By Rev. Bonnie McCubbin
Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus. You may have all this world, give me Jesus. The Holy Spirit was moving as the congregation sang “Give me Jesus,” during the Ordination Service on June 3, 2023 during the 239th Session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Baltimore.
The “Holy Huddle” returned this year for the first time since 2019 when Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling, holding the crozier, gathered on the breezeway with the commissioners and ordinands, surrounded by the clergy of the annual conference, to offer a laying on of hands and prayer for those dedicating their lives to ordained ministry. “We are gathered this day that the Lord has made,” affirmed the bishop as the body affirmed, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Ordinands and commissioners were reminded to call on the body surrounding them when ministry is hard because they never walk alone.
Inside the Key Ballroom, as friends and family gathered, the Severna Park UMC Praise Team led the body in singing both praise songs and hymns as the clergy and others in the processional started down the aisle. Rev. Lemuel Dominguez, serving the St. John’s/Idlewylde Cooperative Parish in Towson, led the way as the crucifer; followed by Director of Retreat and Camping Ministries, Chris Schlieckert holding a Bible. Schlieckert’s daughters, Anna and Mary, were acolytes. Anna said after the service, “It was a real honor to be asked to serve, but really scary too. I’m glad I didn’t burn anything down!”
At the center of the room on a second platform stood a crystal bowl and pitcher used to baptize the sons of Rev. Michael A. Carrington, Jr. (Eastern UMC, Baltimore) and Tariah Carrington. Clad in black suits and bowties, Paris Demetrius Moore, Michael Anthony Carrington III, and Christian Omari Carrington brought wiggles, squirms and the noises that only small children can make with them, making those gathered smile with joy. Bishop Easterling presided over the second baptism at annual conference in five years, assisted by Conference Lay Leader Delores Martin and Deacon Leo Yates. After the baptism, Michael Anthony III waved to those gathered as the congregation applauded.
Rev. Carrington shared that, “baptism begins God’s work of saving us by cleansing us of sin and beginning the work of renewing us fully into the image of Christ. What other way to begin my three sons’ Christian journey with the Church that saved my life? It was a saving station under Bishop May that began God’s work in my life, and now it is the vows of the annual conference that will help save my sons’ lives as they grow into the image of Jesus Christ.”
Under the leadership of United Women of Faith (formerly, United Methodist Women) President Kim Walker, the body recognized the class of 2023 Certified Lay Ministers by asking them to stand. Daphne Hurd was commissioned a Deaconess, committed to service, justice, and love; an office first authorized in 1888. District Superintendent Gerry Green invited the class of 2023 Licensed Local Pastors to stand and be recognized.
The General Examination of those to be ordained began in the manner going back to Bishop Asbury and the earliest days of the denomination. But Bishop Easterling veered off-script to remind the class to “remember when you are at a reserved table and people want to bow down at your feet that you are called to serve and not to be served.”
Ecumenical Greetings were brought from Rev. Dr. Jason A. Poling, Ecumenical Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, whose great-grandfather was a Methodist minister. Bishop Sutton of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland was holding their annual meeting at the same time. Rev. Dr. Poling told a story about how Bishop Easterling came to preach to them a few years ago and stated, “You certainly have some bishops who can preach! I’m not saying we don’t, but you do!” He affirmed that we share the same commitments and roots, but the current divide in the UMC has prevented our ministering together. In the future, he hopes this will change.
The scripture of the service, John 1:1-14 was read, and Rev. Dr. Lydia Muñoz moved the Spirit into the room with her rendition of “Give me Jesus.” It was so powerful, Bishop Easterling called her back to the microphone to continue to usher in the Spirit.
Retired Bishop, Peter Weaver, was introduced as the preacher for the service. He has held many positions over the years, but “Give Me Jesus” tells the story of his life, claimed Bishop Easterling. He rises every morning to offer the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer and has even turned it into a piece of artwork.
In the sermon, Bishop Weaver, a master storyteller, wove together a series of stories, connected by the thread of a name—your name, the bishop’s name, the ordinand’s name, the name of Jesus. He told a personal story about his father, Adolf, and his ordination certificate from 1936 in the Methodist Episcopal Church. That certificate bears a quote, that the named person is “authorized to administer sacraments and ordinances and to feed the flock of Christ as long as his spirit and practice are such as become the Gospel of Christ.” Bishop Weaver encouraged the commissioners and ordinands to “become the Gospel of Christ,” and represent the faith well in all they do by making the Gospel real in their neighborhood, because “God’s hand is upon us for something special…you are the message.”
Bishop Weaver ended his sermon by singing a refrain of “Give me Jesus” again and then asking “What’s your name?” and reminding the class that as they kneel, to take their spirit and name with them.
The offering appeal was made to benefit the Peter D. Weaver Congo Partnership and rebuilding the computer center at the Higher Pedagogical Institute of Wembo-Myama in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The computer center burned down by apparent arson. In the service, baskets were passed in a rousing offertory that had the congregation on their feet as the baskets were danced to the platform; $5,802 was collected.
The Commissioning Class stood on the platform facing Bishop Easterling who stood behind a kneeler and named each name. This class is the first all-female class of Commissioned persons in the Baltimore-Washington Conference since 1996 when Commissioning was introduced as a replacement for a transitional diaconate. They received a standing ovation from the congregation.
As the ordinands prepared to be ordained, they knelt with their sponsors at a kneeler off-stage to pray. They then approached the kneeler where those assembled laid hands on each, admonishing them to “take thou authority.” Another standing ovation with cheers and claps ensued.
The band played “Here I am, Lord,” as the hearts and souls of the congregation were prepared for the invitation to hear God’s call to ordained ministry. Bishop Easterling stood in the center of the platform proclaiming, “Here I am, Lord, is it I Lord? Am I set apart for ministry? We believe in the priesthood of all believers, but some of you have heard a call to serve in a different way. God has been whispering in your ear, have you heard it?” She continued, “God has said, ‘I have need of you.’”
Those worshiping online were invited to contact their pastor or district superintendent for next steps.
The district superintendents lined up in front of the platform to pray with those ready to walk forward and receive their names. Those responding were slow to come forward, but eventually, six persons responded as Bishop Easterling kept asking, “Is there another?” and responding “Hallelujah!” as they came down the aisle, exemplifying the lyrics that permeated the service, Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus. You may have all this world, give me Jesus.
Provisional Member Deacons: Jaleesa Katrice Hall, Cassandra Lawrence
Provisional Member Elders: Laurel McNeal, Sharon Georgia Milton, Lesley Newman-Adams, Jennifer Tabor Osterfeld, Yong Chi (Yo) Rhie, Gwendolyn F. Rodriguez
Ordained Elders: Patrick Hurder Buhrman (Sponsors: Rev. Stephen Robison, Rev. Frankie Revell), Narae Kim (Sponsors: Rev. Roderick J. Miller, Rev. HiRho Y. Park), David Guy Norton (Sponsors: Rev. Dr. Malcolm Stranathan, Rev. Gary Sheffield-James), Michael Anthony Parker, II (Sponsors: Rev. Twanda King, Rev. Ronald E.F. Triplett), Robert Charles Ruggieri (Sponsors: Rev. Mike Cantley, Rev. Randy Reid), Melaina Nicole Trice (Sponsors: Rev. David Tatgenhorst, Rev. Emily Berkowitz), Sam Tryon (Sponsors: Rev. Terri Cofiell, Rev. Sarah Schlieckert)