By Sara Richardson
The words of Newsboys’ song “We Believe” rang out as the conference praise band welcomed families and friends to the June 11 commissioning service at the 2016 Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference session - “in this broken generation, when all is dark you help us see."
After the 22 provisional candidates, the largest in at least 12 years, processed in with Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, Lay Leader Sharon Gregory and other worship participants, the Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk, Conference Missions Coordinator, invited all to participate in an offering to benefit conference regional mission agencies.
"[There are] pockets of poverty in [our] own backyard," Gottschalk said.
Rev. David Janz offered a prayer of confession of racism against native Americans.
“We pray that one day an arrow will be broken, not in something or someone, but by people, as an indication of peace,” Janz prayed.
Rev. Tracy Cox offered a message titled “Lost in Distraction,” encouraging the provisional members to remember their call in the midst of chaos.
"This Christ following is still a movement, and you are a part of that,” Cox said. "You are called to care for one another... You will offer hope to a crushed world."
Cox described a chaotic wedding at which she had officiated. "I was so upset because everything was everywhere,” Cox said.
She spoke of the chaos of weddings, worship and baptism as examples of distractions from God’s call.
"Even though you might feel lost, drifting on a raft with no anchor to hold you, you are not lost... You are called,” Cox said. “You are called to help God's people anchor their souls."
Cox closed the message with a blessing: "God’s best is yet to come."
Bishop Bickerton and the Board of Ordained Ministry commissioned the four new provisional deacons and 18 provisional elders, and closed with a personal benediction to them: “You are part of an annual conference that needs you.”