— by Rev. Bill Hathaway
As I listened to Mary Ann Barclay’s sermon on last Ash Wednesday, I was taken back in time, remembering the occasions when, as a member of Boards of Ordained Ministry in both the Southwest Texas and the Oklahoma Annual Conferences, I would encounter exceptional candidates for the ordained ministry. Mary Ann preached the sermon that will be part of the materials she submits to support her candidacy; and it was definitely in the top three of all the candidacy sermons I participated in evaluating in over sixteen years of service on the boards of two Annual Conferences.
Mary Ann brought to this sermon the qualities of a keen mind, a curious intellect, an inquiring spirit, mature theological reflection, and a gift for communication with the congregation. She was able to weave together theological depth, the richness of the scripture she was working with, the meaning of the occasion at which she was preaching, the creative illustration she used (which was also the source of her intriguing title), and a sensitivity to our common humanity in a way that engaged and inspired the congregation. Her message was a cohesive whole, and her engagement with her listeners was not that of someone “preaching” to them, but rather that of someone sharing a journey of reflection, searching, hope and commitment. She conveyed the sense that “we are in this together” — this worship, this sermon, this relationship with God, this life. Her message was uncommonly successful in providing for the Ash Wednesday service a positive and uplifting experience of faith.
As I listened to Mary Ann and reflected upon her sermon afterwards, I was not only reminded of how exciting I found it to be in the past when exceptionally gifted candidates would stand out, even among many other very fine candidates; but I was also inspired with a hope for the future — a future in which our denomination might celebrate and claim in service the talents and commitment of all who are called to serve.
Rev. Bill Hathaway was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He is a graduate of Trinity University and Perkins School of Theology at SMU. He served forty years in the Southwest Texas Annual Conference, as a church pastor and as a district superintendent of the San Angelo District. His Conference responsibilities included serving on what was then known as the Board of Social Concerns ( eight years), the Board of Higher Education (4 years as chair) and the Board of Ordained Ministry (eight years — two years as Vice Chair and two years as Chair). After moving to Oklahoma, Bill served until retirement in the Oklahoma Annual Conference. In that Conference Bill was on the Board of Ordained Ministry for eight years, serving that group as registrar for six of those years.