Hope: A New Appointment in Unprecedented Times


Photo: Rev. Mark Jordan leads worship on Facebook Live. 

By Sybil Davidson

As some North Georgia Conference clergy prepare to begin new appointments July 1, they are asking, "how in the world do I make this transition well?" There is no guidebook for a pastoral move during a pandemic. 

Rev. Mark Jordan knows the feeling well. He began a new appointment as pastor of Hope UMC in Dallas, Georgia on April 1, the height of stay-at-home orders. Despite the challenging circumstances he shares a message of hope for others moving during this season. 

"All things considered, it has gone really well," said Mark. He has several pieces of advice for clergy in his position. 

#1 Be flexible. In all things, be flexible. 
Mark's pastoral transition required a physical move. He and his wife Tiffany closed on the sale of their current home and the purchase of their new home last Friday. The process was different than what they've experienced in the past, so they had to be flexible. In the end, they were pleasantly surprised. 

"From a technical standpoint, both buying and selling were a smooth process," he said. "House hunting was difficult at times, but real estate professionals have been so eager to help." 

#2 Leverage technology
We're all doing ministry virtually, he said, so leverage it. 

Mark has begun to build relationships through conference calls, Zoom meetings, emails, texting, and Facebook. 

"Prepare yourself to innovate with people you don't know and who don't yet know and trust you," he said. "It's a challenge, but worth it."

Church council chair Pam Wilson agrees. 

"We have had many Zoom meetings and conference calls," Pam shared. "That has allowed us to get to know Pastor Mark as well as him us. We are a very diversified group so I think it has helped Mark see who the people of Hope are."

It was important to the church council that Mark and his family be seen as real people, not just a 2D image. They decided to launch a series called "Zoom in the Living Room." The church leadership team are taking turns hosting the pastor and groups of church members for 30-minute chats. 

Last week he had a "Zoom in the Living Room" with the children's ministry. He answered questions about pets, superheroes, and favorite foods! 

He has also turned to technology to connect with the staff, who have been enthusiastic and welcoming. 

Working together in an unprecedented season of ministry perhaps helped deepen relationships already.
#3 Honor the Importance of Worship
Despite the current unusual circumstances, Mark developed a sermon series on worship. Each week he's sharing about the blessings and beauty of worship and why we worship. When he's able to worship in-person with the congregation, he thinks this foundation will benefit him and the church. 

He held an online communion service from his living room recently. He was worried that the dog barking and the unusual circumstances might take away from the holy moment, but instead, it was powerful to Mark, Tiffany, and the congregation. "The only feedback I've gotten is positive," he shared. 

Lastly, Mark shares gratitude for the Hope UMC congregation and church leadership. "The congregation has been so very gracious," said Mark. "The staff and leadership team have been faithful."

"Everyone knows that there are unprecedented times," he said. "The best transition tool we have is hope." (And for Mark and the congregation at Hope UMC that has a double meaning!) 

Note about pastoral appointment changes in 2020: Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and the Conference Cabinet paused the appointment-making process in March. They began to ask themselves if there were appointments they were considering that could wait until 2021. Then, out of the 2020 appointments, they asked which could be delayed until September 1. In some cases, where a pastor was retiring or the appointment didn't require a physical move, the cabinet kept a July 1 move date.