Jun 11, 2019

By John W. Coleman

At the start of the Eastern PA Annual Conference’s Service of Commissioning and Ordination on Friday evening, June 14, the opening procession will fill the drab Expo Center hall with color and majesty as clergy in robes and vivid stoles march in a seemingly endless line of splendor. They will join the standing congregation in ardently singing hymns that celebrate God’s eternal majesty: “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “Praise to The Lord, The Almighty” and “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”

There will be the Affirmation of Baptism and the presentation of those about to be commissioned and ordained, followed by special music from the inspirational Philadelphia United Methodist Mass Choir, a sermon by the Rev. Nathalie Nelson Parker, and other liturgy. Then will come the climactic, richly ceremonial moments when one novitiate is commissioned a provisional elder and seven other persons are ordained as full deacons or elders.

“Do you believe that God has called you to the life and work of ordained ministry?” Bishop Peggy Johnson will solemnly ask. And in their steady answers to time-honored questions, her new cadre of connectional clergy will state their Christian belief and confession, their reverence for holy Scripture, and their faithfulness, willingness and ability to lead God’s people.

Then there will be liturgy spoken during standing, kneeling, praying, the laying on of hands and the pulling on of stoles like heavy yokes over bowed shoulders. And finally, the newly yoked clergy will arise and jubilantly embrace longtime supporters.

When all that is said and done, the hymns—like “We Will Follow” and “Here I Am, Lord”—change their focus from heaven’s majesty to humble ministry, evoking the call to devotion and service. It is a call that reverberates when the bishop extends a final invitation to any who feel stirrings of that call to come forward and be welcomed, embraced, prayed for and encouraged in their discernment.

That post-climactic moment—full of hope, joy and tears—may embark some who come forward on new journeys to repeat this same ceremony in their own lives in years to come.

Persons to Be Commissioned or Ordained at the 2019 Annual Conference


Zachary Philip Hopple 
Home Church: Shamokin: First UMC


John Allen Keller 
Home Church: Coatesville: Olivet UMC

Joanne Miles 
Home Church: Bryn Mawr: St. Luke UMC

Marilyn Jean Schneider 
Home Church: Valley Forge: St. Matthew’s UMC College


Olivet J. Brown 
Home Church: Philadelphia: Berry-Long Memorial UMC

Eric W. Carr, Jr. 
Home Church: Philadelphia: Eastwick UMC

Steven Jeffrey Handzel 
Home Church: Coatesville: Olivet UMC

Christopher David Hardy 
Home Church: Mt. Pocono UMC

Nina Patton-Semerod 
Home Church: Pottsville: First UMC, Bethlehem: Epworth UMC 

The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks at 100 Station Ave, Oaks, PA, is an exhibition center located in Oaks, Pennsylvania, which is approximately 7 miles northwest of King of Prussia via the Pottstown Expressway.