Imitating Junior


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Yesterday brought memories of my childhood, as former player Ken Griffey, Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was by far my favorite baseball player growing up, and in backyard home run derbies, I always pretended to be “Junior.”

I loved other baseball players too, but no one matched Junior. He was a left-handed hitting center fielder, and so was I. At bat, no one had a sweeter swing, so I patterned my swing after his. In center field, I aspired to be like him even in the way I held my glove. Off the field, he was the embodiment of cool for an entire generation of kids, and we wore our hats backwards just because he did.

But Griffey, Jr. was also a quiet and humble hero. He didn’t do things just to get attention, and seemed to care more about time with his family than going out on the town. He possessed an infectious joy and enthusiasm in everything he did. He was (and still is) the kind of person you want your kids imitating. I’m sure my father was glad I chose Junior as my baseball hero, instead of someone more arrogant and wild. There certainly were plenty of ballplayers like that I could have imitated.

Yet, in all the years Junior played, he never knew some four-eyed kid named Erik from the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA was imitating him on and off the field. He wasn’t knowingly living his life as an example for me, which means that the same is true for us. We may not realize it, but people are imitating us. We may not be in the public eye like a ballplayer, but our children, friends, co-workers, and even strangers might be looking at us as examples to imitate. When they look at us, what do they see?

“Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us.” – Ephesians 5:1-2, CEB

Our responsibility as Christians is simple: to follow the example of Christ, imitating his love and generosity for all people. Then, those who imitate us will live by the example of Christ as well. But we must commit to living this way all the time, because we seldom know when others are imitating us. Unless, that is, we see someone turning his hat backwards and swinging one-handed!

– Pastor Erik

Episcopal Elections

Last week, the five U.S. jurisdictions of the United Methodist Church met to worship, act on legislation, and elect and assign bishops. Jurisdictions are regional bodies of the UMC in the United States. Our Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference is in the Northeast Jurisdiction (NEJ).

The work of jurisdictional conferences which receives the most attention is electing and assigning bishops. This year, the NEJ elected two new bishops: Rev. Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, and Rev. LaTrelle Miller Easterling. They, along with seven active bishops, were assigned to the nine episcopal areas within the jurisdiction.

The big news for Western Pennsylvania is that Bishop Moore-Koikoi has been assigned as our bishop, beginning September 1! Our current bishop, Bishop Thomas Bickerton, has served the maximum 12 years in Western PA and has been assigned to serve the New York area, also beginning Sept. 1. I encourage you to pray for both Bishop Bickerton and Bishop Moore-Koikoi in this time of transition.

A service to welcome Bishop Moore-Koikoi is planned for Oct. 1 at the Crossfire Campus of First UMC in Butler (1802 N Main St, Butler, PA 16001). All are welcome to attend. Read more about Bishop Moore-Koikoi’s election.

In the Western Jurisdiction, delegates elected Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, who becomes the first openly gay bishop elected in the United Methodist Church. Some are celebrating this as an act of justice and inclusion, while others lament it as a defiance of church law as stated in the Book of Discipline. Either way, this is a historic moment in the life of our denomination, and I invite you to pray for Rev. Dr. Oliveto as she is already facing challenges from within the UMC. Read more about Bishop Oliveto’s election and responses to it.

I know a lot of this may be new to you. If you want to know more about United Methodist matters of organization or legislation, or are curious about what may happen moving forward with these elected bishops, let me know. I’ll gladly answer any questions you have to the best of my ability. – Pastor Erik