Today, I had a conversation with a long-time friend about the difficulty our Denomination is facing. This is not unique to the CME Church. Statistics indicate that the vast majority of churches and denominations are seeing serious declines in membership and attendance. Yes, some churches are growing, but this is not indicative of the general status. One of my comments struck me as applying to more areas of our lives than just the church.
Busy does not equal productive.
When we take an inventory of our lives and see our progress and growth waning or stagnating, rather than surveying our methods, we tend to simply work harder. Perhaps the strategies which got us this far are not applicable for continued growth.
An example. When I was very into exercising, I was trying to lose weight and tone up. I did not seek any professional advice or a trainer. I just started running and lifting weights. As I reached my goal, I decided I wanted to buff up a little more. So, I began running more – up to 10K every other day – and lifting weights on the alternate days. I did this for several months and saw no changes.
I reached out to a trainer an the center where I worked out and he informed me that while I had an excellent ethic and was exerting plenty of energy, but I was not working towards the goal. I was busy, but not productive.
Running is aerobic exercise. Weight training is anaerobic. This means I was combining two primary ingredients into one recipe, but those ingredients literally worked against each other. Running is to lose weight, so I had to stop running if I wanted to buff up, which requires gaining weight.
In much the same way, many of our organizational practices or business practices are very effective, but perhaps not for our intended goal.
The normal human instinct is to choose a plan that we are certain works. We (consciously or subconsciously) eliminate the components we do not have the passion for, don’t understand, or seem too difficult right now. Then we get busy. It doesn’t work for us like we see it working for someone else, so we re-double our efforts.
We might need to re-think our strategy. Busy does not always equal productive.
Bishop Dotcy Ivertus Isom, Jr., transitioned from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant on January 20, 2014.
A native of Detroit, Michigan, and elected the 43rd Bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Isom has the distinction of being the first bishop of the CME Church to be born North of the Mason-Dixon Line.
He was born February 18, 1931, the second of three children born to Rev. Dotcy I. Isom, Sr. and Laura (Scales) Isom. A son of the parsonage and Grace CME Church, Detroit, Bishop Isom came to faith in Christ at an early age.
Bishop Isom received his elementary and secondary education in the public schools of Detroit. He decided to serve his country by joining the US Army at 17 years of age. Serving in combat in the Korean War, he received the Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged in May 1952.
In 1956, Bishop Isom completed Wayne State University where he earned a Bachelors of Arts degree in Special Education. He went on to teach elementary Special Education in the Public Schools of Detroit.
Bishop Isom accepted the call to preach in 1956. He was ordained by Bishop J. Claude Allen at the Annual Conference at hosted by and held at Capers Memorial CME, Nashville, TN in 1957. He pastored Allen Temple, Paris, TN, St. Luke CME, Saginaw, MI, Carter Memorial CME, Gary, IN, Pilgrim Temple, East St. Louis, IL, and Saint Paul CME, Chicago, IL.
Bishop Isom earned Masters of Christian education and Masters of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO. He has been awarded the Doctor Divinity degree from Baltimore Bible College, Doctor of Humane Letters, and the LL.D. from United Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida.
He was elected to the highest office in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church at the General Conference in 1982, held in Memphis, Tennessee. He was elected on Mother’s Day.
Upon his election as a bishop, he was assigned to the Fifth Episcopal District, which at that time encompassed Alabama, Florida, and Haiti. He served one quadrennium in the Fifth, and in 1986 he was assigned to the Third Episcopal District. From 1986 to 1994 he served as the Secretary of the College of Bishops. Bishop Isom served as the Chair of the Department of Publications of the Church and Chair of the CME Convocation Committee.
At the General Conference in 2002, Bishop Dotcy Isom was honorably retired. Upon his retirement he and Mrs. Isom relocated to Memphis, TN. Not wanting his ministry to come to a “sceeching halt,” Bishop Isom accepted an appointment from longtime friend and Episcopal Leader of the First Episcopal District, Senior Bishop William H. Graves, Sr. Bishop Isom served New Zion CME Church, Moscow, TN as pastor. He loved the people, but felt it unfair that Episcopal responsibilities, even for a retired bishop, kept him too busy to go to all of New Zion’s outside functions. Bishop Isom was a pastor at heart. He reluctanlty gave up the charge.
Bishop and Mrs. Isom adopted Zion CME, Memphis, TN as their church home and have worshipped there since 2003. They have worked diligently under three pastors, Rev. Bethel Harris, Rev. Howard Houston, and their current pastor the Rev. Arnold Joyner.
Until health challenges slowed him down a bit, Bishop and Mrs. Isom attended all of the Connectional Meetings, as well as Annual Conferences, Fall Reporting Meetings, Winter Councils, and Spring Convocations all over the United States.
Bishop Isom was preceded in death by his parents, and older brother and sister-in-law, Clinton (Mary).
Bishop Dotcy leaves to cherish his memory, his wife of 58 years, Mrs. Esther Ladon (Jones) Isom, three sons, Dotcy III (Vanessa), Jon Mark (Tonya), and David Carl (Stephanie); one brother, Emanuel (Doris). Bishop Isom also leaves neices, a nephew, grand and great-grandchildren, and a host of extended family and friends who love him dearly.
Bishop Isom is the father of Rev. Jon Isom, pastor of Mount Olive CME, here in Somerville.
My father, Bishop D.I. Isom, Jr., passed away on January 20, 2014. He had asked me months earlier to preach his eulogy. On January 27, 2014, his younger brother passed away. I was asked to preach his eulogy, too. The following is the most recent column I submitted to the Fayette Falcon Newspaper. I have been writing weekly columns since October 2011. The Falcon did run a nice obituary for my father.
If you read the Obituaries page last week, you may know that my father passed away on January 20. Dad’s brother Emanuel, passed away in Detroit one week later, January 27. It was strange, but not a complete surprise. I was given the honor and difficult task of eulogizing them both. Memphis one Saturday, Detroit, MI the next.
Over the last several days a question many of us who have lost close relatives face has remained on my mind. Have I cried enough? I have not cried very much. Neither have I seen my mother, who was united in faithful matrimony to my father for 58 years, 355 days, cry very much.
I am thankful that in my preparation for Dad’s eulogy I came across a quote from mid-1800’s author, Washington Irving. “The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal – every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open – this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude.”
I am reminded what I have counseled so many others in 20 years of pastoral ministry. There is no “right amount” of tears, nor a right way to grieve. Can you genuinely say you did what you were supposed to do, you asked forgiveness when you offended, and you forgave when you were hurt or offended? Did you give your best self to every situation and time spent together? Did you honor your loved one while they lived?
For my father, I can answer yes. For my mother, who my wife and I live one block from, I can say yes, still.
In the frailty of our humanity, none of us rise to the level of perfection. Yes, I have let my parents down. But I didn’t let them stay down. From my youth, I corrected myself and got back to living a life that would honor them. They aren’t beating me up about old bumps in the road. I don’t need to, either.
Plus, my mom and dad would gently say, “You didn’t let us down. You let yourself down. Your actions do not affect who we are. Your actions affect who you become.”
Grieving with peace is what we seek as healthy grief.
I am forever indebted to and very grateful to Butch and Carolyn Rhea and the rest of the Fayette Falcon workers for their deep care and concern for the people of Fayette County. They may not hear enough how thankful so many people are for the news ministry they provide through the Fayette Falcon.