As we go to press, I am preparing to travel to Dallas to officiate at the wedding of my youngest son, James. He and his fiancée Laura Helmke planned to be married at Walnut Hill United Methodist Church on Saturday, July 7 making it one of those 070707 occasions. Since this is the first marriage of one of my three sons, the occasion also becomes a turning point of his mother's and my lives as we let go.
Since the announcement of their engagement, my mind has been playing back a lifetime of images about James from his birth, through school and into adulthood. He has been on his own for a couple of years, so those initial ties of adulthood already have been cut, but bringing a new bride into the extended family changes the dynamics of relationships. For the first time in my life, I will be a father-in-law with a new daughter-in-law.
For marriage to take place, I feel old ties need to be cut to initiate new ties and the blessing of a new home. In a ceremony of marriage on the evening of July 7 beginning at 7 o'clock, James and Laura will become husband and wife - the birth of a new family.
However, my mind has a difficult time of letting go, while my spirit jumps for joy in the celebration of something new, dynamic and filled with hope and aspiration. But for their sake and my sake, letting them go, cutting ties, becomes necessary. For all practical purposes, they are on their own even though they have the support and care of family, friends and the Walnut Hill UMC community of faith in Dallas. The wedding ceremony celebrates their new life together and commissions them in the founding of their new home.
Commissionings are part of Christian life begun by the church from its beginning. In Acts 13, the church at Antioch commissions Barnabas and Saul to begin new congregations spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As they were commissioned, they had to let go, cut ties, of their dependence on the achievement of others. Had they not cut those ties and journeyed out on their own, the church would have never become the universal community of faith it has become since its humble beginning 2,000 years ago. The symbol of that letting go was the laying on of hands, a ritual we still practice in the church today in baptism, in confirmation, in ordination and even in weddings. As we let go, we also bless the beginning of something new.
This month hundreds of clergy families in Indiana had to say good-bye and let go of one congregation as they now embrace another congregation new to them. Hopefully, as pastors are welcomed in their new congregations, representatives of the laity will lay hands upon their new pastor and his or her family as a sign of their acceptance into a new community of faith, just as I lay hands on my son and daughter-in-law during their wedding to let them know they have been let go of one immediate family to form their own immediate family with their own traditions, their own successes, their own failures and their own striving to live out God's reign in a new home.
This year hundreds of United Methodist clergy and laity across the North and South Indiana Conferences also will begin to cut ties from the past two conferences that have given life to Hoosier congregations for 40 years in order to create a new conference which hopefully will provide new vitality to one Indiana Conference for decades to come. But without the cutting of ties, new relationships, new orders, new forms of administration and oversight cannot exist.
In this issue of Together, there are many passages of life and death which were celebrated in May and June. Hands were laid on, mantles were exchanged and a new church charter was given and received. These are the rhymes of life among Christians which we note and commemorate. As you read these pages, take time to pray for those listed in these pages as they cut old ties to form new bonds of fellowship all in the faith, hope and love given to us by God in Jesus Christ.
- Daniel R. Gangler