I am learning everyday what makes Belle Meade a strong church.  I am watching so many of you giving excellent leadership in so many areas of the church.  I’m learning of exciting mission happening in ways that are pretty quiet (I think we should do something about that).  I think our worship is terrific (and I’m not talking about the sermons).  We have amazingly talented musicians and lay liturgists, not to mention the hosts of others who serve as altar guild, ushers, “tidy up” crew, etc.

    Can I let you in on another “secret” that speaks to the strength of our church?  We are a “teaching” church.  You probably know that Gracie Dugan is in the process of becoming ordained as a Deacon in the church.  She has many “hoops” to jump through to complete the requirements made of her.  One of those requirements is to preach.  As a result, Gracie will preach the 8:30 service this Sunday.  

    Being a teaching church partly means making space for such moments to occur   I have been blessed to serve four churches that fit the “teaching church” description.  I would be remiss not to tell you that on a couple of occasions over the years, someone would question why anybody other than me or the associate pastor was preaching.  I then had the opportunity to explain what it is to “mentor” a person as they make their way through the maze of ordination and to support them in every way.

    At some point you will also be blessed to hear Kelli Hamilton preach.  And guess what—we have not one, but two very bright young women who are coming before our Charge Conference on October 16th to become certified candidates for ministry:  Amy Sigmon and Regina Girten.   Even though they are not on our church staff, there will be ways that our congregation will be able to support and mentor them.  I’d like you to recognize what an honor it is to have that role.

    I entered ministry in a different way.  I was a student local pastor for small, country churches.  My first appointment was on a 5-point circuit in Giles County.  I wasn’t the student “intern” for these churches.  I WAS their pastor.  Inexperienced, green around the ears, sometimes clueless about what I should do—but I was their one and only pastor.  On even Sundays I would preach at three of the churches and on odd Sundays I would preach at the other two.  I don’t want to even think about how bad a lot of those sermons were.  I don’t want to tell you how many boneheaded mistakes I made.  

    What I want to tell you is how proud those little churches were in the knowledge that they were helping to train me.  They took that role seriously and wore it like a badge of honor.  They taught me things that I could never learn at the divinity school and I am so deeply grateful to them for that.

    Belle Meade is a teaching church.  We should take great pride in that and find ways to support our candidates every way we can.