Methodist ministers have entered into the spring ritual known as the appointment season. If you are not up on Methodist polity we ministers are one year free agents. We are appointed for one year at a time. Each year in the spring, the preacher, the church and the Bishop and her cabinet participate in the consultation process. Among Methodist churches in Louisiana, First Church in Natchitoches is one of those places ministers want to go. The church is known as a “bird’s nest on the ground.” It is an easy church to pastor as long as one stays ahead of the tar and feather committees. The two committees have formed, but they don’t know about each other. As long as they don’t find out about each other, there is a certain level of security. The quality of this church is the reason that ministers tend to stay here longer than in other Methodist congregations. I will begin my seventh year here in July!
In the spring of the year when there is no football, Methodist preachers speculate on where other ministers might be moving. There are retirements, preachers desiring “smaller” appointments and preachers and churches who have decided to go different ways. I track moving rumors like I track NFL mock draft lists. The sports pundits and the Methodist minister moving mafia have a successful prognostication rate of 9%.
Last week my phone went crazy. Longtime friends calling and asking, “Are you really retiring?”
I am not old enough to retire. There is too much work left to be done here. I am enjoying this church as much as I have any church I have ever pastored. We have our Natchitoches rhythm figured out and this is a great place to be!
“I am not retiring,” was my mantra for all of the preacher conversations last week. I hate being the victim or the object of gossip.
I know the origin of the rumor and the genesis of the gossip.
My bride is one of the Vice Presidents at a bank in Gibsland. They have branches spread across the northern kingdom. The northern kingdom is any location on I-20. She asked me to attend a bank sponsored retirement seminar hosted at their branch in Shreveport. I was there to learn from the presentation, check out the new bank building and evaluate the presenter. If preachers know anything, we can evaluate the heck out of a speech. I innocently sat listening to the presentation as my wife did visiting Vice Presidential things with the other bankers.
I was seen at the retirement seminar by a Methodist couple from Shreveport. We Methodists have a secret nod we give to each other in public. (Yes I know the Methodist in the liquor store joke!) There is nothing more innocent than being at a retirement seminar at a bank where your wife’s name is on the letterhead. Six weeks later (last September) my District Superintendent called and asked, “Are you retiring?” Have I mentioned that I am NOT retiring? I emphasized that I was not retiring until 2026, Lord willing and there is not a Methodist uprising. I told him the retirement seminar story.
We laughed and the matter was closed.
I discovered last week that rumors and gossip have a life of their own; the late summer rumor was reborn. The rumor was spreading among Monroe area ministers. I know how it got there. It went from a particular preacher’s wife to a friend of mine in Monroe. Before he fact checked it, he shared it with a couple of his close friends. Phone calls and text messages of congratulations on my retirement were at first met with laugher and then a great deal of consternation.
I have observed Methodist ministers driving past the parsonage to check out where they could be living, when I retired. I found out once that a certain minister was following me in Arcadia. When I called the District Superintendent to tell him, he asked, “That is not public knowledge, how did you find out?” I told him, “He was parked in front of the parsonage taking pictures.” If I see any more Methodist preachers prematurely checking out the facilities of the church, I’m going to print a yard sign, “I am not retiring.”
If you are a gossip, check your facts first. Then keep your mouth shut. If you are a victim of gossip I am praying for you. I am sorry. Some people just don’t have lives so they enjoy yours, whether the gossip is true or not.
People gossiped about Jesus. They said he was a glutton and a drunk. He was neither. If stories are going around about you, you are in good company. Think of it like this, you are doing your friends a favor and keeping the gossips off of them. Hold your head up, this too shall pass.
I am not retiring!