace.”

Bryan Carrubba, also ordained an elder, said he had never thought of the scripture the way Ward applied it. “It’s another aspect of ministry and what ministry means,” said Carrubba, who retired from the Navy as a senior chief.

“What a memory,” Carrubba said of the service. “I didn’t think it would affect me like that.”

Carrubba said he had always thought of a stole as a symbol of office but now sees it as “something to live and live up to.”

The Anderson United Methodist Church Choir of Jackson brought the audience to its feet with a rousing rendition of Garments of Praise.

Mantles are a key element of the Annual Conference, which carries the theme of “Arise! Shine! Rejoice!” During the conference, participants are encouraged to visit the Mantles of Praise area at the Mission Fair and make mantles. Mantle makers will be invited to give their mantles to those who have meant something special to them during the closing service on Wednesday afternoon.

Prior to the service, two bands helped get the nearly 2,500 members and guests into a rejoicing spirit. The New Orleans Jazz Ramblers played during a reception hosted by The United Methodist Hour. Several in the audience joined in playing tambourines and other rhythm instruments. In addition, the Gospazz group from Anderson provided music in the sanctuary before the service.

Today’s events began early with an 8:30 a.m. communion service led by Bishop Duncan Gray of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. The service was part of an interim agreement of shared eucharist approved by the United Methodist Council of Bishops in 2005 and the Episcopal General Convention in 2006 toward full communion. The two denominations have released resources to promote study of the agreement. From local congregations to annual conferences and dioceses, all levels of the two bodies are encouraged to use the resources as they interact together.

That was followed by the traditional opening of the plenary session with the singing of And Are We Yet Alive by Charles Wesley. The United Methodist Church is celebrating the 300th anniversary of Wesley’s birth during 2007.

The end of the plenary featured the first ballot of the 2007 election year. The Mississippi Conference will elect eight lay and eight clergy delegates to attend the 2008 General Conference in April in Fort Worth. In addition, another eight of each will be chosen for the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

Dr. F. Belton Joyner Jr. also began his series of teachings on “Being Methodist in the Bible Belt.”