From the District Superintendent

Itineration Season

Posted 19 June, 2017 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

It felt as if my whole life in ministry stood there before me; women who had been part of my previous appointments were all gathered there at Ferrum College for the United Methodist Women's Day. They had walked with me as I celebrated the birth of our son and as I grieved my mother's death; they had challenged me to lead their church into new outreach, new staffing, into the community. I had been there with them at a husband's death, a child's marriage, in weekly Disciple Bible study, and as the church engaged its community in new ways. I recall fruitfulness and failure, high commitment and low energy, bold dreams and small steps, being "right" and recognizing I was "wrong."

I have the same sort of feeling each year at Annual Conference when during brief moments of "Hello! How are you?" I am once again in deep connection with those who mentored me and whom I have mentored, those who showed me how to be a leader, and those who graciously received my leadership, those who lifted me in prayer and those for whom I prayed, those who welcomed me in ministry and those to whom I said "farewell" as they journeyed to new places.

All of this is highlighted for me each summer in the itinerating season of ministry.  Across the United Methodist connection some congregations and clergy say "goodbye" to one another (in sorrow or relief) and some congregations and clergy say "welcome" (in hope or in anxiety). Still other congregations and clergy begin another year together (already knowing each other's upcoming plans and shared history, strengths and weaknesses, abilities and needs).  

I know that in some appointments, because of my experience, affinity, gifts, even willingness, I was well-equipped to serve. Other appointments have challenged me daily to grow in skill, ability, vision, and boldness.   So in any setting, no matter how settled we seem - whether comfortable or on edge - in a moment the Holy Spirit can stir, newcomers will arrive in our congregation or our community, and because of their presence, their gifts, their vision, or their need, we will be moved to new dreams, new vision, new outreach, new mission, and new action. Or it might be in the departure of someone, to glory or another community, whose absence reveals a redirected focus, emerging leadership, or renewed hope.

Ann Freeman Price's poem, Centering, from Alive Now speaks to us during this itinerating season:   

  stay with me God

for things are turning

and I need company

on this road

a shift is here

I didn't see it coming

my world is moving

and the self I had

a short time ago is


steady me God

your presence

like an anchor

helps me hold fast

                                   to you