GNJUMC Annual Conference 2023

The Charge

July 28, 2023 | | GNJ News, Annual Conference Coverage

The Rev. Shawn Callender Hogan, an elder who retired at the 2023 GNJ Annual Conference, delivered this message at the end of the Passing of the Mantle liturgy during the Annual Conference session.

I was raised in a household that had an odd respect for paradox and ambiguity. It is a curious way to grow up—surrounded by endless possibilities and open-ended conversations—both external and internal.

Over the years there was a standing invitation to discover the power of life’s less–than–absolute terrain. Such an upbringing likely contributed to my deep love for questions: particularly the ones without answers.

I bet you know those questions.  The ones that, instead of leaving us contented with a nice clean answer, leave us disquieted by how messy life can be, and how wide open our hearts have to be just to hold those questions.

So as we all engage in ministry and in life, join me in giving space to that which we cannot pin down and will never fully understand.

And as the unanswerable questions swirl all around us, let’s make peace with the uncertainty that accompanies them, for uncertainty is a portal to mystery.

Now admittedly, taking the peculiar path of asking questions rather than having all the answers, runs counter to what our world will understand and value.  Our world is a driven place. It asks that we strive and hurry and push, and in the process settle for surface-level answers that masquerade as meaning.

What if, instead of echoing that pace and its mandates, what if we choose to wander, to wonder, to linger with those things that, rather than granting us the security of certitude, stir our curiosity and invoke our awe?

And we are never alone in this.  God gives us companions for this way of being. Consider:

Who are the people in your life who are truly comfortable with silence and stillness?

Who are the ones you know who laugh deeply and notice beauty, and invite you to do the same?

Who in your life reminds you that failure is not an enemy and real strength lies in tenderness?

Let’s nurture those relationships, for through them, God is reminding us that there are truths deeper than certainty.

As one of those very people in my life has said “the path we tread as we follow the Lord is not a path to certainty and an abundance of answers, but rather a path to questions, to wonder, to un-knowing, and to the discovery that in our lack of certainty we will find something far more life-giving: we will find love.”