For the first time, the 2019 General Assembly Worship Committee announced a call for sermons to identify new voices for the Church’s biennial gathering.
The idea came from first vice-moderator and chair of the committee Rev. Beau Underwood. “There are so many good preachers out there that we just haven’t heard of,” Underwood said. “I wanted to ask the Church, ‘if you were going to preach at General Assembly, what would you say?’”
The idea evolved from starting conversations around important messages, to inviting someone to share their message with the assembly.
When the request for sermons was announced, Northwest Regional Minister Rev. Sandy Messick knew who to call. “Nancy immediately came to mind,” Messick remembers. “I’ve seen her in worship and have such great respect for her.”
Messick contacted Rev. Nancy Gowler, pastor at First Christian Church in Puyallup, WA, encouraging her to consider submitting a sermon.
“Without that nudging, I don’t think I would’ve done it,” remembers Gowler. “I told her I’d think about it, and if I had the right idea, I’d consider submitting it.”
While her ideas developed, Gowler remembered being intrigued by the opportunity. “Every time you go to General Assembly, you come away inspired by a speaker. It might not be the one you expected, but you leave knowing that was the word you needed to hear. I like the idea to bring more people into the conversation.”
Gowler was also inspired by the reflections happening across our Church. “I have colleagues that I know are amazing preachers, so I loved the idea that folks around [the U.S. and Canada] were thinking about ‘Abide in Me’ at the same time.”
It was that focus on the assembly’s theme, rooted in John 15:1-5, that made Gowler’s submission stand out to the selection committee of Church leaders and scholars.
“It really came down to unpacking what it means to abide,” Underwood said. “This is a really challenging topic, abiding with Jesus where he is – and he goes to some really uncomfortable places. [Gowler] does a great job of connecting what our Church is trying to do with what it means to abide. She did the hard work of doing real justice to the theme.”
It was Underwood who called Gowler to say she’d been selected to share that message. “When our church secretary said I had a call from him, I thought it was nice of him to call and say I wasn’t selected…but when I found out I was, I was floored.”
Since her selection became public, “I’ve been inundated with calls and texts,” Gowler said. “It’s been really empowering to be surrounded by support throughout our region. There’s a lot of excitement that someone from our neck of the woods is getting to speak to the whole Church.”
As Gowler’s regional minister, and colleague of 15 years, Messick says it’s something more. “We’re excited for the whole Church to see the gifts we’ve seen in Nancy. She and her congregation are doing powerful ministry.”
To strengthen the work that regions do for Disciples across our Church, you’re invited to support the 2018 Christmas Special Day Offering, which will support your own regional ministry.