Introducing A New Volunteer Position: GR District Chaplain!

Friends I have a wonderful announcement to share with you!

Below is a letter from Rev. Tamara Williams who has recently moved to our District. Tamara, as the letter explains, has moved into the status of medical leave as of our 2017 Annual Conference. But while she is unable to serve a congregation full time, Tamara continues to have a deep heart for ministry.

So I am very excited that she is moving into a newly created volunteer position of District Chaplain. Having worked for five years with Tamara on the Cabinet, I have seen first hand Tamara’s compassion, grace, and wisdom, and I know that she will be a gift to all the Clergy on our District.

As you know, while I am a pastor at heart and certainly want to carry that role for you, the Discipline requires me to be a Supervisor as well. Tamara will not have that role and she will not be reporting to me.  She will be “Pastor/Chaplain” in the fullest sense of those words. Please read her letter below.

I welcome Tamara into this new role on our District.

Blessings,
Bill

Dear District Colleagues and Friends,

Greetings from North Muskegon!  I’ve known some of you for a long time, but let me introduce myself to everyone: my name is Tamara Williams, and my husband Jeremy and I just moved at the end of June to Community UMC in North Muskegon, where Jeremy has been appointed to serve as pastor.  At the same time, I began a Disability leave of absence (I was diagnosed last year with a rare neurological condition called P.A.F. – “Pure Autonomic Failure.”  It causes a bunch of weird symptoms, among which my blood pressure issues make it impossible to carry out basic pastoral tasks!).

Knowing I was coming to the Grand Rapids District, and knowing that I have to respect the limits of my body as its strength and stamina fluctuate constantly, I spent many months seeking God’s direction.  I feel God’s leading in two specific areas of my life.  One is to start a new small group for spiritual guidance and support for women who are dealing with chronic conditions (the number of women I’ve encountered here who have everything from M.S. to Parkinsons to Fibromyalgia to rare neurological conditions really blows my mind!).  The other was to talk with Bill Haggard about the possibility of being the “District Chaplain.”  We spoke, Bill liked it… and now this letter to you makes it real!

You also may or may not know that I was District Superintendent of the Albion District for eight years (and for part of the Heartland District for two years.)  😊 Way back in 2010, we re-structured the Albion District (by District Conference vote) and began having a “District Chaplain.”  This was a position we created for the district, which was beautifully filled for seven years by Rev. Jim Gysel in his retirement.  Basically, Jim would contact —and sometimes even visit — clergy and their family members during crisis times such as hospitalizations, illnesses,  deaths, etc.  It was a very practical way for us to take another step in caring for our clergy and their families while also acknowledging that the D.S. has a “supervisory” role that cannot be ignored, and which sometimes gets in the way of truly caring pastorally for clergy and their families. For example, every fall and winter, every D.S. goes away for almost a week on a working retreat with the Bishop, making it impossible to respond in a timely manner to a clergyperson or a member of their family who has a special need or an emergency.

As District Chaplain, Jim was often able to be “present” pastorally, through phone calls, visits, and always through prayer, when I couldn’t be — and often even when I could!  I envision the same.  I don’t want to replace the pastoral presence of Bill; I just want to enhance it.  So know that I am already praying for you by name, and if you have any specific prayer requests or special needs for yourself or your family, you can get them to me by phone or by email (269-967-7104, pastortamara@hotmail.com).

I have no doubt that this ministry will change and morph over time, but my real goal is that our district clergy never feel that they have to face a crisis alone. 

Serving Christ with you,

Tamara Williams