Bishop Joel McDavid ordained me as an elder in the North Georgia Annual Conference on June 11, 1984. A photograph captured the Class of ’84 standing on the front steps of Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. Twenty-seven men and women of diverse ages and ethnicities comprised the group.
This year I discovered the black and white picture in my files. Other than an afro hairstyle and bushy mustache, 2022 Bill Burch strongly resembles the 1984 version. Of course, I occasionally lie to myself.
Twenty-seven pastors began the journey of ordained ministry together. I scanned the faces and read the names of the clergy. I recall most of the people, but some memories have faded like a sepia photograph.
I’m uncertain what happened to a handful of my colleagues. Most retired over the past years. A few tragically died along the way. To the best of my knowledge, only two of us remain in active ministry thirty-eight years later.
The caption under the photograph reads:
“Under the providence of Almighty God and in recognition of His Eternal Glory, I, a bishop of The United Methodist Church, and several elders, have, by the imposition of our hands and by prayer set these apart for the work of an Elder, to read the Holy Scriptures in the Church of God, to preach the word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments in the congregation, so long as they continue to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ and adhere to and teach the Gospel of our Lord and the doctrine of the Church.”
Here’s to the Class of ’84 along with my fellow clergy both present and absent.