The sweet sounds of “For the Beauty of Earth” kicked off this year’s Lay Servant Graduation on June 1 when nearly 200 lay servants from nine different districts graduated at the Mission and Resource Center in Neptune amid a friendly crowd of laity board members, lay servant directors and district leaders.
Delaware Bay District Director Creed Pogue led the call to worship, drawing attention to the power of one drop of water in creating a ripple effect throughout our congregations.
“When dropped in a pool, the ripples move out into infinity,” said Pogue.
Following welcome addresses by GNJ Lay Leader Rosa Williams and GNJ Director of Lay Servant Ministries George Lagos and a scripture reading from the Book of Acts by Raritan Valley District Director Alice Bennett, Rev. Juel Nelson, who is Director of Leadership Development, shared a recent story of hope and compassion much like the one of Philip and an Ethiopian official in the Acts passage.
Nelson stressed the importance of caring, communicating and leading and how powerful a small gesture can be in redirecting someone’s path. These three traits are leadership qualities that all lay servants are called to live out both in their church and their daily lives.
Addressing the new graduates, she said, “As a lay servant you are agreeing to be led by the Holy Spirit. You are equipped to serve the church but also to BE the church for the people who you come across on a daily basis.”
Now with the new message in hand, she urged the new graduates “to draw close to another with a caring heart, and with words and action welcome each other into the body of Christ.”
Williams went on to congratulate both the Basic Lay Servants and Certified Lay Services, recognizing their dedication in answering a call to serve the Church and complete the requirements of The Book of Discipline.
Addressing the graduates, Williams said, “A lay servant is a member of a local church who is ready and desirous to serve the Church; who is well informed on the Scriptures and on the doctrine, heritage, organization and life of The United Methodist Church; and who has received specific training to develop skills in witnessing to the Christian faith through spoken communication, church and community leadership, and caregiving ministries.”
Following communion and a lively rendition of “God is on the Move,” Palisades District Director Daniel Jimenez closed out the uplifting day with a benediction urging the audience to “go out in the world and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love others as you love yourself.”
Basic and Advanced Lay Servant classes for this fall begin in October. For details, please visit the Laity Leadership pages of GNJ’s website: www.gnjumc.org.