This has been a year for lasts. The last time for cabinet events, the last time to travel with the ordinands to Israel, and the last time to plan our schedules around the annual conference schedule.  This has been the last time to do many of the things that have been a part of Jamie’s responsibilities during his forty plus years of ministry.  Many of these things, as his wife, I have had the privilege to share and enjoy.

Jamie’s retirement in July signals changes in the routine of our lives. Not bad changes but change nevertheless. Many of the things we have enjoyed over the years will hopefully continue.  Preaching and teaching for Jamie will continue. Travel and  getting to be with people are things from which we will never retire.

One of the things I will miss the most in retirement is our trips with the folks that have been recently ordained.  People ask me, “How do you manage to enjoy trips to the Holy Land year after year?” The answer: getting to know a new group of clergy and experience the Holy Land through their eyes is an amazing and rewarding adventure. They make the trip new and fresh.

Traveling is an amazing way to get to know people in a short period of time. The trips with the ordinands allow you to observe how they function under different and sometimes difficult circumstances. You are able to observe so much about their personalities very quickly. Do they complain too much (about the food, the weather, anything that comes to mind)? Do they share their call to ministry with joy and enthusiasm?  Do they really care about the folks they have been appointed to serve? Do they have a heart for ministry?  Do they understand what being itinerant means?

My ears and my heart are always waiting to hear how these ordinands love and care for those they are called to serve.  I always come away from these trips feeling good about the future of the United Methodist church because of the strength and commitment of most of these newly ordained clergy.

I do not consider myself a good source of advice to anyone. But if I had the opportunity to do so I would offer this heartfelt advice to new clergy and their families. The one thing that will get you through just about anything is to love, really love, the people. Church folks will forgive almost anything if you show them love.  A smile and a hug or warm handshake will open doors and help you break down barriers. In almost all cases, when you love them they will love you back.

We have had wonderful appointments, with the most amazingly kind and loving church folks. These people have been friends and family to us. They have cared for us as we have cared for them.  Occasionally we would encounter difficulties. Most often there is shared blame for the bad times if not outright our fault.  Being able to listen and accept your responsibility in problems is a gift to yourself and to the church.

What a great adventure these years of ministry have been. I will be forever grateful to God, to Jamie for marrying me and bringing me into this wonderful life, and to The United Methodist Church for the opportunity of a lifetime.

When we complete this year of “last time to do things” we will start on a new year of  ”first”.  We are eagerly awaiting  this new season of first.

Lena Jenkins