By Jessica Connor
FLORENCE – Praising the glorious power of the Holy Spirit that came as a great wind during the first Day of Pentecost, Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor led an ordination service that commissioned and ordained 31 people as provisional or full deacons and elders in the United Methodist Church.
“None of us can think anything, say anything or do anything for the sake of God’s kingdom unless we open ourselves up to God’s spirit,” she implored the ordinands.
It’s the spirit that comes and gives us voice, Taylor said – that is God’s spirit that moves within us and helps us to see the needs around us.
“And we cannot keep silent about it,” she said.
Conference Lay Leader Dr. Joe Heyward, on behalf of the laity of the local congregations; the Rev. Kenneth Nelson, on behalf of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry; and the Rev. Ruth Arant, of the Order of Deacons, presented the 31 before the body of Annual Conference.
“Do you trust that they are worthy, by God’s Grace, to be commissioned or ordained?” Bishop Taylor asked the conference.
“We do! Thanks be to God,” the masses replied.
Preaching from Acts 2:1-21, when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, Bishop Taylor spoke about the strong wind that pushes us to surrender to God’s spirit. Taylor reminded United Methodists to recognize that wind, to be alert to God’s showing up.
“Your life’s work will never mean anything if you don’t expect God to show up,” Taylor preached. “That’s what it means to be Pentecostal – bring it on!”
Recalling the day 35 years ago when she was ordained an elder in the UMC, and how much it meant to her family and friends then, Taylor welled up with tears as she told the packed arena how today, her own daughter (Mandy Taylor Young) was being ordained an elder.
“I can’t think of a better day to be ordained, can you?” Taylor asked the crowd to loud applause.
She said that during that first Day of Pentecost, 50 days after the first Easter, some people thought those filled with the spirit were drunk. After all, they were speaking in a number of different languages as the spirit prompted them.
But that is the power of the spirit, Taylor reminded us – God can do anything and He can come upon us at any moment.
“Using the words of John Wesley – every good thought, word and work is altogether by the operation of the spirit of God,” Taylor said.
She said Wesley observed a difference between those who understood their need for God and those who were self-satisfied and didn’t think they needed God at all.
Turning to the ordinands, she called on them to always remember just how desperately we all need our God.
Taylor said that she has been feeling the nudging of the spirit lately to learn Spanish so she can communicate in another language the passion she feels for Christ. She has gotten the Rosetta Stone language learning software and even an application for her iPhone that lets her practice the language wherever she is.
“I’m going to learn how to tell the undying love of God in Spanish because I know that God wants to speak our language, and I know God wants us to be able to speak His language, and I know that in learning Spanish, it will be possible to enlarge our ability to share … the love of Jesus Christ,” Taylor said to wild applause.
She urged all to pitch their tents in the land of hope, to know with absolutely certainty that God will always prevail.
“God is hearing you say, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” Taylor said in closing, smiling at the ordinands. “May the spirit come down on us this day and set our spirit free.”
Hymns such as “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty,” “Make Me a Servant,” “In Christ Alone” and the traditional Zimbabwean, “If You Believe and I Believe,” peppered the service, uplifting the crowd. The Psalm selected was 119:41-48, the Gospel lesson came from John 14:15-17, 25-31 and the epistle lesson came from 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13.
In a moving and symbolic moment, the bishop and other clergy leaders laid hands on the ordinands, blessing their journey and this new chapter in their lives.
The following was commissioned a provisional deacon: Katherine Amanda Brook.
The following were commissioned as provisional elders: Walter Joseph Cantwell, Jason Daniel Everson, Fadetra Deonka Harrington, Judith Ann Knox, David Dean McManus Jr., Kurt Anthony McPherson, Richard Hancock Reams, Davie Demetrius Sanders Jr., Steven Paul Simoneaux Jr., Scott Walter Smoak and Ryan Greasor Spurrier.
The following were ordained as deacons: Shelly Anne Holder, Karen Hanyea Lail Jones, Karen Trogdon Kluever and Mary Kay Wood.
The following were ordained as elders: Debra Anne Armstrong, Shawn Galloway Armstrong, William Thomas Dargan, Ann Dease Everett, Daniel Flessas, Pattie Elaine Gordon, Joshua Timothy McClendon, Adriane Maria McGee, Nanada Nichole Middleton, Dwight Arnold Nelson, Annie Hair Sistrunk, Jonathan Edward Tompkins, John Henry Vickers III, Richard Wilson Waldrep and Amanda Taylor Young.
The Mass Choir of the Pee Dee provided special music, with combined choirs from 12 area UMCs.
Local pastors also licensed
Also, before a packed Florence Civic Center on Thursday during Annual Conference, 23 local pastors were licensed in service to the S.C. Conference.
The local pastors were authorized by Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor to preach and teach the word of God and to faithfully administer the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion within a congregation.
“I do” and “I will,” the candidates responded when asked by the bishop whether they believe they are moved by the Holy Spirit to serve as a licensed pastor, and whether they will strive to live a life in keeping with what they preach.
Conference Lay Leader Dr. Joe Heyward, on behalf of the laity of the local congregations; the Rev. Kenneth Nelson, on behalf of the of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry; and the Rev. John Cribb, chair of the Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members, licensed these persons as local pastors: Anthony Alford, Lorenza A. Bell II, Laura L. Bessent-Price, Don Clifford Boshell, Ollie Mae Boyd, Kenneth Campbell Burr Sr., Taylor Freeman Coates, Andrea M. Davis, Kimberly Norbeck Evans, Mallory Jean Forte, Shirley P. Gordon, Cheryl Giles Johnson, James W. Lewis Sr., Sharon L. Long, Andrew Charles Martin, Angela Regina Ford Nelson, Tony Bernard Richardson Sr., Thomas Raymond Smith, Amie Pridgeon Shaver, Brenda Joyce Thomas, Sheri Yvette White, Paul David Wilmer and William McClary Wrighten.