From the District Superintendent


Posted 12 September, 2018 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

"Write down three things you are thankful for this day"; that was the directive in worship. Rapid-fire the three things came to mind, clear, concise:

  • Family 
  • my call and vocation
  • the opportunity to serve as a leader in this challenging season

As I held the purple post-it note that contained those 17 words, I realized I was holding the fruit of my recent renewal leave.

I am grateful beyond words for the gifts of family: breakfast and dinner together with Harold for 6 full weeks, the smiles and tears of sorting through boxes of family memorabilia, photos, letters (eighty years later hearing my mother's 17 year old confident, articulate, even cheeky, voice in letters to father, and the records of his challenging job searches even as the Great Depression waned), and rejoicing with my sister as she described finding a church home as she settled into her new community ("It felt like they were waiting for me to arrive," is what she said after attending her first worship service there, receiving personal invitations to join the choir, and the warm welcome to the women's small group).

My own sense of call and vocation was renewed through reading, and rest, and space to see anew. We spent one week in Knoxville as we celebrated our son's completion of his Master's degree at UT. I was especially delighted to finally take in the 3600 vista from atop the Sun Sphere.  It was a magnificent view that I had hoped to see (but didn't) 36 years ago when it was erected for the 1982 World's Fair and I was a Duke Divinity School student.  Perspective makes a difference whether along a city street, atop a high tower, or across a bridge. Though I, the church, even it seems, the whole world have certainly changed in those intervening years, that "high" view (along with Skyline Drive vistas) rekindled an expansive view of God's call and claim on me.

This is undoubtedly a challenging season with the 2019 Called General Conference in February, harsh rhetoric and posturing in politics and on social media, fear and distrust rampant in all aspects of society. One of our home projects this year is replacing the "falling down" fence at the back of our property. New survey markers show the exact property boundary in a way the old farm fence did not, as it meandered left and right of the actual line. On my best days I hope that General Conference will result in a clearer understanding of who we are as the United Methodist Church when we are focused together on sharing in Jesus' ministry in this broken world. I continue to pray for the gifts, will, and courage to be an effective servant leader today and tomorrow.

In faith and hope,



In August, while on Renewal Leave, I:

  •         Rested and read (completing 8 satisfying novels and 3 related to church leadership) and read/re-read portions of 9 others on discipleship, vocation, leadership, and the church
  •         Took in the view from the porch of grazing dear, racing squirrels, bathing birds, and even a strolling bear
  •     Enjoyed good meals with family and friends at home in our kitchen, along the Tennessee River, and atop the Skyline Drive
  •            Dreamed, discerned and prayed