By Erik Alsgaard
On Oct. 27, 2021 – 250 years to the day -- the Baltimore-Washington Conference celebrated the ordination and commissioning of Elders and Deacons during its 237th Annual Session. And while there were not 700 ordinands for Bishop LaTrelle Easterling to ordain, this class was significant in many ways.
Twin brothers were commissioned: Jacob Creed Cogman and James Isaac Cogman. Their mother is the Rev. Johnsie Cogman, superintendent of the Washington East District.
The Rev. Emily Smiley Hart was ordained, becoming the sixth generation of Methodist clergy in that family.
And the entire class, by standing for ordination and commissioning, demonstrated perseverance, determination, and strength in saying “yes” to God, according to Bishop Easterling.
As she welcomed the preacher for the worship service, Bishop Easterling called Bishop Marianne Budde a selfless, deeply spiritual servant of God. “Listen to her bring forth the word of God,” she said.
The Right Rev. Marianne Edgar Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, serves as the spiritual leader for 88 Episcopal congregations and 10 Episcopal schools in the District of Columbia and four Maryland counties. The first woman elected to this position – like Bishop Easterling’s assignment to the Baltimore-Washington Conference – she also serves as the chair and president of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which oversees the ministries of the Washington National Cathedral and Cathedral schools.
Bishop Budde has deep Methodist roots. She was baptized in the Methodist Church, she said, and served as a US-2 in Arizona. She preached her first sermon in a Methodist Church.
For her ordination and commissioning sermon, delivered at Mt. Zion UMC in Highland, Bishop Budde said she was trying to capture the essence of ministry, for ordained or laypeople. And for that, she turned to baseball.
In baseball, she said, players take turns coming up to bat. They stand at home plate and swing at the pitches, hoping to get a hit. Baseball, she said, is a team sport, but the whole team doesn’t come up to bat all at once.
Ministry is much like that, she said. “There are times, in ministry, when it’s all up to you. There are times when you are called upon to act.”
There are three ways, Bishop Budde said, for people to step up to the plate in ministry in general, and in life. The first is with clarity and confidence.
Using Spanish idiomatic expressions, “Take the bull by the horns,” and “put a bell on a cat,” the bishop said there are times when, brimming with confidence, we dare to do what others dare not. “That’s what it means to put a bell on a cat,” she said.
“That kind of clarity is relatively rare,” she added. “It’s those wonderful moments when we feel ready and well-equipped. It is those moments when we feel we ‘must’ do this.”
The second way we step up to the plate is the most common, she said, and those are the times when “we feel anything but ready, but we’re called upon, anyway.”
The biblical examples for this are many, Bishop Budde said.
“Moses stuttered; Jeremiah was only a boy; Isaiah responded to the call with a sense of shame; but God said, ‘Yeah, I know… but step up anyway’,” she preached. Jesus’ disciples – most notably Peter – are also examples of these times, she said.
“Most of us will feel unworthy,” Bishop Budde said. “But remember the loaves and the fish,” how God took an insufficient offering and fed a multitude. “Offer what you have; God can work miracles.”
And then, there are those times when ready or not, we step up to the plate and swing and miss.
“Sometimes, as a result of our incompetence and unpreparedness … we swing and miss … and God doesn’t fill in the gaps. That hurts,” Budde said. “When we accept failure… when we persevere and learn from our failure, we get stronger, … and next time, we’re better prepared. You step up and swing and you miss and you miss and you miss until, one sweet day, you connect.”
And the third way to step up to the plate, she said, is when God simply puts you there.
Bishop Budde shared a personal example of when she was placed by God at home plate and the pitch was coming towards her, fast. It was during the previous presidency when she suddenly found herself speaking out against the president’s actions at one of her churches, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., right across from the White House.
“I didn’t know I was at the plate, and the ball was coming across the plate at 100 miles an hour, and I swung. I didn’t have time to think,” she said. “I’ve done that a million times before in other settings … and no one was listening.”
That time, she swung and was surrounded by microphones for four days.
“But the response is irrelevant. What matters is that we step up,” the bishop said.
“It was my turn at-bat,” she said. “I had to embrace that moment without losing sight of that larger struggle” of racial justice. “It was about the moment, not about me. It was a bit like riding a wave … and it was all-consuming for about six months, and then it was over.”
And, she confessed, if she had thought any more about that one moment in her ministry, she said she could get “really confused” about the nature of ministry and go chasing after those, times and again. “The seduction of chasing after those moments in this part of the country” is powerful, she said.
Budde thanked all the candidates at the ordination and commissioning and reminded them that they, too, were stepping up to the plate, She encouraged one and all to be brave.
“We don’t have to be perfect,” she said. “You are called to this ministry. Take the bull by the horns. Put the bell on that cat.”
ORDAINED AS DEACON
Jennifer Brown Kokoski
ORDAINED AS ELDERS
Scott Howard Bostic
Christopher John Dembeck
Kathryn Mackereth Fulton
James Nicholas Gosnell
Mark Allen Groover
Emily Smiley Hart
David Michael Jacobson
Enger Allen Muteteke
Heather Jean Olson
Linda Susan Yarrow
COMMISSIONED AS PROVISIONAL MEMBERS PREPARING TO BE ELDERS
Brian Andrew Berger
Jacob Creed Cogman
James Isaac Cogman
Laura Kigweba James
Chet Mitchell Jechura
Rachel B. Livingston
John Clark Mayden, Jr.
Shemaiah T. Strickland
Alexandra Lucille Thomas
Rebecca Kaye Wessinger
Terri Krishawn Williams
Daniel Cameron Wood, Jr.
PREPARING FOR ORDAINED MINISTRY AS A DEACON
Roberta Sonsaray White