Pastor Jae Yong Song from Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church was ordained in a ceremony at the Hampton Roads Convention Center on June 17 during the United Methodist Virginia Annual Conference.
He was supported by his family, including his parents and mother-in-law who had flown in from South Korea for the occasion, and by many friends and colleagues from the church.
Song will be leaving Thrasher at the end of June to take a new position as pastor at Red Valley UMC located on Route 116 in Franklin County. United Methodists customarily are appointed to new churches periodically, especially during the early years of their ministry. The Methodist “appointment” process is different from the “call” process that many denominations use. In the United Methodist Church, clergy appointments are made annually by the bishop, who has the responsibility for setting all the pastoral appointments in the conference. This unique system dates back to Colonial times and founder John Wesley.
According to the UMC,“The bishop and the cabinet (all the district superintendents in the conference) look at appointment needs throughout the conference, taking into consideration the needs of each church, the gifts and talents of each pastor, and other circumstances in the conference. They then determine the appointments for each church in the conference. The bishop will ‘fix’ the appointments at the conference meeting each year.” These changes usually take place in the spring.
Song was one of 15 Elders ordained at the annual conference. Thrasher’s incoming associate pastor Jesse Moffitt was licensed as a Local Pastor during the same ceremony— one of 40 statewide.
The impressive ceremony was led by Virginia Bishop Sharma Lewis. The event opened with a processional of candidates who she stated “are by God’s grace to be ordained, recognized, commissioned, or licensed for set apart ministry in Christ’s Holy Church.”
The theme for this year’s annual conference came from Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Bishop Lewis introduced Bishop Jason Stanley from the Mississippi Episcopal Area, who she had invited to deliver the sermon at the “Service for the Ordering of Ministry.” He thanked the many members of the Virginia UMC who had traveled to Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to assist those devastated by that disaster. He spoke of what appears to be at times the “slow work of God” on the heart and minds of men and women to save the “least, the last, the lost,” especially during a time of disheartening negativity in the world. He focused on “the Holy Spirit anxious to transform those who will transform the world,” and challenged those in attendance to develop the integrity to face today’s realities.
At the conclusion of his dynamic sermon, Bishop Stanley called upon those in the audience who were moved to come forward and receive a prayer of blessing from those about to be ordained, recognized, commissioned or licensed, “fulfilling their calling.” Scores responded to his invitation.
In the Ordination of Elders ceremony, pastors were called upon to “preach and teach the Word of God,” ordering the life of the congregation, counseling the troubled, leading people of God in obedience to Christ’s mission in the world, seeking justice, peace, and freedom for all people, and to serve in and to the community.
The ceremony included Bishop Lewis laying her hands on each candidate along with representatives chosen by that candidate. Song asked Pastor B. Failes of Thrasher, his father Kisoo Song, and Kathleen Overby-Webster, the Roanoke District superintendent, to participate as the Bishop intoned, “Almighty God, pour upon Jae the Holy Spirit for the office and work of an elder in Christ’s Holy Church.”
She continued, “Jae, take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, to administer the Holy Sacraments, and to order the life of the Church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
As each candidate was ordained, his or her chosen verse of scripture was displayed on the overhead screen. Pastor Song chose John 21:16, “Jesus said, ‘Do you truly love me?’”
Elders have served at least three years full-time as a provisional elder. Song has been at Thrasher for four years. A native of Seoul, South Korea, he came to Thrasher in June 2013 with his wife Star Hong and daughter Amy. They have since added two sons, Joey and Jeffrey.
Song is a 2013 graduate of the prestigious Emory University Candler Theological Seminary in Atlanta where he began studying in 2010 after completing his undergraduate degree at Seoul National University.
In 2012, he received the James and Alice Slay Award, which is presented to the second-year Master of Divinity student who exhibits outstanding academic performance and promise for pastoral ministry.
During his years at Emory, Song led the International Student Association and the Candler Society for Multiracial Congregations. He served as a minister of missions and outreach at a local church. He was chosen in the spring of 2013 by a group of professors to preach at the Candler School of Theology, an honor given to only two students each semester.
Song has become well known and respected, not just at Thrasher, but in the Vinton community, especially as a prayer warrior, coordinating community prayer events.
Pastor Failes says that this is a melancholy time for the congregation at Thrasher, sad to see Pastor Song leave, but excited for his new venture, and especially that he will stay close by in the region. The church is also happy to welcome Pastor Moffitt to the staff at Thrasher.
The Ordering ceremony concluded with Bishop Lewis thanking God for “raising up among us faithful servants, clothing them with Your righteousness.”