Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky blesses attendees with water at the Installation Worship Service at the joint Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Session. Photo by the Rev. Dj del Rosario.
Installation Service of Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky emphasizes life and abundance.
By Scott Klepach, Jr. | Photos by the Rev. Dj del Rosario
[Portland, Ore.] There was singing. There was dancing. There were stories. There was life.
These elements highlighted the installation service and opening plenary of the shared Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences in Portland, Ore. on June 14, 2017. The opening ceremony featured worship and the installation of Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky, who was assigned by the Western Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy to the Greater Northwest Area last year. Bishop Elaine was elected bishop in 2008.
The service, which began with a Native American ceremony that featured drumming and a special blessing and concluded with a reaffirmation of baptism, emphasized love and life.
Based on Luke 10:26-28, the theme for Bishop Elaine’s address – and the entire conference – is “Do This and Live!” Throughout her address, Bishop Elaine employed the “What If” motif to help those gathered to dream together of how the Church and the 450 United Methodist congregations of the the Greater Northwest Area (Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences) can be refreshed and live abundantly.
“What if Jesus needed United Methodist Christians in the Greater Northwest to do something fresh and wonderful?” said Bishop Elaine. “What would Jesus do with us?”
She invited the Greater Northwest Area, which also includes the Alaska Conference which held it’s Annual Conference June 2-3, to “dwell in the text” of Luke 10:26-28 for the next four years to discover and live into these elements. In that scripture, she noted that Jesus stresses that the spirit leads people to life and relationships.
Bishop Elaine stated that Jesus was not as concerned in this passage with life in heaven, but rather “about the life that comes when you’re in relationship with God, God’s children, and self. It’s about a way, not a destination.”
Drawing on Simon Sinek’s TED Talk and bestselling book, Start With Why, Bishop Elaine focused on the Why, What, and How of the Church. The “Why” of faith, Jesus, and the Church is life; the “How” we shall cultivate life is love; and the “What” we shall do to love to life is reflected in the story of the Good Samaritan, and reaching our neighbor in any way.
Bishop Elaine also expanded upon the theme referencing the image of the logo for this year’s conference, which features a wheel with God at the center. In this metaphor from Dorotheus of Gaza, as we travel along the spokes of the wheel trying to reach that center, we also edge closer to those on other spokes, who are our neighbors. Ultimately, she argued, we cannot get closer to God if we do not become closer in relationship to our neighbors.
With each generation the church has done the best it could, she continued, but as the world has changed and continues to move in new directions, the Church has failed to match that pace of change. But this should not be the end of the church’s story, she contended. “We declined because we kept doing what we knew how to do,” she said. “We lived that cycle. Now it’s a new season. We can take the treasures from the past with new possibilities of the future,” all the while being open to God’s miracles still at work today and tomorrow, even in a time when more people are identifying as “nones” or “dones,” as in identifying with no religion or being done with church altogether.
She added, “We are not ‘none.’ We are not ‘done’ with God, and God is not done with us.”
Scott Klepach, Jr. serves as a student local pastor at Yakima: Wesley UMC as well as the convener for the Communications Commission of the PNWUMC. The Rev. Dj del Rosario serves as the pastor of Bothell UMC.