GR District welcomes Bill Haggard
S. Wyoming, Mich. (WMC) – Young people read scripture and led the praise. More senior people presented gifts and prayed. And “Lord, You have come to the lakeshore” was offered to God and the congregation in Spanish. South Wyoming UMC hosted a wonderfully inclusive celebration on October 7 as the Grand Rapids District welcomed the Rev. William Haggard as their new superintendent.
Only hours from her own welcome and installation the day before, Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey took the microphone and said, “I am here to introduce a man you know a whole lot better than I do!” Before his appointment to the Cabinet, Bill Haggard served Lake Ann, Cedar Springs/East Nelson, Traverse City Asbury, and Lansing Mt. Hope UMCs.
“There are important gifts he brings,” said Bishop Deb.” She affirmed Bill’s deep faith, “lived out in daily life”; his love of laughter “and a little irreverence”; and his outside-the-box thinking. “He sees creative solutions others might not grasp and brings to this district and to the Cabinet a willingness to say, ‘Sure! Let’s give it a try!’” the Bishop concluded.
Rev. Bill proved the Bishop’s words true as he shared a message, “The Gift of Change.” Preaching from Acts 10, he explained how Peter, a faithful Jewish man, experienced something “outside the bounds of his orthodoxy” when he saw a vision of unclean animals and heard the words, “Kill and eat!” “Peter’s worldview was turned upside down,” Bill noted. “He learned in those moments that God was way bigger than he imagined … To his credit, Peter went with God and embraced the change.”
It was then confession time for the new D.S. “I was a know-it-all Christian,” he admitted. “Then God asked me to examine how I had put barriers around who God is and could be.” From that moment Bill listened to the question God was speaking into his heart, “What if you’re wrong?” It was then that scripture came alive to him in fresh ways as he began to ask, “I wonder what other people think this says?”
Having confessed his own personal fresh start, Rev. Bill then encouraged each person in the congregation to open himself or herself to change. “Our life in the church is about relationships,” he remarked. “If I’m going to serve with you, we must be real with each other, sharing our weaknesses and foolishness just as much as our places of celebration.” To those who fear change, he gave a word of encouragement. “Change is fun. It can make a difference in everything if we give in to it and allow God to lead.” He closed citing churches that have found change to be invigorating, including a thumbs-up turn around experienced when Kalamazoo Sunnyside UMC opened a Free Store.
Presentations were made of gifts to affirm and equip the district’s shepherd: Bible, pitcher, basin and towel, bread and cup, stole, Discipline and globe. The afternoon concluded with Holy Communion. District Lay Leader, Helen Reid, and Annette Erbes, a member of the District Superintendency Committee, assisted Rev. Bill in serving and blessing the congregation.
~Reported by Kay DeMoss, Weekly News Senior Writer; photo/Liz Bode