UMNS Photo by Mike DuBose
Every so often it pays to be an "old hand" at United Methodism -- even though (snark alert!) everyone seems to want to jettison us veterans in favor of young folks, rather than try to help us learn how to capitalize on our respective strengths for the benefit of the entire church (snark over).
That's how it was this week when the Memphis Annual Conference announced the appointment of the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, longtime disaster executive for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, as its new director of connectional ministries for the conference.
Changes of this magnitude set off bells among many veterans, particularly when someone like Tom Hazelwood, who has been so successful at global disaster relief and recovery, refocuses his ministry on a more local level. This is particularly true these days when resources have been cut and many of us long-timers are being RIF'd, as the current lingo goes. (If you don't know, RIF stands for "Reduction in Force," meaning layoffs and firings. And if you didn't know previously what RIF meant, count yourself lucky).
One thing about us "old hands," we usually don't shy away from asking probing questions, so I sent an email to Rev. Hazelwood, whom I've met and spoken with a few times in the course of our respective ministries. With his permission, I quote his entire reply herewith.
Hello, Cynthia. Thanks for your message. You are correct in that I have been at UMCOR for 15 years and have 15 more before I will retire. As I personally assessed my ministry and future, it became clear to me that it was time for me to move on.
The loss of my good friends Sam Dixon and Clint Rabb had a profound effect on me. One may move on, but one never gets over losing two close friends and colleagues like Sam and Clint. So still feeling that loss combined with the fact that I am at a dead end career-wise at UMCOR, when this opportunity came along I felt compelled to accept.
This is not the first opportunity that has come my way over the years. My call to ministry is a driving force in my life and I have always felt that I would return to ministry within an Annual Conference. Though the timing is not good for my departure right now, I have come to realize there is never a "good time" to leave. I believe God opened this door for a new opportunity in ministry, and I have chosen to walk through it. Ecclesiastes 3 says that everything there is a season. I have been at UMCOR for a season and its time for a new season in my ministry. I also have no doubt that the change of seasons was precipitated by the loss of Sam and Clint.