by Vance Morton*
The Central District of the Central Texas Conference UMC officially welcomed their new District Superintendent
on Monday, June 20, as Leah Hidde-Gregory
was formally installed to that office by Bishop Mike Lowry, episcopal leader of the Central Texas Conference. The service was held in the beautiful 100-plus year-old sanctuary of First UMC Hillsboro
– the church Leah and her family called home for the last three years as she served as senior pastor.
The service was a powerful evening of celebration and inspiration. The uplifting tone was set early and maintained all evening with soul-stirring hymns, praise songs, and anthems led by the Central District Choir and Living Proof, the praise team at First Hillsboro. A high point in the service came as several of Leah’s Central District clergy compadres presented her with symbols of the Office of District Superintendent – a bible for one who proclaims the word; water to be renewed in baptism; bread and cup to keep in communion with Christ; a UMC Hymnal and Book of Worship to guide in prayer and praise; a towel and basin to remind to be among those who serve;
a stole to symbolize shepherding as a pastor; the UMC Book of Discipline to strengthen the United Methodist connection; and a globe to remind that we are in mission to the whole world.
At the conclusion of the symbols presentation, Leah was joined at the alter by Bishop Lowry and members of the Central Texas Cabinet for a Prayer of Blessing on her new role. While the blessing could have easily been the climatic moment of the service, the best was still to come, because following an offertory benefiting the Methodist Children’s Home – an organization and ministry very near and dear to the heart’s of the Gregory family – it was Rev. Leah Hidde-Gregory turn to inspire.
If anyone thought that Leah might ease into her role as DS and rest on the laurels of the excellent groundwork laid by her predecessor, the Rev. Don Scott
, those thoughts were put to rest from the first fiery moments of her impassioned sermon. Basing her talk on Matthew 16:13-18
, Leah made it clear that there would be no resting on past accomplishments on her watch as she implored and called on everyone in the sanctuary to “Storm the Gates!” and bring forth the kingdom of Christ whenever and wherever possible – in our communities, in our churches and in our own hearts and relationships.
, who is retiring from active ministry
, closed the service, and his ministry as the Central District Superintendent
with a beautiful and poignant benediction and everyone filed to the family life center for a reception.
Of all the great quotes and orations brought forth by Bishop Lowry, Leah, Don and others from the pulpit, it was something Leah uttered in passing, almost under her breath, that really summed up the evening. She had just passed the mantle as senior pastor of First Hillsboro to Rev. John Nader and received a few more hugs from members of her congregation and was heading to go put on her robes for the service when she surveyed the room, beamed an ear-to-ear smile and said, “Is there really anything better than being somewhere surround by people you love more than anything?”
Here are a few more photos from the evenings activities, more can be found on the CTC Facebook page