DS For A Day

The position of District Superintendent (usually called “DS” by insiders) within the United Methodist Church is something to which I have never aspired and for which I am ill-qualified.

And yet on Tuesday night that’s exactly what I was.

Here’s how and here’s why:  Superintendents in our denomination have for years led approximately 65 pastors and churches at a time.   In Western North Carolina, for example, we had 15 DSs giving supervision to about 1100 churches.

Well, as Don Henley said, “those days are gone forever; we should just let ’em go.”

Because of budget constraints and the lingering recession, our Conference can no longer afford to pay 15 superintendents to lead churches and manage pastors.  So starting this past July, what had been 15 districts was reduced to eight.

Fewer districts means fewer DSs . . .  means budgetary savings  . . . means each DS now superintends many more churches.

And what was the Charlotte District made up of 52 churches in Mecklenburg County became the Metro District with 133 churches in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Union, and Iredell Counties.

What had been a challenging job task now becomes a near impossible one. I say that because each DS is expected to visit each church in his or her district every year and conduct its annual business meeting, labeled a Charge Conference in Methodist parlance.  No single individual can do that 133 times in one year.

So instead of doing all the work himself, our DS invited a number of pastors who have been ordained as elders to play the role of Superintendent at the charge conferences of churches who are served by pastors not yet ordained.

Are you keeping all the Methodist systems and lingo straight yet?

All that to say that I “superintended” the annual Charge Conference for Zoar United Methodist Church, located about two miles from my house and six miles from Good Shepherd.

It’s actually a full circle story — back in the early 1990s, a group of Zoar faithful volunteered to serve as the pioneers for this newfangled kind of Methodist church starting up in Steele Creek.  That new church is now called Good Shepherd.

So we started by singing “Blessed Assurance” and I let them know that although the hymn writer Fanny Crosby wasn’t Methodist she should have been because “Assurance” is a core doctrine of our church.

Following that word and a brief devotion from I John 5:13, the church approved its slate of officers, authorized its pastor’s salary, and agreed to its Methodist apportionment.  I signed the relevant papers and that was that.  All by the book and all very Methodist.

And then the best news of all: after that brief foray into the world of management and administration, I get to  re-enter the much more comfortable realm of pastoral ministry on Wednesday.