Millions of Christians all over the world wept on April 16, 2019 when they observed on television the fire that did extensive damage to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. With its flying buttresses, magnificent spires, beautiful rose windows, and Great Organ with 8000 pipes, this 800 year old icon served as the site of the coronation of Napoleon and funerals of many Presidents of France across the centuries. Following the liberation of Paris in 1944, this great cathedral was filled to overflowing for a very special mass. The mere sight of this massive cathedral has brought great strength to Christians everywhere in their times of greatest need.
Following the destructive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, there have been so many articles written about it. The one that caught my attention was the announcement by the Archbishop of Paris that there was not one new priest ordained in the diocese of Notre Dame this past year. He further revealed that many French dioceses have not seen any ordinations in 20 years. As plans are already being made for skilled craftsmen to soon repair the cathedral stone by stone, the Archbishop said, “To truly rebuild Notre Dame requires what Saint Peter called, ‘living stones...God’s own people who declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.’” (I Peter 2:4-9)
What has happened within the Diocese of Notre Dame in Paris can serve as a “wake-up call” to all of us within the Alabama-West Florida Conference. Our United Methodist Church, like other mainline denominations, is experiencing fewer and fewer gifted young men and women answering the call of God upon their lives to enter the ordained ministry. However, we in the Alabama-West Florida Conference are dedicated to “going against the grain” and seeking to educate more and more effective United Methodist ministers. I strongly believe that God is still calling young men and women to serve as ordained ministers of our churches. I also believe that members in each local church have the privilege and opportunity to nurture and encourage those who respond to that call. Our bishop and district superintendents do not have the capability of cloning ordained ministers. They can only appoint ministers to local churches who have been “sent” by our churches into the ordained ministry.
Let us remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “How can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)
Karl K. Stegall