This morning was the commissioning worship service for provisional membership as an elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. For the past few days people have been asking if I was excited and ready. I wasn’t really sure what I was feeling, the main reason because the anxiety and peaceful release of that anxiety happened earlier in the Spring upon being recommended for provisional membership by the conference board of ordained ministry. I guess I though it was over. But then, the true emotion began to set in last night during rehearsal. Yes, even us pastor’s rehearse parts of the worship service so that the transitions go smoothly and we know where are to stand and when to stand there. I did not sleep well last night, mainly because I did not want to oversleep and miss this awesome worship experience.
I woke up at 6:30am, did my usual morning routine, and headed out the door. Together with my brothers and sisters, we robed and began the procession into Stuart Auditorium. I celebrated with those that were licensed as local pastors, and remembered doing the same last year. Following the sermon, the emotion set in. The butterflies in my stomach began to swarm, and thoughts swirled in my head: “don’t trip, it so hot in this robe, my phone is on silent, take one step at a time, don’t lean to much on the altar rail it will fall over.” We processed on to the stage, and I kneeled. Then, at that moment, the thoughts were gone, the butterflies stopped swarming, and peace enveloped my being. I rejoiced hearing the names of my friends, and seeing the hands of the Bishop hug their shoulders. The Bishop then stood in front of me, and with my head bowed and my eyes closed, I felt his humble embrace and grace filled words:
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon Juston Ray Smith. Send him now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to announce the reign of God, and to equip the church for ministry, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A cross was placed around my neck, and we processed back to our seats. I cannot fully explain to you the feeling of peace, excitement, and grace in that moment. But I can say that I feel now, more than ever, the peace, excitement, and grace to proclaim the Gospel and the equip the church for ministry.
There are so many people that have been influential in my life, that have guided me to this point, and are continuing to guide me through the many years of ministry ahead. Thanks to my entire family, my Hood Seminary family, my Covenant UMC family, my many friends and colleagues, and The Belwood Charge for supporting and encouraging their pastor. You all are a blessing, let us all continue to be in prayer, in worship, in dialogue, and in ministry with one another for the transformation of this world.
One of my favorite hymns says my feelings best:
O God beyond all praising, we worship you today
and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder at every gift you send,
at blessings without number and mercies without end:
We lift our hearts before you and wait upon your Word,
we honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord.
(“O God Beyond All Praising,” The Faith We Sing #2009)
- O God beyond All Praising Hal H. Hopson, “O God Beyond All Praising” (music video), posted on March 25, 2013, accessed June 19, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQhTvmaWYWk.
Thanks Be To God,
 Western North Carolina Annual Conference, “Commissioning Service,” Until the Whole World Hears, June 17-21, 2015, 10.